My son had a good friend in high school, Matt, who lost both of his parents. He wanted to stay here to finish his senior year, so he moved in with us. He was never the academic type, but he wanted to set a good example for his younger siblings, so he would come home every day and be the first to finish all of his homework. He ended up applying for college and earning a Bootstraps scholarship. Now he's working for the State of Oregon at his dream job.
I took a long break from piano. A lot has happened with Covid, and I felt like I couldn’t deal with another thing in my life. But recently, I picked it back up, and I feel so proud of myself.
These women stand tall knowing that the food on the table came from their own paychecks. The dignity that comes from employment can’t be found any other way.
One thing I’ve learned about myself since being involved with HBF is that I’m happiest when I’m helping other people. Watching our clients light up when they see that ramp for the first time, you can just tell how much they’re looking forward to that new independence that they didn’t have when we got there that morning.
You’ve probably heard of fight or flight, but people fail to mention freeze. Like when you’re taking a social studies test that you studied for until 1am the night before and you’re asked about an ancient river, and then, all of a sudden, you can’t remember anything. You’re being amygdala-hijacked. If your amygdala thinks you’re in danger, it will hijack your entire system, so of course you can’t remember that ancient river. You’re sitting there sweating, and then you remember how to ground yourself with meditation. You tell your amygdala you’re not about to die, and then, suddenly, you remember that ancient river is called the Euphrates.
Everyone has a cause that they’re passionate about or interested in, but they don’t volunteer because they don’t know where to start or want to go alone. But after they do it once, it gets easier to do it again.
I felt proud of my kids when they graduated from college because they decided at that point that they would give back to Bootstraps. They had reached their goals because their community invested in them, and they wanted to turn around and make a difference for somebody else.
Being human is being a part of a community, and volunteering is just me doing my part in it.
We have all these different classes like math, language arts, and financial literacy. My favorite is financial literacy. As a recovering addict, I never knew how to live a normal life, so I learned stuff like how to open a bank account, keep a budget, and do my taxes. I’ve never really had to do that because I’ve always obtained my money illegally, but now I’m doing the right thing.
I used to suffer a lot from stress and anxiety. It got to the point that I would get stress migraines. Now, I do mindfulness exercises every day. CLC has taught me to be in the moment and to realize that schoolwork isn’t everything.
Helping women become self-sufficient isn’t just financial. It’s about mental and emotional self-sufficiency and learning their intrinsic value. It’s an amazing feeling to watch someone who walked into the room withdrawn and reserved to leave with their head up, knowing what they can do and who they are because they were authentically seen.
A Little Help is an amazing organization that keeps people out of assisted living who don’t need to be there. Volunteers helping in little ways can have a big impact.
We make sure that every student knows that they are unique and loved for their individual abilities. To see a child learn something new is probably the best thing you will ever experience in your life.
It warms your heart to see how excited these students are to find out they’ve been awarded a scholarship. It gives them hope and a reason to believe in their future.
I had a nonverbal autistic boy. Most of the time, he would just sit under a table and observe. We started and ended every class by singing “hello” to each child, and they would have the chance to sing “hello friends” back. I always sang it to him knowing that he wasn’t going to respond, but I would give him the opportunity. About 3 years into the program, I sang hello to him, and he sang back. It was the first time he had ever spoken.
If you have the opportunity in your lifetime to witness the kind of transformation that we get to see here even once, I think you’re super lucky.
Learning music will impact a child’s life for the rest of their life. I have students excelling in science, math, and social studies. They’re excelling all around, and I credit that to early exposure to music.
I’m proud every time I see her try something new, and I’m proud to see the confidence she develops when she accomplishes a goal.
Community is something that we lose in the world today. If more people volunteered, we could get back to that. Imagine how many people we could help. Imagine what it would look like if everyone got the help they needed.
My oldest wanted to go to college, and we were looking at the finances. We would sit at the kitchen table and crunch numbers and get so stressed. It didn’t seem possible. As a parent, we want our kids to be all they can be, and Bootstraps helped my kids do that. I’ll always be grateful they did.
