“Our goal is to bring in more volunteers to serve more members,” said Jake Dresden, Metro Denver director of A Little Help, a nonprofit organization that “helps older adults thrive.”
With a strong presence in metro Denver, northern Colorado, and on the Western Slope, A Little Help’s approximately 2,300 volunteers provide services to older adults who can’t drive themselves to appointments or manage certain yard or household tasks.
“Wheat Ridge is a place we’ve been established for quite a while, and we have a lot of volunteers in that neck of the woods,” said Dresden. “We love Wheat Ridge and Edgewater.”
“The way the system works is we have individual volunteers log into a portal on our website where we house all our member requests. For example, if ‘Greta’ in Edgewater would like her windows washed, a volunteer accepts the request and receives her phone number and exact address and initiates contact: ‘I accepted your window washing request, Greta. Tell me more about it.’ Then Greta and the volunteer arrange a time to get together. Windows are cleaned and the volunteer reports back to us. That kind of thing is happening everyday throughout Wheat Ridge, Edgewater and the state.
“We really want people to understand that we are volunteers willing to help. When COVID originated in March of 2020, we onboarded a lot of new volunteers, just because people knew that older adults were going to be extra-isolated during COVID. As a result of that, we got more exposure throughout the metro area and the state and had new funders coming in.”
Dresden emphasized the importance of making sure the volunteer experience is worthwhile.
“Once a volunteer becomes involved with a member and they go to their house, the volunteer may find that more needs to be done for a member, and that’s always up to them.”
Of the core services A Little Help provides, number one is transportation. They have volunteer drivers willing to take members primarily to doctor’s appointments, sometimes acting as their advocate, then bring them home. Some members have recurring requests, and volunteers take members to grocery stores or to their bank.
“A goal is to create long-standing relationships, although we don’t want to over-extend a volunteer,” Dresden said.
“Every single action between a volunteer and a member has a care component. We’ve had members request to take them fishing, go to a movie, get a haircut or for ice cream.”
He says that help around the house is another major request, for light, low-tech tasks – “we don’t ask volunteers to run a chain saw or a backhoe” – such as cleaning gutters, washing windows, trimming bushes. “We don’t do lawn-mowing. We do tech support, dog-walking, friendly calls and visits, and snow-shoveling.”
A Little Help shouldn’t be seen as only task oriented.
“We do virtual seminars on a monthly basis, such as having experts on aging issues, on a Zoom call with 50-100 of our members. We have social events – picnics, coffees, happy hours. We’ve had people ask us to come over and play cards.
“An organization may reach out to A Little Help, too, whether it’s faith-based, a school or a business, and we can design a custom event for them. The best thing for a group to do is yard work. We usually send 4-6 people out to a home, and they can interact with a member who shows the group what’s needed to be done.
“Every fall in Wheat Ridge, A Little Help holds a big event called Service Saturday. Then we have a celebratory lunch at the Edgewater Public Market.”
A Little Help was formed in 2005, by a group of neighbors in the Washington Park neighborhood. According to Dresden, the neighbors had gone on a trip to Boston, and in the Beacon Hill neighborhood they came across what was called a “village.” They were curious. They learned that ‘village’ is another term for a volunteer organization primarily dedicated to helping older adults. Intrigued, the founders brought the idea back and thought, “Our neighborhood is ripe for a program like this – there are a lot of older adults here who might need some assistance from people like us.”
They called it Wash Park Cares – a network of people that made connections with older adults in that neighborhood and tried to figure out what it was they needed to help them stay in their houses and stay connected to their community. They realized their program could branch out from Washington Park. It evolved and became A Little Help.
“That was the genesis of what we are now. In 2011, an executive director and a small staff were hired,” said Dresden. “Traditional funders came on board – foundations, quasi-government entities and more private donations. We had an office!”
Dresden grew up in a family that instilled in him the value of service. While an educator at Graland Country Day School for nearly 20 years, he said he was always looking for service learning opportunities for his kids.
“Not every organization is equipped to work with kids that are 12, 13 or 14,” he said, “but Graland has a robust program with A Little Help. The kids may be with a member to help rake leaves or to go through a book of old photos, and they realize the importance of that connection.”
To volunteer, donate or become a member, visit alittlehelp.org or call 720-242-9032.