Neighbors Helping Neighbors

Volunteers Jacob McGee, left, and
Jason Hawkes help spruce up the
exterior of a Highlands Ranch
home as part of a partnership
between the HRCAand Just Serve.
The projects involve volunteers
improving distressed properties.

Posted 12/10/13
as seen in the 
 Highlands Ranch
Herald

In a community of 30,000 homes, there are bound to be a few unkempt yards. 
But it’s not always due to wanton neglect.Over the summer and fall, the exteriors 
of a dozen Highlands Ranch homes were spruced up by a group of enterprising 
volunteers. The homes belong to families in distress, those incurring financial 
hardships, and those who are physically unable to perform upkeep required by the 
community’s covenants. 

“Sometimes they’re elderly or someone who is disadvantaged,” said Mike Bailey, director 
of community improvement services for the Highlands Ranch Community Association.
“A lot of these properties are not necessarily compliance issues; they’re just people who 
need a helping hand.”

That’s where the willing volunteers come in. The series of clean-up projects, 
mostly focusing on landscaping, marked the beginning of the HRCA’s partnership with 
Just Serve, a service organization of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 
Local Mormon churches were looking to get involved in the community, and the HRCA 
is identifying those in need and facilitating the work.

With 18 full-time missionaries from the U.S. and other countries currently staying in Highlands Ranch, there are plenty of eager, capable hands to pitch in. Each of the missionaries seeks 10 hours of community service every week.
In fact, there are more volunteers than available volunteer work, and Steve Grover, a member of Highlands Ranch’s Just Serve committee, established an e-mail address, highlandsranchjustserve@gmail.com, to solicit ideas from the public. Grover referred to JustServe.org, the clearinghouse for such endeavors, as “Craigslist for service opportunities.”
Jerry Flannery, president of the HRCA, said he wanted to appropriately address the issue of covenant control at distressed homes, and enlisted Bailey’s help to make sure community volunteers were utilized. The partnership also provides a chance for people to see a different side of the HRCA, he said.
“Sometimes we get identified with just enforcing all the time. I wanted to see if there was a way to show residents and community members that we want to help as well,” Flannery said. “When people are facing a hardship, a crisis, the last thing they need is to get a citation from the community association.”
It is Bailey’s job, in part, to make sure that there are extenuating circumstances in each case that result in a legitimate need. The homeowners who receive aid are “entirely grateful” to the volunteers, some of whom return multiple times to make sure the job is finished, Bailey said. He credited the Just Serve coordinators with diving in head-first and making a big difference.
“One thing we can do is provide a lot of people in a hurry for a lot of different projects,” said Ralph Walker, stake president of Highlands Ranch for the Mormon church.
Flannery said the partnership is a “good symbiotic relationship” that will continue to grow in the coming years. He called it a “win-win-win” for those involved and said the HRCA can keep facilitating creative, organic ways to improve Highlands Ranch.
“Even though we’re not a city and county, we’re a public service agency and our goal is to add value to the community. This is a way to can do it,” Flannery said.

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