Each month Auraria students get the chance to volunteer with Habitat for Humanity, and some days are spent at the Home Improvement outlets or ReStores, which recycle the old things that home owners replace and the excess of the new items they’ve purchased. Ten Auraria students volunteered at the Denver branch on Rio Grande Boulevard Nov. 13.
The Denver outlet has nine full-time staff members, but relies on volunteers. Some come to fulfill court-ordered or scholarship-required community service hours, or just to feel good about helping a positive cause — either way, 35,000 hours of services are contributed on average each year, said Volunteer Coordinator for Habitat for Humanity Alice Goble.
“UCD began working with Habitat for Humanity in 2009, when we took students on our first-annual Alternative Spring Break Trip to Amarillo to volunteer for a week,” said UCD’s Community Engagement Coordinator Kyra Tarbell. “During that week, we also had a group of students who volunteered one day with the local Denver branch … Since then we have work with Habitat for Humanity to recruit student volunteers on an individual basis.”
Currently, there are two outlets that take the donations and sell them to people looking to upgrade their homes. Items like washers and dryers, furniture, windows, doors and even toilets are sold at cheap prices. All the proceeds go to help Habitat for Humanity of Metro Denver.
“We recycle everything: porcelain from the toilets, cardboard, plastics and, of course, all the items that would have ended up in a landfill,” Goble said. “Between the two stores, we are recycling two tons a week. Together the two outlets raise $1.2 million a year for Habitat for Humanity of Metro Denver. The money goes to funds, marketing and administrative costs for Habitat for Humanity of Metro Denver.”
While UCD has set up the primary connection between Habitat for Humanity and Auraria, students from Metro and CCD are encouraged to sign up.
“At first we didn’t allow other students to go because we used student fees to purchase lunches for [UCD] students on the longer days,” Tarbell said. “However, we decided not to do that anymore. So yes, [volunteering is] open to anyone.”
UCD junior Erin Bauer volunteered Nov. 13 at the Denver Outlet to fulfill the community service requirement for her Denver Bound Scholarship.
“I really enjoyed it; we got to do tons of different things,” Bauer said. “[The best part] probably was when I took the axe to the (restaurant) booth. Volunteering helps build my résumé; when I apply for jobs now, I at least get a call back, and it is just a different experience.”
A group of people started Denver’s Habitat for Humanity in 1979. Since then 395 houses have been built and 1,700 people have homes. The Denver Outlet is now seven years old and the Wheatridge Outlet is six. While there are 800 outlet stores in U.S., these two finish in the top five in sales each year; which might not happen without the help of volunteers.
“We usually hit about 16 [volunteers] a day at the Denver Outlet, and 10 at the Wheatridge Outlet,” Goble said. “We get a lot of college and high school students who need community service hours. We also have regular volunteers, 50 people who come in weekly or bi-weekly.”
UCD sophomore Amanda Malloy read about volunteering for Habitat for Humanity on a poster. She said she is interested in helping out again and enjoyed meeting new people.
“I thought it would be cool to do,” said Malloy. “It makes you feel better as a person — helping for a cause greater than yourself.”