A Spirit of Caring

Mercy Housing holds a special place in the hearts of AvalonBay Communities, especially for the Vice President of Development at AvalonBay, Todd Nicotra, and Kate Munoz, AvalonBay’s Senior Development Coordinator. “I love that you help people in so many different ways,” Kate recently shared. “It’s not just like, ‘ok, here’s a roof over your head,’ but ‘ok, we’re going to help you learn financial wellness, or have this food pantry for you to help yourself to staples that everybody should have in the kitchen,” she added.

Building a New Partnership

AvalonBay is a Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT) that develops, redevelops, acquires, and manages multifamily communities across the country. Approximately five percent of its apartment homes are part of an affordable housing program. For AvalonBay employees, volunteering is an important part of the company’s mission. “We have a few core values,” shared Todd, “and one of them is the spirit of caring.” When AvalonBay opened its Denver office about six years ago, they were introduced to Mercy Housing Mountain Plains. “I had heard of Mercy Housing before moving here,” Todd shared. “We linked up and ended up just really enjoying the partnership,” he added.

Each April, Mercy Housing Mountain Plains (MHMP) designates one week as “Volunteer Week.” During this week, community partners, employees, and residents come together throughout the region to work on different projects within the communities. Some of these projects include food pantry organizations, garden clean-ups and plantings, fun activities with youth residents, and more.

One Avalon Bay volunteer washes windows at Holly Park Apartments.

“Even back in 2021 when we were unable to do in-person volunteer events, we still found ways to volunteer with Mercy Housing,” said Kate. For the past couple of Christmases, AvalonBay volunteers have adopted the Aromor Apartments in Denver, home to low-income individuals who are at risk of becoming homeless or chronically unhoused.

The group has also donated household essentials like cookware, mini appliances, socks, and cold weather gear, and enjoyed breakfast with residents at the Aromor.

Helping the Whole Person Thrive

“It’s really true that it’s about helping the whole person and not just one aspect of their life,” Todd said. “I like the fact that when we volunteer, we usually get to interact with the residents and hear more about their stories and that’s always valuable and enjoyable for all of us.”

Besides participating in Volunteer Week, AvalonBay staff have organized food collections, household item drives, and gathered backpacks for Mercy Housing Mountain Plain’s Back-to-School initiative. “The backpack drive we did last summer for Mercy Housing was the most successful item drive we’ve ever had in our office,” Kate said. Last year, the team donated enough supplies to fill 40 backpacks.

Avalon Bay volunteers rock – Fun with rock painting.

“We did a volunteer event with seniors last year where we painted rocks,” Kate added. “The residents were so nice! They asked if we could come back every week,” she laughed.

Volunteerism in Action

Spreading their spirit of caring across several Mercy Housing Mountain Plains communities in Colorado is something the AvalonBay team values. As a Power of Home sponsor, Todd believes that partnerships should extend into the communities they support. “It’s not just making financial contributions to charitable organizations,” he explained.

“It’s actually showing up and doing volunteer work and just being closer to the organizations that we’re aligned with.”

This year, the AvalonBay team rolled up their sleeves and volunteered at two Mercy Housing Mountain Plains communities – Holly Park and Decatur Place. Buildings at Holly Park received an interior refresh with freshly washed walls.

A little dirt never hurt. Thank you, Avalon Bay for planting flowers at Decatur Place.

“That’s really cool,” Frank Fuentes, whose daughter and her family are Holly Park residents, shared while visiting the same day volunteers were onsite.

Meanwhile, beautiful flowers were planted outside at Decatur Place, welcoming spring.

For her part, Kate already has more volunteer ideas in mind. Playing sports with kids outside, and doing arts and crafts, to name a few. She explained, “I want to do all of them – we haven’t made it happen yet, but we will.”