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Monday, March 20, 2023

Who you gonna call? Snowbusters!

Who you gonna call? Snowbusters!

 

It’s about 25 degrees outside, with several inches of fresh snow covering Harlan Street near Little Dry Creek. In front of a single-story house, a red minivan attempts to pull away from the freshly shoveled sidewalk. It’s stuck.

Miguel Saenz hops out of the van along with his three children; Diego (18), Olivia (16), and Audrey (13). Audrey hops in the driver’s seat and guides the van while the rest of the family pushes. The van gains traction, and it’s time for this "Snowbusting" family to head on to the next house needing assistance.

Volunteering to shovel their neighbors' sidewalks has been a part of the Saenz family winter routine for nearly a decade. They are part of the Westminster Snowbusters, a volunteer program offered by the City as a way for neighbors to help out residents who are unable to shovel their sidewalks after a snowfall.

Diego said he enjoys both volunteering and the feeling of satisfaction that comes after a job well done. 

“It feels awesome,” he said. “It’s tiring, but with more people it takes less than 10 minutes.”

The Saenz kids have been volunteering with Snowbusters for as long as they can remember, ever since their father Miguel first passed on his community service traditions.

“We’ve been in Westminster since 2000. I grew up volunteering in my community, so we found a way to get involved,” Miguel said. “Just going through the holiday festivities at City Hall helped introduce my kids to the community. We really felt there was something cool about Westminster and found a way to volunteer with Snowbusters. It’s part of their identity because they’ve done it for 10 years. Because of that, they continue to volunteer at school and it’s one great way to give back to the community.”

The Snowbusters program enables volunteers to shovel snow for elderly residents and residents experiencing a disability. Volunteers commit to removing snow from the walkways within 24 hours after a measurable snowfall.

Sean McCartney, an employee in the City's planning division, has been volunteering with Snowbusters since he started with Westminster in 2016.

"It's amazing how far a simple act goes for those who can't do this themselves," McCartney said. "I always consider as if I am shoveling for my own parents and understand how important it is for them to have a clean driveway and sidewalk just in case of an emergency."

For Theresa Lubben, a retired ICU nurse of 35 years, "Snowbusting" is a great way to get a little exercise while giving back.

“Shoveling is hard,” she said. “Having our own house to shovel made me realize that anybody who had surgery or anything like that could use the help. It’s good exercise and it makes me feel good to help someone who needs the help.”

Lubben started volunteering with Snowbusters three years ago. She remembers her first assignment as a volunteer and triple-checking the address to make sure she was shoveling the right sidewalk.

Longtime Snowbuster volunteer Sean Howe said he normally volunteers with his wife and two sons. He said his youngest boy enjoys volunteering with his family and will even remind them when it’s time to go shovel.

Howe’s advice to any Westminster residents interested in Snowbusters: give it a shot.

“It’s not a big commitment at all,” he said. “It’s really simple, and an easy way to get outside with your kids. A strong community is important. It’s fun, and it’s a great way to have undistracted family time. The City does a great job of matching you up with somebody close by so it doesn’t take long at all to get there.”

Longtime Westminster resident John Carlson— who proudly said he is 86 years young— appreciates all the hard work of the City's volunteers.

"If you're in a situation where you need help, you can rely on the Snowbusters to help you out when you need it," he said.

The Snowbusters program is typically active from October to April, and volunteers are usually matched with residents within five miles of their home address. To learn more about Westminster Snowbusters, visit the Volunteer webpage or call Outreach Coordinator Martha Heinz at 303-658-2089.

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