If you want to know what people most admire about Chris Dunn, just ask the people who admire him most.
“Chris is really good at helping others,” says Kim Agnew. “He’s really patient with his friends, and he’s really good at reminding me about things I’ve forgotten to do,” she laughs.
Kim is the program director of Mountain Community Pathways, a nonprofit organization that provides developmentally disabled adults with opportunities to participate in the life and service of the mountain-area community.
Chris spends several days a week at Pathways, learning a host of useful skills including how to shop for spaghetti, how to cook spaghetti, and how to get spaghetti sauce out of your favorite blue jeans. If you’re not familiar with the Pathways’ home on the ground floor of the Church of the Hills on Buffalo Park Road, rest assured that Chris will gladly help you find your way around, starting with a friendly tour of the center’s small but well-equipped game room.
“My dad gave us the Wii box, and we both hooked it up,” says Chris, an energetic 33-year-old who only stops smiling long enough to find something new to smile about. “I like bowling at Wild Game, and I can practice on Wii.”
“When there’s a problem with the Wii,” adds Kim, “Chris is the only one who knows how to fix it.”
Chris lives on Cub Creek with his host family, Jeff and Robbie Glantz. When he isn’t learning life skills at Pathways, he’s often applying them around the house.
“Chris has the biggest heart of anyone I know,” Jeff says. “He’s always looking for ways to help out.”
Chris helps out plenty as an enthusiastic member of the Aktion Club, a Kiwanis-sponsored group founded by local Kiwanian Kim Herfurt that mixes fun, fresh air and philanthropy into many a fine day out for Chris and his friends.
“Chris is a leader,” says Herfurt. “He cares about other people, and he’s good at getting people to work together.”
In point of fact, Chris is the highly effective president of the Aktion Club, and during his capable administration the group has worked together on projects ranging from lending a hand at the Senior Resource Center, to sending cards and letters to soldiers stationed overseas, to filling plastic Easter Eggs for the annual community hunt, to assembling gift baskets for the bereaved children of Camp Comfort and to raising money for numerous worthy mountain-area nonprofits.
Ever ready to pitch in anywhere he’s needed, Chris and his dad, Lakewood resident Charles Dunn, have among other things manned the Kiwanis booth at Big Chili together.
“I had a real chef’s hat and a Kiwanis apron,” Chris says. “My dad helps me whenever he can.”
President Dunn even spent time one Halloween night wielding a Stop/Slow sign at a busy downtown intersection, helping to keep hordes of tiny trick-or-treaters safe. True to his admirably modest nature, though, he tends to downplay his contributions from the club’s Big Chair.
“I call the meetings to order and try to get the other members to pay attention.”
Herfurt knows better, of course. Chris is a natural spark plug who brings out the best in everyone around him, and a tireless example who doesn’t mind getting his hands dirty in the cause of community. The Aktion Club frequently works with Maren Schrieber’s busy Evergreen Park and Recreation District special needs program on enterprises both helpful and healthful, including several public gardening projects for all to enjoy. Just now, Chris and his colleagues are looking into ways they might be of use helping the Buffalo Park community garden bloom more brightly.
“We helped Maren’s group with watering and weeding their box at Buchanan,” says Chris. “We’re talking with EAS+Y about working on their box at Wilmot.”
But while there is great joy to be found in helping others, a life of service is not without its disappointments. Chris recalls bitterly an outing to a local stable on behalf of the Evergreen Animal Protective League.
“Other volunteers already did all the mucking,” Chris grumps, still plainly disgusted. “We had nothing to do but visit with the horses. I want to go back and actually do some mucking.”
Which is not to say that Chris has anything against horses. Quite the opposite, in fact.
“I love animals,” he says. “All animals.”
If Chris works mightily to the public good, he wisely reserves a portion of his labor for more personal purposes. These days he’s punching a clock for a local businesswoman, labeling packages of her select lines of tea. Not surprisingly, Chris is as diligent an employee as he is a volunteer. Looking ahead to a family weekend in Colorado Springs, he’s arranged to take his work on the road.
“That way I still get to make some money.”
He’ll need it. Although the very picture of trim fitness, Chris has a well-developed taste for the tasty and he doesn’t skimp when it comes to feeding that wholesome habit. He describes calling for take-out from a favorite Marshdale eatery.
“I ordered the Grizzly sandwich,” he says. “That’s steak and provolone. I also got the Denver fries. And a side salad.”
As a rule, those who work hard like to play hard, and Chris is no exception. Between Pathways, the Aktion Club and EPRD, his social calendar is filled to bursting with outings and activities to nourish body and soul. He recently discovered the competitive pleasures of pickleball, for instance, and he proudly counts himself a conqueror of the elastic mat.
“I just started trampoline,” he explains. “I wasn’t too sure if I was going to get up on it, but once I did it was really fun.”
And if anybody deserves some fun, it’s Evergreen’s most devoted volunteer. Few can match Chris Dunn’s record of service, and none serve with greater generosity of spirit.
“Chris just likes to be helpful,” says Jeff, simply.
And that’s a quality to be admired.