Uptown nonprofit aims to eliminate barriers for parents

Volunteers help build new childcare space at Metro Caring


Through one day of work, a small group of volunteers has helped Metro Caring reopen its childcare space in its Uptown location. Now, the nonprofit is working to staff the area with volunteers to watch children, giving constituents some peace of mind as they shop for groceries in the food bank or take cooking classes.

Denver Community Credit Union volunteers came in to Metro Caring in October to paint the room and bring in new toys and books for different age groups. Helen Gibson, vice president of strategic outreach at Denver Community, said staff applied for a $1,000 grant through the credit union’s foundation for the project.

Prior to the project, people could leave their children in that space while they went the food bank in the same building, but there was no direct supervision. For Regina James, a single mom who volunteers at the nonprofit, childcare is often one of the largest roadblocks to being able to volunteer or participate at Metro Caring.

“If I wasn’t able to bring in my children, I wouldn’t be able to volunteer,” she said.

She added that for many of the families she’s spoken with who use the services at Metro Caring, there are the same barriers. Having childcare in the building will allow the parents to be more active. “I’m sure it’s just a huge relief for a lot of people there,” James said.

Staff at Metro Caring are looking to have volunteers in the space full-time to watch children. Through the grant, Metro Caring was also able to get a pager system to alert parents if their child is hurt or needs something.

Judith Ackerman, the corporate engagement and marketing officer at Metro Caring, said that having volunteers specifically dedicated to childcare will help “eliminate the barriers for people to participate fully in the community.”

The staff at Denver Community Credit Union has been doing volunteers days like this for the last three years, Gibson said. This year, 89 staff members participated in projects across Denver. A team of 10 helped with the childcare space at Metro Caring.

Because they had a group, the volunteers were able to finish the project in four to five hours, said Joe Tassano, the vice president of operations at Denver Community. Within five minutes of completing the space, children were there using it, he added.

“I thought they did a really good job on the items they purchased,” Tassano said of the ethnic cookbooks, toys, and furniture that Metro Caring purchased for the area using the grant money.

When selecting nonprofits, Gibson said the credit union likes to look for organizations that connect people to financial resources. Metro Caring offers cooking classes to help teach people about nutrition, offers gardening plots for people to plant their own foods, and brings in city resources for utilities, taxes and public benefits enrollment. The goal of the organization, according to its website, is to break the cycle of poverty.

“We try to work with nonprofits that in some way fit in our vision in advancing financial opportunity,” Gibson said. “They’re more than just a food bank, they really do strive to support the whole family in their financial stability.”

Another item of importance for the bank, Gibson said, was making sure it was a win-win both for the volunteers, and the organization. She wants the make sure “the nonprofit is actually getting value from us being there.”

For Metro Caring, this can mean a lot more than just having volunteers fill in time slots in the food bank. Ackerman said that by helping the nonprofit redo the children’s area, the volunteers have now enabled Metro Caring to use that space in a more meaningful way for its constituents.

During the week, Metro Caring has around 400 volunteers working on the day-to-day needs of the nonprofit, such as working in the food bank. Having a group come in to do a dedicated project can be a huge relief to an organization that relies on volunteers.

“(The Denver community) not only helped to fund the project, but they also helped to provide the volunteer resources to get it done,” Ackerman said. “They can really help us accomplish things that we wouldn’t normally be able to get done.”


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