After commuting from Denver to Colorado Springs for 20 years to work as a lawyer, Trent Novak and his family decided to shift to a slower pace when they moved to Observatory Park a year and a half ago. Novak, 50, transitioned to staying home to take care of his daughter.
But after spending a portion of his career as a public defender, Novak also really wanted to find a volunteer opportunity that would help serve the community.
“Service has always been a part of what I do,” he said. “It gets me out of bed in the morning.”
At Kent Denver, where his daughter attends school, he discovered A Little Help, which since 2005 has been serving the Washington Park senior community with volunteers who help with small projects around the house or drive members to appointments. The organization is now headquartered at 2755 S. Locust St. in the Hampden neighborhood.
Paul Ramsey, executive director at A Little Help, said that as many of the seniors in Colorado have aged, they have become isolated. Some don’t have family in the area. So while the organization started as a way to give seniors help with small projects or rides, the nonprofit has evolved into a way of connecting people.
“We’ve seen the power of inter-generational connection,” he said. “The idea of a little help is more powerful than anything we do.”
The relationship works both ways.
Novak said that he doesn’t have any older family members in Colorado and that connecting back to the older generation has been a benefit to him as well.
A Little Help first started 12 years ago as Wash Park Cares. Four years later the organization was serving 40 to 50 seniors and had a crew of 70 volunteers. As the nonprofit grew, it was time to bring in a full-time executive director. Ramsey, who grew up in Washington Park, had been the pastor at Mayflower Congregational Church in Englewood for 18 years and wanted an opportunity to continue serving the south Denver community. As a child, Ramsey said he delivered newspapers to many of the people now using A Little Help.
“These were people I had known my entire life,” he said.
Once he joined, Ramsey helped the organization to change the name in 2011. Since Wash Park Cares was now serving more of south Denver, Ramsey said the organization needed a name that would better highlight the organization’s dedication to all of Colorado. The name A Little Help also shows the nonprofit’s mission of helping seniors maintain independence while still connecting with the community.
“It is also who we are — we are `a little help,’ ” he said. “I really believe that our organization helps feed (their) sense of dignity and that self-sufficiency, but also connects them.”
A Little Help now serves all of Denver, as well as Englewood. More recently the nonprofit has expanded into Chafee, Larimer and Delta counties. A Little Help now relies on nearly 3,000 volunteers across the state.
Part of what interested Novak in A Little Help was the flexibility in scheduling. A Little Help puts the opportunities on its website, and volunteers can go online to find what fits in their schedule. Novak said he has done a little of everything, from house and yard work to giving people rides to appointments.
He volunteers with A Little Help anywhere from one to five times a week, depending on his schedule. Having worked with the nonprofit for more than a year, Novak said he frequently gets to work with the same members. The relationships he has built with some of the seniors in the community makes Novak believe he gets more out of the program than the people he helps.
“It’s more than just helping. It has not at all been what I expected,” he said. “Sometimes you focus on the negative that’s going on in the world, and this is a really positive thing.”
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