This summer, we were serving a family whose college freshman suffered a traumatic brain injury in a car accident. We needed to convert their living and dining room into a bedroom and accessible bathroom. It was a huge job, but once people were aware of the situation, they stepped up and made it happen. Despite the labor and materials shortages, it ended up being probably the quickest remodel that happened in all of Denver last year.
Before the ramp was built, it was a hassle to get in and out of our home. A lot of times, I would be afraid of dropping Hattie while we were struggling to get her wheelchair up and down the stairs. Our house is somewhere our family should feel comfortable, where Hattie should feel comfortable. Now that we have the ramp, she can go outside and play with her little sister, and she’s so happy.
It always feels good to be acknowledged. When you know you’re working hard, for people to notice that, it’s satisfying. I know I make a difference here.
We all have days when we don’t want to come into work, but it seems like every time I have one of those days here, I have a breakthrough with one of my students. Even on a bad day, it can turn everything around.
Knowing I had the backing of my entire community was so empowering for me. The feeling of not being alone, of having resources. Especially when you grow up in a small community, you see the people out there who care about you and want you to chase your dreams.
When I started to learn about the science behind mindfulness and how it affects our bodies, I thought “Oh, this is kind of important. We should let other people know about this.” Meditation is this trendy thing right now, but a lot people don’t really know how it works.
The first project I led from start to finish was for a 3-year-old girl named Kennedy. She had a severe disease that weakened her immune system, and this was during the height of COVID, so leaving her house at all was a huge risk. She needed a safe place to play and do her physical therapy, so we remodeled her family’s basement. It was just amazing to see the smile on her face while she played with her brothers in the safety of her own home.
I run a program for youth with behavioral challenges or who come from trauma-based environments. We use a drum circle to create a safe space. I explain to them what a circle represents. There’s no leader, no follower. We’re all equal. In the circle we respect, we create, and we make room for others, and I see them express through music in ways that they haven’t been able to express themselves throughout the day.
It took me joining Bootstraps to really understand how the financial support impacts these students. Hearing their stories puts into perspective just how great the need is and how much these scholarships affect the trajectory of their lives. They're able to move one step closer to their dreams.
Being here gets me out of the halfway house, and now that I’m working, I get to see my new little baby more often.
When a special needs student comes in, we tailor the lessons to where that child is at. Lessons vary from child to child, we do whatever we have to do to get them engaged. If they’re engaged, they’ll retain it. Once we figure out what’s going to click with them, it’s usually very successful.
Bootstraps taught me to reach for opportunity. I have a little boy, and I want to teach him the same thing. I don't want him to be afraid to try hard things.
I’m closer with my friends because we’re all suffering through anxiety together and CLC is helping us get better together.
If it weren’t for Women’s Bean Project, I wouldn’t be growing as a person like I am now. I’m content here, I’m happy. I’ve never really liked a job the way I like this job.
You think about your childhood and the things you took for granted. I jumped on a trampoline everyday as a kid. Seeing the excitement of these little girls just being able to get in and out of the house puts it all in perspective. Getting to watch these kids live their lives the way that a normal kid would be able to – giving them that freedom that they didn’t have before – it’s really special.
Volunteering meets a huge need in our society. People come together with others who share the same values to ultimately make the world a better place.
When a woman comes to the Bean Project, she spends 70% of her paid time working in the business and 30% of her paid time goes to what we call the “You” job – working on yourself. The combination of those two things teaches her to stand tall, find her purpose, and break the cycle of poverty.
Grace is the student who stands out in my mind. I met her while I was working at a summer camp for individuals with disabilities. While I was there, I found out that I got a job as a teacher, and Grace celebrated with me. Just a few months later, I saw that she had received the Bootstraps scholarship. She was accepted to college, and this time, I got to celebrate with her.
The yardwork became overwhelming. It’s been years since I’ve been able to take care of it. If it weren’t for A Little Help, things wouldn’t get done. They’ve been wonderful.
It’s hard to put into words what it feels like to see these students get their scholarships. Without Bootstraps, college wouldn't have been an option. It brings so much joy.
We serve disadvantaged students – whether it’s economic, physical, or emotional disadvantage – and we provide scholarships for students based on their need. We’ve never denied a scholarship.
