During the middle of a busy day, University of Colorado Denver Chancellor Dorothy Horrell and about two dozen other CU Denver staff members were hard at work. Instead of focusing on their usual projects on campus, Horrell, vice chancellors and college deans were at the Volunteers of America Bill Daniels Veteran Services Center, where they made street kits for homeless veterans and spread the word at a wellness fair about what the university has to offer vets and military families.
The visit to the VOA’s facility in Denver was part of the CU in the Community volunteer campaign. CU in the Community, which runs through Feb. 20, is a chance for students, faculty and staff to give back and offer a hand to people in need, including men and women who served the country.
Horrell said the work of volunteers shows what can happen when CU Denver partners with community organizations that make an impact.
“It’s an opportunity to remind all of us that when we bring together our resources, we can solve important issues,” Horrell said. “We are all better together. There’s no doubt about that.”
Diverse services on display
The VOA hoped it would work with organizations like CU Denver for events like the wellness fair when it opened the veteran services center on Santa Fe Drive in the summer of 2015, said Dianna Kunz, the president and CEO of VOA’s Colorado branch.
“This is an endeavor to serve veterans in a new and comprehensive way,”
Kunz said as she outlined the range of services the VOA provides as part of the “huge commitment” it has made to veterans and their families. The VOA’s social workers focus on helping homeless veterans and vets who are at risk of losing their homes. The organization works with and offers space to other partners who provide services to veterans like advice on furthering their education or obtaining health and dental care.
The university’s turnout displayed the range of programs that could make it a valuable partner. CU Denver’s Office of Veteran and Military Student Services had one booth at the fair, where staff promoted its Boots to Suits program and counseling center.
Patrick Browne, the office’s director and an Army vet who served in Iraq, said the university enrolls about 1,400 students who are active military, veterans or part of the families of current or former service members. Working with partners in the community like the VOA can amplify what the office does and help veterans connect with CU Denver.
“We rely heavily on common resources to help our students be successful, and having those resources extends our reach and the breadth of our services,” Browne said.
CU Anschutz Medical Campus representatives also attended. The School of Dental Medicine wanted to let people know about its Heroes Clinic, which provides free dental care to veterans. Aslan, a 13-week-old Golden Retriever, represented the College of Nursing’s Canines Providing Assistance to Wounded Warriors initiative.
Creating a lasting community impact
CU in the Community gives students, faculty and staff the opportunity to devote a half day of work time to community service. Departments are encouraged to volunteer as a group so they can build relationships outside the normal workplace setting while contributing to the university’s mission of improving the health and well-being of people in Colorado.
CU in the Community
The CU in the Community volunteer campaign continues through Feb. 20. To learn more about the program, go to its website.
This year the university focused on nonprofits that work with veterans. The CU in the Community web page has a list of featured partners, stories from volunteers, details about the program and sign-up forms. Participants can choose to support organizations that focus on non-veteran issues.
Horrell said she wants the university to build relationships that last beyond the campaign. She already had begun thinking about ways to partner with organizations like the VOA to mobilize the knowledge of students and faculty to address public needs. Events like the wellness fair are part of her vision for “CU in the City,” which also extends to research and training programs where faculty and students study and address challenges like homelessness and providing affordable housing.
“It’s wonderful to have the opportunity to do something like this, to come just blocks from our campus and to connect CU Denver’s resources with what veterans and the VOA’s needs are,” Horrell said.