7Everyday Hero Rene Harding had a brilliant idea some years back, and it is paying off big time for multiple charities across Colorado.
She hosts big parties called "Cocktails for a Cause." The parties draw women of all ages and all income levels to focus on having fun and on giving to charity. But all the attendees leave their checkbooks at home.
"When I created it, it was important to me that it didn't matter what kind of economic level you were. There wasn't a $150 ticket," Harding says. "In order to come you basically need to bring the items that the charity needs [donations] and $10. And that gets you into a wonderful evening filled with food, wine."
"One of the things Rene wanted to do was to make sure that people felt like they didn't just have to write a check, that they didn't have to have a lot of money to make a difference," said Cocktails for a Cause board member Lorrie Grillo.
Cocktails for a Cause started in 2009 in Harding's backyard.
"She saw a story on the news about women who had to reuse diapers for their babies and it just broke her heart," said Grillo.
"So, I said: 'Come to my house. Don't bring wine. Don't bring an appetizer. Bring diapers and wipes," added Harding.
The 40 women who showed up to that first gathering collected more than 4,000 diapers that year. Today, Cocktails for a Cause hosts three events a year with hundreds of women who fill the Wings Over the Rockies Air and Space Museum.
"This is our 27th event. We have raised over $450,000 in in-kind gifts for 27 different charities," said Grillo.
For the early 2017 Cocktails for a Cause event, the benefiting charity is Hope House, which empowers teen moms.
"Our goal is to help our teen moms become self-sufficient," said Jenny Macias, Community Program Manager for Hope House.
Hope House served 165 teen moms in 2016. Moms like Laura Myers.
"They helped me achieve and obtain my G.E.D. a year and a half before I ever would have graduated. They have given me so much direction and so much support. They have changed my life in ways they will never understand," said Myers.
Everything collected at a Cocktails for Cause event is in the hands of a charity like Hope House almost immediately.
"The women who come will be turning in diapers, wipes, formula, toiletry items, all the things that we like to be able to give to our moms," said Macias.
"And they'll be on the UHaul right afterward," added Harding.
This is a hand-to-hand giving effort that makes a difference for dozens of charities, thanks to Rene Harding and Cocktails for a Cause.
"I believe we as a community need to wrap our hands around each other and help each other and we can do that," said Harding.
To learn more about Cocktails for a Cause go to www.cocktailsforacauseco.org
Mitch Jelniker anchors Denver7 in the mornings from 4:30 to 7 a.m. He also features a different 7Everyday Hero each week. Follow Mitch on Facebook and Twitter. Nominate a 7Everyday Hero here.