As a Colorado native, it’s easy for me to find reasons why Colorado holds the title of the coolest state. But beyond obvious reasons including its widespread outdoor beauty, craft brewing cultism, emerging culinary hotspot status and dog-friendly diaspora, the essence of Colorado comes from its culture of civic engagement.

Nonprofits and volunteers across the state go above and beyond to improve the lives of all Coloradans. Especially in the time of COVID-19, it’s important to highlight their incredible work. Here are four nonprofits that are making Colorado cool through their unique missions and work:

  1. Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado: As social distancing still allows us to responsibly hike, bike and play on the many trails of our state, it’s important to note the amount of hard labor it takes to build and maintain the trails. Volunteers have come together for over 30 years to play their part in being good stewards for Colorado. While trail builds are cancelled for the time being, it is important to play our part in supporting the responsible management of trail systems across the state by supporting VOC.
  2. Denver Metro Emergency Food Network: The most vulnerable affected by COVID-19 — the elderly, low-income families and other homebound individuals — often lack the resources or ability to acquire food due to the risk of infection. The network of partner organizations including the Denver Food Rescue, Focus Points Family Resource Center and Denver Rescue Mission have come together to deliver 180,000 (and counting) meals to those in need during this difficult time.
  3. Minds Matter Colorado: While there is much uncertainty about education during the pandemic, what is certain is that zip codes and socioeconomic status shouldn’t be the decider for whether or not high-achieving students can work toward a degree at a college of their choice. Minds Matter builds a network of mentors and resources for students of all backgrounds to achieve a higher education.
  4. Soul Stories: If you’ve heard the 8 p.m. howling in Denver (or elsewhere), you’ve heard it because of Danny Mazur and Shelsea Ochoa of Soul Stories — creators of the Facebook group with over 500,000 howlers worldwide. Their mission is to drive connection, and while most is through storytelling, their howling idea points to their organization’s unique ability to uplift humanity through creative expression.

This is a small sampling of some of my favorite nonprofits in Colorado, but a great example of how Colorado’s civic culture is making our state the coolest place to live every day. I wish I could highlight all of the state’s 20,000+ nonprofits — so many Coloradans are giving back to their state, in a way that pales any comparison.