Volunteer Connect Mobilizes Community During Pandemic

The Volunteer Connect Douglas County (VCDC) online resource was introduced in 2015 by the Partnership of Douglas County Governments. VCDC is an interactive website that connects Douglas County-based nonprofit organizations in need of volunteers with individuals, families and groups looking for ways to help. Volunteers of all ages can locate multiple opportunities throughout Douglas County in one easy-to-find place.

The strategic program function of the portal includes a “Response to Emergency” category that gives volunteers the option to help in a community-wide emergency when completing their registration profile. Volunteers who opt in provide beneficial information such as specific skills or resources that could be used in the event of an emergency. Based on volunteers’ emergency response details, filtered reports can generate quick-turn communications to select groups of volunteers by category. Filtered reports can also be generated based on volunteers’ areas of interest, e.g., healthcare, family services, etc.

When COVID-19 surfaced earlier this year, the essential needs in our community multiplied very quickly. In addition to the portal tools already in place, VCDC partnered with the Douglas County Community Response COVID-19 initiative supporting “#strongertogether” to enable nonprofit organizations in Douglas County to post volunteer opportunities for services that help meet the needs of our community, such as with food banks, senior centers, etc.

As of September 9, 2020, a total of 215 volunteers have registered through the online portal for opportunities aligned with community help in response to COVID-19. The VCDC resource has been a significant factor in connecting, communicating with, and mobilizing our community during these unprecedented times.


Welcome New Volunteer Services Team Members!

DCL Volunteer Services is thrilled to welcome two new Branch Volunteer Coordinators: Nancy Johnson at our Castle Rock – Philip S. Miller and Louviers branches, and Margaret O’Connor in Parker.

Nancy Johnson joined DCL in March.

Nancy recently moved from Florida to Larkspur because of her husband’s job. She previously held positions as a library assistant, receptionist, volunteer coordinator, and bookkeeper. She was also employed as a director of community engagement and chief administrator at two churches in Florida. In each of those positions, she recruited, trained and supported volunteers.

“I have worked in a library for most of my career. I have always loved the passion that library staff and volunteers have for the community. In addition, I have always had a passion for volunteering, and I volunteer with my church and the Red Cross,” Nancy said.

“At Douglas County Libraries volunteers are an integral part of the library, assisting with camps, blood drives, birthday parties, tutoring, and everyday activities in the library processes like shelving, curbside delivery, and running the bookstore. Volunteers are amazing!”

Margaret O’Connor has been with DCL since July.

Margaret is a seasoned volunteer coordinator, coming to DCL from Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) at Castlewood Canyon State Park. In her position there, she managed all aspects of the volunteer program, with more than 200 volunteers. Margaret is thrilled to get started at DCL. She currently resides in Franktown with her family.

“I joined DCL to follow my desire to be engaged with my immediate community and to be part of an organization that embraces continuous improvement. As an active volunteer with both Colorado Parks and Wildlife and Dumb Friends League, I appreciate the important role volunteerism plays in our sense of value within our community. I look forward to ensuring the volunteer department at DCL is an important part of the organization’s growth and success,” said Margaret.

“I am a CPW-trained Volunteer Naturalist and love hiking and enjoying the outdoors with my family and friends. I have a high level of compassion for animals, both domestic and wildlife, and a strong sense of responsibility toward others.”


DCL Volunteer Receives Medal of Honor

Every year, the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) awards the Americanism Medal to a naturalized citizen who has demonstrated outstanding integrity, trustworthiness and patriotism. This year, DCL’s Adult Literacy Program volunteer Virginia Cox earned this award!

Virginia Cox welcomed new U.S. citizens during a 2019 naturalization ceremony at our Parker branch.

Virginia began volunteering with DCL in 2018 as an organizer for our first Human Library™ event. She then began facilitating the Practice Your English conversation groups and has also worked as a one-to-one tutor for English learners. Her experience as a naturalized citizen allows her to empathize with and encourage the adult English learners in the program.

Virginia’s parents immigrated as refugees during the civil war in El Salvador; she stayed behind with her grandparents until her parents could safely bring her to the United States. Virginia learned English after coming to the U.S. and became naturalized in 2008.

She shows her patriotism through her actions in helping others achieve their own American dreams. In addition to volunteering for the Adult Literacy Program with DCL, Virginia also demonstrates her integrity and commitment to her community by volunteering with Schweiger Ranch and Best Buddies.

Virginia once said that she chose to live in Douglas County because she saw the library as a measure of the quality of the community. Her contributions as a volunteer have made DCL even stronger.

Because of the pandemic, the date of the ceremony at which Virginia will receive her medal and certificate has yet to be scheduled.

Written by Tiffany Curtin, Adult Literacy Specialist

Volunteer Opportunities for Teens

Douglas County Libraries (DCL) is always recruiting teens to fill our volunteer opportunities and help them achieve their community service requirements for graduation. Freshmen, sophomores and juniors, it’s never too early to get your volunteer hours completed! In addition, DCL’s enhanced safety measures make it safe to volunteer.

