Summer is beginning to wind down- school busses are taking to the streets again, football is finding its way back onto television screens, and colder weather is just around the corner. Summertime is for pool days and laughter, vacations and sunscreen (or Aloe Vera when the sunscreen is forgotten), and generally, the relaxation found in the warm months of the year. However, over at Extreme Community Makeover, our summer is a time to kick into overdrive- running two to three volunteer days a week, meeting with residents all over the city to discover their needs, and working alongside thousands of volunteers from all walks of life to better our communities one block at a time.
This was my first summer working as the Program Coordinator; I took this position in March preparing to join an organization that works hands-on to make small changes in the lives of thousands of people. The observations I saw this summer were nothing short of beautiful-however, one aspect of the work we do at ECM stood out to me above all else: just how connected every one truly is. You see, the concept of being a good neighbor is often accompanied by the notion that one must be in close proximity to do so. However, at ECM, we bring volunteers from all over the city, the state, the country, and even the world, to lend a hand on a projects which affect individuals whom they have never met. Every work day people from all walks of life join forces to build a better community; they work alongside complete strangers making conversation, finding commonalities, engaging with residents, and putting in the effort to make a change.
Every project leads to different people which leads to conversations to stories, and in essence, to life. For example, Cleo, a lovely woman living in one of the neighborhoods ECM works in, was in need of her house painted. She has recently suffered the loss of her daughter and is battling her own illness, and simply could not perform this task herself. Extreme Community Makeover was told of this need and signed her up for a Saturday Work Day.
On July 14th, we sent a group of volunteers to Cleo’s home to complete this project- Andrea and Shannon were two of those individual volunteers. Both women have recently moved to the city of Denver and wanted to use their Saturday morning to be kind, do good, and get to know others in the city doing the same. I happened to find myself in Cleo’s front yard that morning- discussing with her the recent difficulties she was facing. While sitting on lawn chairs with Cleo and her friend, ten different individuals, including the new Denverites, Andrea and Shannon, picked up scrapers and paint brushes to get to work on changing the exterior of this woman’s home.
That Saturday morning brought together individuals that may never have crossed paths, and gave us all a chance to engage in conversation, laughter, and hard work while making a greater difference than just a new coat of paint- we were connecting with one another- we were discovering just what it means to be a good neighbor. This is only one example among hundreds of moments during an ECM summer that showcases how connected each person is to the other; how simply lending a hand and having a conversation makes this big world a little smaller and a little bit brighter. As the summer comes to a close, I hope that we can all remember how connected we are, how easy it is to be a good neighbor to anyone on any block, and how being kind and doing good goes a long way in this very big, yet very small world.
ECM Program Coordinator