Celebrate Colorado Gives Day3 min read
Today is Colorado Gives Day, a statewide holiday that encourages Coloradans to support local nonprofits… and I’d like to highlight two of my favorite organizations.
Despite being a young and healthy woman, our neighbor Jen Willard was diagnosed with breast cancer on Christmas Eve in 2015. After undergoing a double mastectomy, her nurse navigator gave her a heart-shaped pillow that she could put between the seatbelt and her chest so make her more comfortable in the car. Touched by this gift, Jen founded JWILL Pink Village and hoped to make 75 handmade pillows for fellow cancer patients. Today, her nonprofit has sewn and given away over 1200 pillows to hospitals in Colorado and 38 states. On each pillow, Jen affixes a handwritten tag that says, “This pillow was made by volunteers with love and hope… From one survivor to another, you are not alone.” Jen is a true inspiration!
This morning, Leslie Folsom (far left) graciously hosted a very special pillow party for Jen (far right) at her home in Superior, and dozens of women came to cut, sew, and stuff more pillows. While schedules are especially tight this time of year, it was amazing to see so many neighbors make time in their busy weekdays to come together for a good cause. We truly live in a generous community of many talents! And, Channel 4 news came out to cover the event; it was so exciting to see Jen getting well-deserved recognition for her hard work.
To get involved, please click below to “like” JWILL Pink Village on Facebook, so you’ll find out about future events. And if you are able, consider donating money via Paypal to this amazing hyperlocal organization to help purchase materials that make these tokens of love possible.
On a very different note, I’ve recently begun helping with the social media strategy / messaging for another nonprofit: Defy Colorado. Defy Ventures is a national organization with a grand vision of ending mass incarceration and cycles of recidivism. Last year, the Colorado chapter formally launched, and I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to go to prison and volunteer at the first Colorado cohort’s business case competition and graduation.
Defy pairs business executives with incarcerated persons who take on new identities as “entrepreneurs-in-training” (EITs). The goal is to defy the odds and help the EITs become successful business owners, employers, parents, and community leaders. While 60% of those released from prison will find themselves back behind bars within three years, fewer than 5% of Defy graduates do – a huge testament to the transformational power of this program.
I’ve written a full post on my experiences so far with Defy Colorado on my personal blog here, which I would encourage you to read. While the goal of the program is to help transform the EITs, all of the volunteers would definitively say that volunteering with Defy has been highly transformational for us as well. Please let me know if you’re ever interested in coming with me to volunteer – I promise a life-changing experience. Or, if you’re able to contribute financially, you can donate money here. The next eight month Defy cohort starts next week, and it costs $500 to put each EIT through the program, so donations to help defray the cost of books and program materials are greatly appreciated.
Whether you’re able to help these two organizations, or if you have other causes about which you’re passionate, I would strongly encourage you to do something to celebrate Colorado Gives Day.