After Virginia Keller had to get a metal rod placed in her right leg following a bad fall in 2016, moving around and doing yard work became more difficult. Her backyard became like a jungle, she said, and her front walkway needed replacing. Thankfully, help arrived June 18 during Englewood’s Day of Service, as volunteers gathered to assist community members like 79-year-old Keller.
“It is just marvelous that people will volunteer and help the older people,” Keller said. “A lot of people could benefit from helping each other, even just next-door neighbors.”
Englewood’s annual day of service, also referred to as the“Be a Tool" service event, began in 2016 after a coalition of churches met with the city manager and decided to host an annual day of service in collaboration with the nonprofit Neighborhood Rehab Project, said Joe Anderson, the lead coordinator in Englewood for the Neighborhood Rehab Project and the city council member representing District 3 in Englewood.
“The goal, as set down by the nonprofit which originated in Golden, was to assist low-income and elderly homeowners with their safe, warm, dry needs, primarily,” said Ryan Bramlett, a coordinator in Englewood for the Neighborhood Rehab Project, explaining that most projects are outdoor home repairs and maintenance work.
Keller’s home was one of five projects for the day. A group of about 50 volunteers arrived early June 18 at Englewood’s Rotolo Park and were split among the five projects, all located near the park.
“I think the purpose is to get neighbors connected with their neighbors,” Anderson said about the day. “It's got a real collaborative purpose, and so we have had businesses, churches, nonprofits and the city government all involved in this since it started in 2016.”
Keller met Anderson through attending church, she said, and this year was the second time she got assistance through the day of service. During the first experience, which was two or three years ago, she had asked for her front walkway to be replaced, Anderson said, but they weren’t able to get to it. This year, it was one of the main priorities, in addition to working on removing overgrown weeds in the backyard.
“It’s just wonderful to see what gets changed and transformed, and appreciate it,” Keller said. “I’ve always enjoyed Englewood’s community of people. They seem to care about each other.”
Keller first moved into her Englewood home when she was a child in 1946. She moved out in 1964, only to return to it in 2005. Her daughter, Marva Jolly, was among the volunteers working to remove weeds in the backyard.
“This is great,” said Jolly, who lived in Englewood for about 28 years and has volunteered for the day of service event in years past. “If we all just pitch in a little bit here and there — makes it a lot easier for everybody.”
Bev Maes, an Englewood resident who has lived in the area since she was about 12, found out about the day of service through the Nextdoor social-media platform. She said it’s the perfect opportunity for people to jump in and help others.
“I think, to give people something to give themselves to is really important,” Maes said. “You get the reward of, ‘I feel like I helped make my city a better place to live.’”
Maes was assigned to the home of Kayleen Nichols, a 77-year-old woman whose husband, Edd, recently passed away in April.
Some of the tasks at Nichols’ house included scraping off the old paint on her shed to prepare it for new paint, installing a shed door and pulling weeds.
Nichols didn’t expect to have her home be one of the projects for the service day. In fact, when she saw a flyer on her door about the upcoming event, she had asked Anderson, whom she knew through her son, if the event needed donations.
Knowing Nichols has had a rough year, Anderson asked her if she needed things done at her home. Nichols realized some things that did need to be repaired, and she was added to the list.
“You look at something broken for so long, you don’t see it anymore,” Nichols said about realizing problems on her property. When asked how it felt to have volunteers working in her yard, she said, “It’s really exciting.”
Nichols was with her husband for nearly 54 years, she said. Edd was a teacher for about 22 years at a Christian school, primarily teaching Bible and history to middle school students. One of her favorite memories of Edd was watching him teach during the camping field trips he’d take students on.
“To watch him interact with the kids, it was just — it was wonderful, and he just loved it,” Nichols said.
In 2018, Edd was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, Nichols said, though she suspects he had it years before his official diagnosis.
“He passed the Wednesday before Easter,” Nichols said. “He’s in heaven.”
Faith was a connector of numerous volunteers to the day of service. Charles Wooldridge, a painter and sculptor, heard about the volunteer opportunity from Anderson, who is in his men’s Bible study group. Joshua Regan, a locksmith, got involved in the day of service through his church, Sanctuary Christian Fellowship.
Other volunteers, like Casey Davis, heard about the event through the city. Davis, who had been searching for volunteer opportunities to help the community, learned about the day of service through the city newsletter. Wooldridge, Regan and Davis all worked together, along with the help of others, to remove Virginia Keller’s front walkway and pave the way for a new one.
At the end of the day, Anderson said he hopes that the volunteers gained a sense of connection to the Englewood community and the joy of giving back.
“I think a community can be measured by how much they value the people who are the most in need, and we help elderly, low-income and disabled homeowners,” he said. “We want to lift the people who on the bottom up as much as we can. And I think that really transforms not just the people who volunteer, but the community as [a] whole.”
Englewood’s next day of service will be Sept. 10. Those interested in volunteering or nominating a home to be worked on can find more information at: bit.ly/EnglewoodResources.