Profiles of Boulder’s ‘Helpers’

Boulder’s residents taking care of each other

By Tatyana Sharpton Mar 31 2020

We can easily get lost in fear with the constant flow of stats from hospitals, updates from the White House and tweets from Trump. But some people in Boulder are using COVID-19 as an opportunity to build stronger relationships and communities, and take care of each other.

Kids draw pictures of rainbows and well wishes that hang on out-facing windows, they write letters to friends, they paint rocks with “hope” and place them near their sidewalks, and even set up stands with food and supplies and a note saying “take something + leave something.”

Boulder native Adam Kulikowski receives donations daily and delivers the food and supplies to people who need it most, within three days.

Working with BVSD to identity families with kids, Adam has gathered a crew of those wanting to help, with some of their deliveries going to people with cancer, brain damage, autoimmune deficiencies, and others scared to leave their homes.

When I was a boy and I’d see scary things in the news, my mother would tell me, “Look for the helpers. There are always people who are helping. – Mr. Rogers.

Ray Keener, a local cycler who has called Boulder home since 1986, is helping friends and neighbors keep rolling. Practicing safe social distancing, he takes on one bike a day — filling up the tires, oiling up the chain, and washing it down. Many Boulderites use bikes for transportation, and now, for escape from lockdown.

“If you’re someone who’s hesitant to ride your bike around Boulder because of the car traffic, now’s the time to get out there,” Ray says in a video profiling his and other locals’ work by local adventure YouTuber Ryan Van Duzer.

While some individuals are delivering food and tuning up bikes, restaurants like Boulder’s OG breakfast spot Walnut Cafe, have prioritized feeding their staff. Owner Dana Derichsweiler, who has been with Walnut, which has shuttered operations for the public in the wake of COVID, for 36 years, sees her staff as family. “I have a kitchen manager has been with me for 30 years! We really take care of each other.”

Ryan Van Duzer

Walnut Cafe give employees at each store hot meals, soup, casserole, quiche, fresh fruit, veggies, bread, milk and eggs. Dana knows how they can keep this going for at least six weeks.

Inspired by his one of his role models growing up, Mr. Rogers, Ryan put a call out on Facebook to find locals doing things to help and followed his trail, biking around to record local Boulderites doing their thing for the community.

Loni, a 10-year Boulder resident, has began a donation closet getting bags ready for people being released from jail. With COVID-19, many facilities have begun releasing those whose sentence is nearly up to curb the risk of spreading the virus in jails, and many coming out will have no home to go to.

By taking donations of clothing, shoes, food, warm things like blankets, sleeping bags, tents and even bus passes, Loni makes sure they have something waiting for them.She operates through making Facebook posts — people leave things on their porches and she drives around with gloves to pick them up. She organizes everything at her home, and then when someone gets out of jail she gets a call and meets them with a bag.

“I put the bag in front of my car, they take it, and then they smile,” Loni says.

As people all over do what they can, Boulder native Somerset of Colorado Christmas Lights has even been going door to door giving out lights! His lights echo Boulder’s recently re-lit Star on Flagstaff — bringing light to a dark place as a reminder of hope. He hopes to put around 700-800 of these lights around Boulder.

Header image: helpers in North Boulder. Photo: Paul Hagey