This is one of a series of stories about the nonprofit agencies that receive money from The Gazette/El Pomar Foundation Empty Stocking campaign that runs through the holidays.
Double knee replacement was the only thing that could keep Ginny Kolakowski from helping those in need - and even that didn't slow her down for long.
"People seem to be so hurting and just to have somebody that will sit and listen to them is really important," said Kolakowski, who has volunteered one day a week at Mercy's Gate for more than two years.
Mercy's Gate is a local agency that provides counseling, rent assistance and gas, food and clothing vouchers, among other services.
Initially serving in their food pantry for six months, Kolakowski transferred to the main offices.
Most of those served just appreciate a sympathetic listener, Kolakowski said.
"We always visit and I ask them if I can pray for them," she said.
She recalled one woman who felt like her life was a "mistake" and didn't want to live anymore. "Every time I see her I go and hug her and call her by name."
At the beginning of summer another woman came in with no gas in her car and a job interview in an hour on the other side of town. Volunteers realized right away that she would miss her interview - and job, which she pursued for a while - if she didn't get immediate help. Kolakowski took her back into the hallway.
"Usually we go in a room and it takes a while to go through the paperwork and all that stuff," she said. "I got her a gas gift card. I hugged and prayed with her and sent her out the door."
The woman called Mercy's Gate later that day. "Tell Ginny that I got the job!"
"She was so excited," Kolakowski said. "That $15 worth of gas made a huge difference in her life."
Still, she said, "I'm just one of many volunteers that have a story."
HOW TO DONATE
Make a secure donation at www.fillanemptystocking.org. Call 476-1673 to make a credit card or stock donation. Make check payable to the Empty Stocking Fund and mail to P.O. Box 910942, Denver, CO 80291-0942. Like us on Facebook at EmptyStockingFund or follow us on Twitter @esfsprings.
Make a secure dona- tion at www. fillanempty stocking.org.
Call 476-1673 to make a credit card or stock donation. Make check payable to the Empty Stocking Fund and mail to P.O. Box 910942, Denver, CO 80291-0942. Like us on Facebook at EmptyStockingFund or follow us on Twitter @esfsprings.