February 21, 2017

How a mission to serve community also serves the spirit

Renewal Award finalist Project Helping harnesses people power to strengthen neighborhoods

Project Helping uses community service to tackle mental health issues. Photo courtesy of Project Helping


Meet the finalists for The Atlantic’s Renewal Awards, underwritten by Allstate. These individuals are the forces behind the 25 nonprofits competing for $100,000 in grant money. Five winners will be announced March 30 at The Renewal Summit in Washington, on TheAtlantic.com, and here, on The Renewal Project.

Justin Kruger was inspired to start Project Helping in 2014 after years of regularly volunteering himself in the community. Kruger realized the power that volunteering had in his own life and wanted to share that experience with others.

Meet Renewal Award finalist Justin Kruger, (@krugerjustin), and follow Project Helping on Twitter (@project_helping) and on Facebook.

This questionnaire has been edited for length and clarity.

Describe your community:

JUSTIN KRUGER: We serve people in the greater Denver Metro area and San Diego Metro Area. We serve those who are living with a mental wellness issue and want to improve their mental wellness by serving others.

What inspired you to do this work?

I have lived with depression for the majority of my life. I found service to others as a powerful tool to combat my depression. This experience inspired me to create a way for others to experience what I had and improve their mental wellness through volunteerism.

What ways are you helping to make your community thrive?

We help those living with a mental wellness challenge by providing meaningful, social, and accessible volunteer experiences. At the same time, we help other community organizations by bringing them regular volunteers with little-to-no administrative burden on their organization.

What do you love about your community?

I love that our community embraces working on their mental wellness just like one would embrace going to the gym to build their physical wellness.

What’s one thing you want outsiders to know about your community?

While members of our community may be struggling with their mental wellness, they are compassionate, engaged, caring members of the community who are doing impactful work to help others while also helping themselves.

What leader or leaders inspired you?

I am inspired by leaders who are willing to be vulnerable—leaders who are willing to put themselves out there, take a chance, and risk failure to do something really meaningful.

Margaret Myers

Margaret Myers is the editor of The Renewal Project.