Reasons to volunteer include:

  • Stand out on college applications and resumés by volunteering.
  • Help others in your community.
  • Feel a sense of satisfaction, learn leadership and job skills, improve mental health, and build communication and problem-solving skills.
  • Connect what you are learning in school with the real world.
  • Discover the library as a passion or potential career choice.
  • Open doors to potential future references or employers.
  • Earn awards that can set you apart on your college applications and resumés.

Click here to explore our current volunteer opportunities!

About Face

There are so many expressions that have to do with our faces: saving face, face off, face to face. Even expressions like “face your fears,” “keep a stiff upper lip,” “keep your nose to the grindstone,” or “take it on the chin” illustrate how much we think of the human face as a symbol of strength and resilience.

Volunteer Ann R. was a mask super-producer!

During our temporary closure due to COVID-19, we certainly have missed seeing each other, our customers, and especially the warm and strong faces of our beloved volunteers. When we received word that we would need to be apart for a while, the Volunteer Services Department knew it would be like being separated from our family. Volunteers are the heart and soul of what we do. We rely on volunteers for their support in daily tasks, their creative ideas, their skills and expertise, their compassion and thoughtfulness. We have kept in touch with our volunteers and we know that things have not been easy for any of them, but we are inspired by the ways they have let us know they are persevering.

Volunteers have been shopping for their neighbors, helping at food banks, cleaning out closets, cooking old family recipes, organizing family photos, fostering shelter animals, even celebrating life events such as a mother’s 96th birthday and the homecoming of a granddaughter who was hospitalized with double pneumonia. Facing a challenge is what they do best.

When it came to facing a pandemic, facing our fears, and facing a strange and unforeseen path for the library and its community, Douglas County Libraries’ volunteers responded. The library district found itself in need of hundreds of masks in order to begin the gradual process of reopening through curbside pick-up, as well as finding other exciting new ways to serve our customers. It quickly became evident that our staff team of mask-makers would need help. Of course, absolutely of course, it was our dedicated volunteers who lovingly stepped in to help us keep one another safe. Together, our mask-making volunteers sewed close to 500 lovingly crafted face coverings. Being true to their nature, volunteers once again helped make what we do possible.

Let’s face it, we just love our volunteers!

Written by Kim McClintock, Branch Volunteer Coordinator, Highlands Ranch

Just Keep Swimming

Did you know that we’ve had DCL volunteers swim the English Channel, an incredible distance of at least 21 miles across one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world? Well, maybe not literally, but in truth, we’d hold them up to those incredible athletes any time. Especially during this time.

Swimming the channel takes time and endurance. These foundational elements are consistently demonstrated by our committed volunteers. In 2019 alone, approximately 1,700 members of our library community donated nearly 37,000 hours of their time to their beloved library.

You must be well-prepared and have knowledge of the local waters. Library volunteers are a wealth of expertise and experience. They know (and are) our customers and, therefore, often act as our best advocates for the role DCL plays in serving, responding to, and providing for the needs, strength and growth of our community.

Conditions can change quickly. Nothing could be more true about this year, 2020. We’ve gone from a wellspring of creativity in anticipation of a year filled with community engagement—with all of the preparation, projects, and program and event support that our volunteers provide—to suddenly facing a changing tide. Swimmers know they might need to alter their course and perhaps even swim against the tide in order to reach the shore. They adjust their strategy and dig deep to some inexplicable source of resilience, and they persevere. In the days and hours before the COVID-19 closure, DCL volunteers processed library materials, shelved books, sorted donations, cleared surfaces for cleaning, delivered books to homebound community members, and made sure every last online sales order was filled and shipped to our eager customers. They saw the coming tide and dug deep. As we alter our course, DCL volunteers will be eager to help in new ways and greater capacity.

You need a support team. Channel swimmers are not allowed to touch another human being during the course of the challenge. At this moment, that sounds painfully familiar. Yet, swimmers can receive food and drink from their support team via a pole stretched out to them. The Volunteer Services team is reaching out to our volunteers with scores of emails, cards, phone calls, and virtual gatherings. They are the lifeline of strong connections with words of encouragement and gratitude, along with book recommendations, recipes, photos of family and pets, and favorite quotes. National Volunteer Week 2020 was April 19-25, and the Volunteer Services team made sure that our volunteers knew that love, appreciation and commitment go both ways. We remain here for them, just as they have always been here for us.

Some swimmers don’t stop with one crossing; they are driven to do more. In sight of land, but true to their nature, volunteers are heading back into the waters by seeking out ways to help during the crisis. They are able to use the new community response link on the Volunteer Connect Douglas County portal to help their fellow Douglas County residents make it through this time.

We look forward to the hugs, to pats on the back with exclamations of “We made it!” and sighs of relief, and the long deep breaths. We will be ready for new opportunities because our volunteers know how to embrace a challenge and keep swimming.

