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Many people associate volunteering with serving soup to the hungry in a church basement or picking up trash next to an interstate, but for Douglas County residents who want a more personal touch to their service, reasons and opportunities to give back abound.Their reasons for volunteering are as unique as the places and ways that they serve. Here are a few of their stories. For information on other opportunities in Douglas County, visit volunteerconnectdc.org.Rasika Mukkamala, Highlands RanchRasika Mukkamala volunteers at the James H. Larue library in her hometown of Highlands Ranch, as well as working information booths at community and holiday events. She said she enjoyed and attended those celebrations as a child, and this is her way of making sure children have the same access to meaningful community experiences she had.“I went to the library and I went to all of these events when I was a kid, now it’s my turn to help those kids,” she said. “I like being part of something bigger than myself. I don’t want to be home watching TV when I could be helping somebody.”Brigitte Parker, Castle PinesFor Brigitte Parker of Castle Pines, serving at the Hidden Mesa Research Orchard in Franktown is a welcome escape from 25 years in the tech industry. She began by volunteering as a trail worker for Douglas County’s Department of Open Space, but a rainstorm that closed the trail at Hidden Mesa months ago changed her plans.“I fell in love with the chickens,” Parker said, referring to the chickens roaming the orchard to control the grasshopper population. “I saw these chickens roaming around and came over to ask what they were doing. That did it for me. The trails haven’t seen me since.”Parker said she loves the opportunity to serve the community while taking in nature, and that the fresh produce grown there goes to the Parker Task Force to feed needy families. She also loves her co-volunteers.“It’s outside and the people are the best,” she said. “Basically, this isn’t work, it’s play.”Susie Appleby, Highlands RanchSusie Appleby has always had a love of history, and the Highlands Ranch Mansion has always been a special place for her. She volunteered there for 20 years before becoming the volunteer coordinator in March 2016.“I’m having time of my life, as I always knew I would,” she said.Appleby also serves on the Douglas County Historic Preservation Board and with the Colorado Historical Society, but her favorite role is overseeing the mansion and its 60 volunteers, even if it isn’t what most people assume volunteering entails.“For me, it was all about historical preservation,” Appleby said. “Even though it’s not in one of those traditional roles, you’re still giving back to the community.”Serving with other volunteers is a unique experience in and of itself, she said, because they share a common interest in the service they are providing.“It’s rewarding to work here with people who are here not because they’re getting paid, but because they love it,” she said.Kathy Denson, ParkerKathy Denson started volunteering in college in Indiana, coaching young girls in basketball. She served on various boards and committees since, but was always “pigeonholed” into doing the books, a role she found to be too similar to her day job as a CPA .In January 2015, Denson called the Douglas County Libraries Adult Literacy Department, and began working with adults trying to complete their GED.“What’s rewarding about this is seeing their successes,” she said. “That opens all the other doors they’ve been waiting to go through.”Denson is currently tutoring Sumita Safi, a 21-year-old refugee living in Parker and studying hard to pass the third of four tests to obtain her high school equivalency.“She’s not like a teacher or a tutor, she’s more like a friend,” Safi said.While Denson appreciated the compliment, she said the benefits of volunteering go both ways.“You might think you’re volunteering to help someone else, but you’re really helping yourself,” she said. “You’re going to grow in a lot of ways.”
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