DENVER — A group that's helped rescue hundreds of dogs across Colorado is in need of some help itself.
For a year now, volunteers with the nonprofit Hwy 50 Freedom Ride have used their own vehicles to pick up stray dogs after their communal van broke down.
"Last weekend, we had to send three separate drivers down in their own cars, and we just don't have enough drivers to support that," said volunteer coordinator Lauren Lundy.
Each week volunteers make the three-hour trek to La Junta and Rocky Ford in southern Colorado to pick up abandoned, stray dogs from rural shelters. They then bring the dogs back to rescue groups in the Denver metro area.
"The shelters are for stray dogs, and they wait for the owners to come but sometimes their owners don't come," said Brittany Higgins, who started Hwy 50 Freedom Ride. "If the owners didn't come and we didn't go down there, they would be euthanized. So we go three hours down, three hours back."
Higgins began rescuing dogs back in 2009 after she realized there was a need for this type of work.
"I was volunteering for an organization called Animal Rescue of the Rockies and they asked me to go pick up a dog in a rural town called La Junta," she said. "I went down there, I picked up a dog and I quickly realized the urgency of these shelters not having enough exposure."
For over a decade, she's driven back and forth to rural communities in her own car to rescue dogs and give them their best chance at a forever home. In the last three years, her organization, Hwy 50 Freedom Ride, became an official 501(c)(3) nonprofit.
About a year ago, someone donated a van to the nonprofit. The van worked for some time, but eventually became unreliable.
"A new van that's safe and reliable will really allow us to go down with one driver and pick up as many [dogs] as we possibly can," Lundy said.
Both Lundy and Higgins are hopeful that with community support, they'll be able to purchase a new van. A GoFundMe fundraiser has been set up.
"Seeing those dogs and getting the pictures and videos of them when they arrive in their foster homes and they realize they're safe, it just makes everything worth it for us," Higgins said through tears.
The women also hope that sharing their story will encourage people to consider adopting or fostering dogs. The women said each week, they have to search diligently to find rescue groups that have open spaces for the stray dogs that have been rescued.