Elections staff brings joy to Judi’s House

SOS elections staff serving dinner to Judi’s House children and their families. From left to right, Melissa Polk, legal manager for the elections division, Kris Reynolds, campaign finance trainer, Hilary Rudy, deputy elections director, Annie LeFleur, elections legal fellow, and Minerva Padron, voter registration coordinator/Judi’s House grief counselor. (SOS photo)

Big hearts and some chicken goes a long way, as a group of election staffers with the Colorado Secretary of State’s office found out when they volunteered at Judi’s House.

Minerva Padron, a voter registration coordinator, is also a bilingual grief counselor at Judi’s House, a nonprofit devoted to providing care for grieving children and their families. It was founded by former Denver Broncos quarterback Brian Greise and his wife. Padron visits middle schools in the Denver metro area and holds “grief groups,” group counseling sessions for students who have lost someone close to them.

Judi’s House, in the City Park West neighborhood of Denver. (Judi’s House photo)

Two years ago, SOS staffers served dinner at Ronald McDonald house in Denver so Padron suggested a similar volunteer opportunity at Judi’s House.

Deputy elections director Hilary Rudy jumped at the idea and sent an email to elections staffers asking if they could donate time or money to the cause. She said it wasn’t hard to find volunteers or donations because a lot of people were interested.

“I tried to make it clear I wasn’t pressuring them given my position,” she joked.

Once they had a group together and donations, the group bought deli chicken, mashed potatoes, fruit salad and rolls and served it to the 60 or so children and families at Judi’s House last Thursday.

“They make it easy for you to volunteer,” said Kris Reynolds,  a campaign finance trainer for the SOS office. “I would do this again on my own since they made it so easy.”

The dinners are put on every week, Monday through Thursday, to take pressure off the caretakers who feed the children and families. Volunteers are welcome to provide a meal or even just come serve food and clean up.

Padron says that it is a “house” because that makes people feel more welcome rather than being in a clinical setting. She is earning hours to get her counseling license.

Griese and his wife, Dr. Brook Griese, a clinical psychologist specializing in childhood trauma and loss, founded the organization because Brian lost his mother, Judi, to breast cancer when he was 12 years old. “He found himself at a dangerous time in which his anger and profound sadness were coming out in ways that had the potential to be destructive. Along his path to healing, he realized that he wanted to give back to children and teens who were also grieving the loss of a parent, sibling, or other loved one,” according to the organization’s web page.