BY PAUL RAMSEY

There’s no way around it: these are divisive times. No matter what side of the political spectrum you fall on, engaging in conversation and community with others can feel risky. Does this person stand for the same things I stand for? And perhaps more importantly, if this person’s beliefs differ from my own, will they be willing to listen to my perspective? Will I be open to listening to theirs?

Times like these prove the need for community—the need for coming together around a shared purpose. If things on the national level don’t seem particularly communal, then we have to bring it to the local level. Engagement in our local community matters. It is important for us to come together to facilitate discussion, help solve problems, and ultimately make life better for people in our community. Here are some great ideas for how you can make a difference locally that will impact the bigger picture regardless of where you stand. From helping your neighbors to helping the homeless, or cleaning up your park or fixing trails, here are our favorite volunteer opportunities:

Re:Vision – is a non-profit that partners with neighborhoods like Westwood in Denver, CO – to train resident leaders, to grow community food systems, and to build self-sufficient economies. Since starting their work in 2007, they have become one of the largest urban gardening programs in the country, with a network of 400 active backyard gardens and 12 resident leaders. Got some extra time on your hands? Well come and get them dirty! They have many different volunteer opportunities – from one-time clean-up or farming days, to on-going commitments. Visit http://www.revision.coop for more details.

Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado (VOC) – is a statewide nonprofit organization dedicated to motivating and enabling people to become active stewards of Colorado’s natural resources. From April-October, they offer an exciting range of hands-on opportunities to help care for Colorado’s natural places. You can find opportunities in exciting locations all across the state, from urban parks to high 14ers and everything in between. From wildfire and flood restoration, to expanding access to trails, there are many ways to give back to our state’s incredible outdoors. Visit http://www.voc.org for more details.

A Little Help – We value the opportunity for our elders to remain an integral part of our community, to live in the homes they have come to love, and to maintain the network of friends and neighbors they have developed over the years. The willingness of our neighbors to volunteer their time and expertise in support of the mission of the organization helps make this possible. We need you to help foster a community that is safe and inclusive of our elder neighbors! Whether you’re 1 or 100, join us in building meaningful, intergenerational relationships right on your street. Visit www.alittlehelp.org for details.

In my work with A Little Help, we have learned that no gesture is too small to make a big impact.

Obviously, this is just three out of several amazing non-profits organizations to support in Denver. The point is that now is the time to get involved. Participation in one initiative can build, creating a ripple effect of community engagement that is not only personally rewarding but that also helps solve problems affecting those in our community. And just showing up accomplishes what can be the hardest part of engaging with others: starting the conversation.

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