DENVER – If you’ve ever traveled in or out of Denver International Airport, chances are you have crossed paths with at least one airport volunteer. Their purple outfits with cowboy hats have been a staple at the airport since it opened in 1995.
The questions they answer the most are basic.
“Everything from finding security, their baggage claim, where to get a rental car, that sort of thing,” said airport spokesperson Stephanie Figueroa, who adds the questions come from first-time travelers as well as seasoned ones. “A lot of folks just aren't familiar with the airport, or if they are, you know, things are changing with construction.”
Volunteer Cheryl Heinzerling has been helping passengers since day one. In fact, she signed up to volunteer back in 1994 — before the airport even opened.
“I saw just this little teeny write up in the newspaper about the airport,” Cheryl recalled. “They were looking for volunteers, just to kind of kick it off when it was first open. So I thought it'd be fun to kind of know what's going on.”
In the beginning, the volunteers were just going to work at the airport for eight weeks. Cheryl said they were so popular, the airport decided to keep them on. And on. And on.
“I enjoyed it. I loved it," she said.
Cheryl has seen many things in her 29 years of volunteering. One of her favorite memories is the year she held onto a snowboard that belonged to a passenger flying home to South America. A seasonal ski worker, the passenger learned when they were flying home that baggage limits had changed, and they were going to ditch the snowboard and some other items to get their bag down to weight.
Cheryl had a better idea than trashing the snowboard.
“I thought I would offer to store their snowboard for a short while,” she explained. “I got their phone number, email, and everything. I communicated with them about a year before they retrieved it from me.”
There was just one problem.
“I never dreamed the snowboard would weigh that much when I'm trying to lug it to my car,” she laughed.
A self-described Chatty Cathy, Cheryl doesn’t have any plans to hang up her hat any time soon. After all, 29 years really isn’t all that long.
“It’s amazing," she said. "It's so fun to talk to these people and also try to help them.”
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