Thousands of helping hands put love in action

Annual event attracts nearly 3,500 volunteers

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Putting “Love in Action” for the fourth consecutive year, Cherry Hills Community Church members, along with a slew of other area volunteers, headed out into the community for the biggest single act of volunteerism in Douglas County all year.

“I think it’s safe to say this was our biggest year yet,” said Kristen Kidd, spokeswoman for the church, adding that a number of last-minute volunteers pushed Cherry Hills’ volunteer total to around 2,500 individuals.

Add another 900 helpers from Mission Hills Church in Littleton, and just shy of 3,500 Love in Action volunteers spent the afternoon of May 5 roaming the metro area, helping clean up yards, streets and grounds from Castle Rock to Denver.

Volunteers cleaned up every major thoroughfare in Highlands Ranch; did fire mitigation work in the backcountry wilderness area; conducted prayer walks through town; participated in grounds maintenance at 32 schools, all four Highlands Ranch recreation centers and four Denver ministry centers; and did yard projects at 13 Douglas County homes where families were in need of extra help.

“It’s so heartwarming to see people who just want to give of themselves,” said Sarah Biles, an 11-year Highlands Ranch resident who was widowed in October after her husband, Russ, died of leukemia. “It’s been quite the year for my daughter and me.”

Biles said her husband’s pride and joy had been his yard, but last summer it suffered as he was constantly in the hospital. Helping whip it back into shape in a matter of hours, 20 volunteers of all ages repaired the fence and edging, weeded and mowed.

“It was Highlands Ranch at its finest,” said Biles, who plans on volunteering next year. “It was a great experience all the way around.”

With her husband, a Black Hawk pilot in the Colorado Army National Guard, deployed on his third tour to the Middle East, Parker resident Heather Zanoff thought she would volunteer for Love in Action this year. She was surprised when she received a call and found she had been nominated to be one of those helped instead.

A mother of two children under 10, Zanoff said the yardwork has a tendency to pile up in her husband’s absence. She was overwhelmed to tears at everything that the volunteers were able to get done in their short time Sunday.

“I’m really trying to not have a huge to-do list for him when he comes home in June as the kids will be out of school,” she said. “It’ll be nice to be able to do things as a family and not have him get to work fixing things.”

Volunteers at Zanoff’s house helped seal cracks on the garage floor, replaced bushes, trimmed branches, laid fresh mulch, and reset a stone walkway her dog had dug up.

“It looks like I had a professional landscape crew come through,” she said. “I’m just so humbled. Sometimes you have to just let people help you out instead of trying to be so strong and do it all yourself.”

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