Actions speak louder than words, and no organization knows that better than Groundwork Denver.

For over 15 years, this nonprofit has worked with lower-income communities to create healthier places to live, work and play. Their success comes down to the attitudes of their leaders and volunteers.

Groundwork Denver is made up of “doers,” not “talkers,” who work tirelessly in support of their mission to create a healthier environment and community.

“As a nonprofit, we rely heavily on volunteers and have been fortunate enough to welcome so many over the years. Most of our volunteer groups help either our food program by donating time to our urban farms, or our energy program by canvassing door-to-door and asking residents if they’d like a free home energy audit. Both our food program and energy program have benefited tremendously from the help.”

Makalah Emanuel | Volunteer Outreach & Communications Coordinator, Groundwork Denver

Groundwork’s volunteers work on any number of projects, including river cleanups, insulating homes and growing local produce. All of these individual events support the group’s main programs, which focus on improving aspects of the community through direct action and outreach. These programs include:

  • Climate: Groundwork Denver reduces greenhouse gas emissions by helping people save energy through improved housing infrastructure and use alternative transportation.
  • Parks, Land and Natural Areas: Works to beautify neighborhoods and local parks.
  • Transportation: Improves air quality by showing people alternative forms of transportation.
  • Youth: Provides employment and development opportunities for disadvantaged teenagers.
  • Water: Gathers water samples and analyzes them, as well as installs low-flow showerheads in homes to help people conserve water.
People Planting

Photo courtesy of Groundwork Denver.

“The best part about working at Groundwork Denver is being able to see all of our programs help and engage the community and neighborhoods we serve,” Emanuel said. “Our programs don’t just talk about helping the community, we actually do it. Every program is making this world a little better by helping a neighbor then helping that neighbor’s neighbor, and I truly enjoy being a part of that.”

As the communications coordinator, Emanuel hears about all the great ways in which Groundwork Denver’s programs have helped families, young people, community members and residents who are often forgotten.

The people who benefit from the energy program often express how happy they are to start saving money on their energy bills, as well as helping the environment. Emanuel added that it’s always nice to hear the reaction from folks who are getting fresh veggies and herbs from the organization’s urban farms, which can be purchased at a “pay-what-you-can” price or picked up for free.

Greenhouse Garden

Photo courtesy of Groundwork Denver.

“So many people go without fresh produce because their homes are either too far away from a grocery store or because they can’t afford it,” she said. “Our urban farms aim to close that gap and residents seem to be thankful for not only the produce but the educational pieces that come with the food, including agricultural classes and gardening tips.”

Even though the weather affects the business of some programs, Groundwork Denver has something going on at all times of the year.

During the winter, the energy team is busy winterizing homes. Once summer hits, Groundwork Denver hosts several volunteer events, community workshops and classes at the farms. Last summer, the organization employed 70 youths who worked on a wide range of projects.

“The work at Groundwork Denver never truly stops,” Emanuel said.

Two People Carrying a Tree

Photo courtesy of Groundwork Denver.

While the process varies from program to program, the priority for every program staffer and director is community engagement.

“We want to improve the physical environment but we also want to make sure those who are often overlooked, such as low-income communities, are given an environment that is healthy and vibrant,” Emanuel said.

Budget Dumpster is your community-focused source for a dumpster rental in Denver. This article is part of a series spotlighting organizations that are making a difference in the communities we serve. If you know of another great organization, let us know in the comments!