I’ve lived in this community for almost 36 years, and I’ve gotten to know a lot of the students. There’s truly a financial need, and our scholarships provide a real opportunity for these students to reach their educational dreams. Every one of our scholarships is provided by the community, and it's empowering for our local kids to know their community stands behind them.
I’m so thankful for the strangers – people I’ve never met – who gave their money for me to go to school. These scholarships are important because they keep you on track toward your goals. I wish more people knew how readily available this kind of help is in the community.
Without Women’s Bean Project, I would be stuck. Now, I’m more accountable and responsible for my own actions. I like being responsible. It’s helps to have a place where I’m expected to be on time and ready to work.
The people we serve face tremendous challenges every day, and our job is to give them an advantage in facing those challenges. Helping them get back to the life they once knew – or that they’re yearning to have – is what gets me out of bed in the morning.
People who don’t volunteer probably haven’t asked themselves “why not?” If I’m able-bodied and I have what I need, the question should be “how can I help other people with my time and resources?”
I live at a place for alcohol and drug treatment, and I was at the stage of the program where it was time to seek employment. I have felonies, so I can’t get a job at a normal place. I applied and interviewed at Women’s Bean Project, and they gave me the job. I’m a really fast learner and I take initiative, so after a few months, I’m already a Lead. I’ve started believing in myself. I didn’t think I was capable before I started working here.
Nearly every woman we hire has kids, but she might not have custody due to incarceration or addiction. During the time she’s with us, she’s often trying to reestablish relationships with her kids, and there’s something super powerful about watching your mom go to work and feel good about herself. That impact, that ripple effect, is going to affect those kids forever.
Education is a doorway to opportunity. I never thought much of myself as an applicant, so it was a pretty proud moment when I found out I was awarded the scholarship. For me, it was an avenue for independence and a foundation for starting my family.
I was really concentrating on what was on the surface of my life and not looking deeper in myself to see what really mattered. I learned that it’s not the end of the world if I mess up.
We’ve met such an amazing community of people through our experience with Hattie’s disability. I feel like if we hadn’t gone through it – I don’t know – I feel like we would have been missing out.
I’m here to hold up a mirror for these women so they can see themselves and the strength and resilience they’ve always had. In my own story, I’ve experienced trauma and loss, and I know that with the right support and community, you can find ways to move forward.
Bootstraps taught me to believe in myself, to believe in the hard work that I put in and everything I accomplished. Now I believe that I’m capable of everything I want to achieve.
The system in the US isn’t set up to help everyone, so there are people who get left behind or slip through the cracks. It’s important for people with good hearts and good intentions to volunteer and meet the needs that aren’t being met.
ACS introduced me to music, and that’s such a big part of my life. I listen to music every day. There are sad songs that cheer me up, happy songs that keep me cheered up, and weird songs that I just dance to.
The programming is a really important part of what we do. These women are able to explore how their criminal history may impact their future opportunities. They learn to talk about that and to be proactive in making better choices.
When I feel anxious now, I close my eyes and focus on my breath. Learning how to breathe and rest my mind on that feeling helps. The breath is the center of your body, and when you’re focused on it, it’s calming.
Eleanor is our only child, and she came a little early. At the time, I was a very nervous momma. We brought her to ACS and did melody gym, which gave us a way to help her with developmental skills and motor movement. It also provided social support at a time when I was really nervous. It gave us so much confidence as new parents.
I used to think mediation was stupid. I have severe inattentive-type ADHD, I was that cliché can’t-pay-attention kid. I would space out and couldn’t remember things that were just told to me. It was actually kind of scary. But I started doing meditation, and it helped ground me to those moments. I was able to focus and remember.
Music has taught me that I can do things I’ve never done before.
We have so much technology that helps us live in our own little worlds, which contributes to the epidemic of loneliness. Volunteering is a great weekend activity to get connected to your community.
I had the dad that gave me a hammer and nails when I was 4 years old. When you have skills that someone else can benefit from, even if it’s just swinging a hammer or using a drill, it just makes sense to be able to put those skills to good use.
The look is similar to a regular construction site, but there’s this energy behind it. Everyone’s there to help, and the atmosphere is different, especially when the homeowner is there and you have a chance to hear their story. It motivates the whole crew.