“This is one of my favorite events because this is where you really see the work come to fruition. This is one event where you’re truly able to form an emotional connection with those you’re serving.”
Each year at the Mile High United Way Children’s Holiday Party, families and children in the Metro Denver community have an opportunity to experience the holidays in a very special way.
“We were going to have Christmas, we were going to figure it out, but I was worried because money’s tight. So, to be able to have access to the resources we need, especially around the holidays, means so much. It’s everything. I’d love for others to know that resources, like this, are available,” says Dee, a mom of two, who is also taking care of her sister’s three children. The kids’ ages range from 18 months to 9 years old, and Dee is a single mom. On Saturday, she felt that support she wasn’t even necessarily looking for but needed. And the kids had their hands and hearts full in cookies, toys, and games.
“This is what Christmas is all about,” Katie noted, a long-time volunteer and supporter of Project Homeless Connect and first-time volunteer at the Children’s Holiday Party. “Some kids go to school with other kids who have access to lots of things they may not have.”
This is one event that makes sure that doesn’t happen. While young ones to older kids enjoy all of the holiday festivities from cookie decorating to taking photos with Santa, parents and guardians are able to shop for donated gifts to take home and give to their children. Gifts are donated from many different toy drives that are held at local corporations and organizations, making sure no child goes unserved.
Keith, a long-time Mile High United Way supporter and volunteer had a chance to meet one special mom at the Children’s Holiday Party and “she told me that she had decided to tell her children there weren’t going to be any presents for Christmas. She was about to tell them, when an agency she was connected with told her about this Children’s Holiday Party. And it changed everything.”
Tamra couldn’t agree more. Tamra, a member of Mile High United Way’s board, was helping to wrap presents for parents to take home with her whole family. “This is where you change lives.”
And change is what it’s all about. Mile High United Way works to move people out of poverty. With a broad perspective of all of the barriers to access someone in poverty is facing, Mile High United Way takes a holistic approach to removing those barriers by working and partnering with those in the community who can help. Several of those partners were at the Children’s Holiday Party.
Diana, executive director of Scholars Unlimited, noted “when you’re starting off from a point of poverty, the obstacles you face from rent and housing to transportation and childcare are almost insurmountable to overcome, if you aren’t given the access to opportunities you need to remove these barriers.”
Mile High United Way’s approach to addressing these barriers is by honing in on underserved neighborhoods. One such neighborhood is Globeville, Elyria-Swansea. Focus Points is a family resource center that works with families in this community. Indira, who works with Focus Points, says “These are low-income families, and these are big families with anywhere from 5-8 children, because these families are taking care of other children.”
“This event is real stress reliever for so many families who don’t have the access or income to be able to afford presents for their children during the holidays,” Indira noted. This is a reason Nancy, a first-time volunteer at this event, decided to come. “It’s a way for me to give back to this community.”
And Angelica of Family Star, Montessori and early headstart programming for children, told us that “the Children’s Holiday Party really impresses the parents, and it’s nice for them to have that time to shop while the kids have activities to do. They have that chance to get their children gifts, which isn’t an easy feat for a lot of these families who are living below the poverty line.”
“It can be easy to shut our doors and not see what’s happening around us, but the fact that we’re all here together means something. We’re here, in the spirit of Christmas and of coming together, and that goes to show how connected we all are. This is one event that makes you feel like you’re not just serving your community. This event makes you feel like you’re truly a part of your community,” notes Nicole who works for United Way Worldwide and is a proud resident of the Metro Denver community.
At the end of the holiday-filled day, it is about the community coming together to support those in the community who don’t have access to everything they need and should have. Dee wants others to know that “no matter where you are, you can help someone, especially when you know what it feels like to not have what you need.”
And these are the kinds of stories which keep Keith coming back for more. “When you donate your time and your resources, you actually get to see how they are helping someone – right in front of your eyes – gain access to the resources they need and don’t have. This is the true impact we’re having on people’s lives, on our neighbors’ lives. And that impact continues to be passed on. That’s why I’m proud to be here, not just at the Children’s Holiday Party, but as a part of Mile High United Way.”