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College of Nursing wins Volunteer of the Year award

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Author Chris Casey | Publish Date May 3, 2019

Faculty, staff and students in the University of Colorado College of Nursing dedicated 770 volunteer hours to humanitarian work at Aurora’s only 24/7 homeless shelter last year, including data-collection efforts and employment support and résumé advice for people experiencing homelessness.

For those efforts, the College of Nursing (CU Nursing) received the 2018 Volunteer of the Year Award from Mile High Behavioral Healthcare (MHBHC). MHBHC operates both the Aurora Day Resource Center and the Comitis Crisis Center in Aurora.

Award ceremony James Gillespie, community impact and government relations liaison for Mile High Behavioral Healthcare, presents the agency's 2018 Volunteer of the Year award to the College of Nursing in a surprise ceremony April 30 at CU Anschutz.

In a surprise ceremony on April 30 in the Fitzsimons Building, the award was presented to CU Nursing Dean Elias Provencio-Vasquez, Associate Professor Scott Harpin; Shane Hoon, assistant dean of Student Affairs and Diversity; Dana Brandorff, CU Nursing director of marketing and communications; CU Anschutz Chancellor Don Elliman; and Provost Rod Nairn.

“We have incredible collaborations with this campus,” said James Gillespie, community impact and government relations liaison for MHBHC. “The students come over to the Aurora Day Resource Center and volunteer with us and get refreshed and refocused on why they want to do the work in their field, and then get back into the books. It’s a wonderful relationship.”

Cohorts offer much-needed help

One cohort from the college helped the nonprofit agency complete VI-SPDATs (Vulnerable Index-Service Prioritization Decision Assistance Tool), an important first step in the rehousing process. The VI-SPDATs elicit a score that is used to place people experiencing homelessness on housing lists across the Denver metro area.

“Naturally, more vulnerable populations need to get housed faster, and that tool is a fair and balanced way to assess  their needs,” Gillespie said.

Another cohort provided needed support in completing Homeless Management Information System in-take packets for guests at Comitis Crisis Center. CU Nursing volunteers helped create a curriculum that MHBHC used to inform guests about frostbite and cold weather care.

Harpin said the Nursing students enjoy doing all they can to support MHBHC and the Aurora Day Resource Center, which is adjacent to the CU Anschutz Medical Campus. “The students universally value and enjoy their experience there, and they’re really moved by seeing social determinants of health in action while completing their nursing education here at CU,” he said.

Valued community partner

Provencio-Vasquez applauded the dedicated community outreach performed by  CU Nursing’s faculty, staff and students and thanked the MHBHC for offering the college the opportunity to help with its important mission to be a valued community partner.

Also joining the award presentation were Stephanie Kok, deputy director of homeless services, and Laura McGarry, director of programs and operations. McGarry said the college’s “extra human power” enabled the organization to implement programming that resulted in faster connections to housing for people experiencing homelessness.

Gillespie said close runners-up for the award included volunteer groups from the CU Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, the CU School of Dental Medicine and the Emergency Medicine Department in the CU School of Medicine.

“I consider this campus a neighborhood, and we hope to continue to work together as good neighbors to build on that partnership,” he said.