Written by Kim McClintock, Branch Volunteer Coordinator, Highlands Ranch

National Presidential Awards

Recently, DCL recognized 76 volunteers with the President’s Volunteer Service Awards, the nation’s most prestigious service award. The awards honor those who, by their commitment, inspire others to engage in volunteerism.

Gold award winner Kaitlyn R. (left) received her President’s Award in a mini celebration with Susie Russell.

For these awards, hours were tracked from January 1 to December 31, 2019. Volunteers earned award levels based on their service hours during that 12-month period: 67 bronze, two silver, and seven gold awards were earned by our volunteers.

The seven gold winners for 2019 are:

  • Lakshmi Ganapaneni – Parker teen volunteer
  • Lavan Vivekanandasarma – Parker young adult volunteer
  • Ethan Baird – Parker teen volunteer
  • Doran Trietley – Castle Rock teen volunteer
  • Mreedul Gupta – Lone Tree teen volunteer
  • Kaitlyn Robison – Highlands Ranch and Roxborough teen volunteer
  • Ankit Mukkamala – Highlands Ranch teen volunteer

In addition, the DCL Board of Trustees’ combined hours in 2019 qualified for a group silver award, and the DCL Foundation’s combined hours in 2019 qualified for a group bronze award.

Congratulations to all of our award winners!

Experience the Human Library

The Human Library: Unjudge Someone™ will be held on February 29, 2020, from 1-4 p.m. at Castle Rock, Philip S. Miller. “Readers” will “check out” 15 volunteer “human books” for private 20-minute conversations about their heartfelt stories. The Human Library™ seeks to provide an opportunity to unplug, ask difficult questions, and deepen our understanding of the human experience.

“Books” will share themes of living with challenges and their resilience. Volunteers are selected for their ability to answer, and are trained to expect potentially difficult questions. “Reader” registration opens January 29. Registration is not required, but those who register in advance will have the opportunity to put holds on up to two human books.

We depend on a team of volunteers to help check out books, act as ushers, keep time, and ensure that our human books are well cared for during the event. If you are interested in volunteering for this great community-building event, please visit DCL.org/volunteer.

Book Start Bustle: October





Book Start Staff Member of the Month

Cheryl Bryan

Book Start Staff Contact

Branch: Roxborough

Cheryl joined DCL in 1998.

“I love that DCL supports Book Start through our wonderful volunteers and inspires them to share the love of reading.”

Did You Know?

Early Literacy Practice – Write

Drawing and scribbling allow children to express themselves before they write. Encouraging them to “sign” their name to their drawings can teach them that print can represent words. You can practice this in storytime by finding books with varied lettering or signatures, like The Book With No Pictures by B.J. Novak and What’s Your Favorite Animal? by Eric Carle and friends.

Music & Movement Tip: Chanting

Sometimes you don’t want to sing, but there are lots of good chants out there! A great one to do that has movement and teaches opposites is the chant “Roly Poly.” Check out this video, which shows the chant with music behind it, or click here to view alternate versions performed by librarians.

Why Is Storytime Beneficial to Children?

It’s easy to understand why reading and singing to children can be beneficial, but why is storytime important? There are a lot of reasons for this:

  • Hearing stories and songs from an adult other than immediate family gives children a more diverse selection of stories and styles than they might otherwise get.
  • They learn how to pay attention to someone who isn’t their normal caregiver.
  • By listening with a group of other kids, they experience the public performance of literature and can see the engagement of other children.
  • The combination of songs and stories creates a positive association with reading, promoting a lifelong love of reading for pleasure.

Read more about the benefits to children from a parent’s perspective in this article from Medium.


Have You Had a Chance to Try … The Wheels on the Bus?

You can use this flannel board to teach this beloved children’s song. Looking for alternate verses to fit your theme? Try these or these!


Celebration Time!

For Volunteer Services staff, our joy is in seeing all of you, our volunteers, feel valued and appreciated. We want you to make connections with one another, with staff, and with the community. You add tremendous value to our organization and we appreciate your time, talent and skills. We also appreciate your smiles, jokes and stories!

This year, you helped host events including Wizard School, Cultural Arts Fair, author presentations, crafting sessions, coding class, pet adoptions, and more. In addition, those of you who volunteer weekly placed items on the shelves in a timely manner for our patrons and made sure they were in good condition. Some of you also packed books to send to soldiers, stocked our Second Chapter Used Bookstores with materials at great prices, added books to our online inventory, and assisted at our Storytimes … and the list goes on.

So as fall is upon us, it is time to celebrate another year of your accomplishments! At past year-end branch events, we have made crafts, learned about different library offerings (like nontraditional items and upcoming remodel plans), and had a storyteller talk about a library adventure and a special spider. Good food and drinks are always a part of the celebration. We hope you are enjoying the celebrations occurring at the branches hosted by your Branch Volunteer Coordinator.

Thanks to you, our amazing volunteers, DCL elevates our community!

Written by Teresa LeFevre, Branch Volunteer Coordinator at Lone Tree