University puts energy, hours into service


Representatives from the College of Nursing volunteer at the Food Bank of the Rockies as part of the CU in the Community campaign.

Faculty, staff, students and alumni pitched in more than 2,000 hours of community service during this year's CU in the Community campaign.

While the featured partner was Habitat for Humanity of Metro Denver, university representatives also volunteered for 16 other organizations across the Denver metropolitan area. The campaign ran from Nov. 5, 2012, to Feb. 28, 2013. Through CU in the Community (formerly Giving Back) all faculty and staff are allowed one half-day of work time (four hours) to go into the community and participate in a volunteer activity of their choice.

This year's program was expanded to include students and alumni.

Genia Larson, assistant vice chancellor for university advancement and student engagement, oversees the Office of Outreach, Events and Alumni Relations, which partners with the Experiential Learning Center (ELC) in coordinating CU in the Community.

"Many of these groups struggle in the winter to get volunteers, so CU in the Community is a perfect partnership that fills mutual needs in the community," Larson said. "The university community's willingness to volunteer was tremendous."

Volunteer feedback was overwhelmingly positive, Larson noted, with most saying that this should be a year-round program.

Some university departments volunteered at organizations that had the capacity to host large groups. For example, the leadership team pitched in on a Habitat for Humanity home in northeast Denver, and teams from Human Resources and the Finance Office volunteered at Food Bank of the Rockies.

Nelson Rodriguez, the community engagement coordinator who serves as the point of contact for volunteer opportunities, said he heard from faculty and staff that they want even more opportunities to give back. "They want this to happen on an ongoing basis so that they have the opportunity to volunteer." Not only are the outings beneficial to the organizations, Rodriguez said, but some university departments use CU in the Community as an opportunity for staff development.

One of the participants posted to the CU in the Community feedback page, "It was great to spend time with my co-workers and get to know them on a personal level while helping out our community."

Another said, "It was eye-opening and it gave me pleasure thinking I was helping the community."

Tony Smith, ELC director, said many current students pitched in this year, while the inclusion of alumni also "really took off." Both the organizations and participants were grateful the campaign stretched until the end of February -- ensuring that volunteering extended beyond the popular holiday season, Smith noted.

These are the organizations touched by CU in the Community efforts in the past several months: American Red Cross, Asian Pacific Development Center, Brent's Place, Denver Hospice, Denver Public Schools, Denver Santa Claus Shop, Denver Urban Outreach, Food Bank of the Rockies, Habitat for Humanity, Highpoint Church, Meals on Wheels, Original Aurora Renewal Division, Skinner Middle School, The Action Center, The Gathering Place, Urban Peak and Volunteers of America.

For more information about volunteering in the community, contact Rodriguez at or 303-556-3944.