CMS 7th grader makes giving back to her community real


Emily and her brother, Evan, 15, a freshman at Cherry Creek High School, get ready to serve food to teen at Urban Peak.

As Emily Miller, a 7th grader at Campus Middle School in Greenwood Village, considered her upcoming Bat Mitzvah, she looked for ways to contribute to her community that would be meaningful. The literal translation of “Bat Mitzvah” is Daughter of the Commandments. According to the laws of the Jewish faith, it signifies the time in one’s life where she (he if it’s a Bar Mitzvah) becomes responsible for her actions. No longer are parents religiously accountable for their children’s behavior. 

One of the main tenets of Judaism is the concept of “Tikkun Olam,” an idiom that refers to the responsibility of Jews to take actions to leave the world in a better condition than they found it—to repair the world in some fashion. 

Emily loves to help with the puppies at MAMCO.

It is that sense of duty that led Emily Miller to Urban Peak, a homeless shelter in downtown Denver for teenagers. A year before her Bat Mitzvah, Emily began bringing food to Urban Peak with her family and helping serve it to the teens there. Sometimes they cooked the food they brought. Sometimes they got other families to cook and picked up the food and brought it there. Sometimes they got it donated from places like Maggiano’s, Fire Bowl, Tzatziki’s Restaurant, Nonna’s Italian Bistro, and even Crumbl Cookies. “Lots of restaurants were really great about it,” Emily told The Villager, “but others we asked for donations said no, so we just kept going.”

She also asked for monetary donations for Urban Peak when she could and picked those up and delivered them with the food. Sara Miller, Emily’s mom, told us, “If they don’t get donations of food, they have to scrounge and find what they can. They don’t have a very big kitchen to cook in. There are usually about 50 kids there and they are very dependent on donations.”

For Emily, talking to teens at Urban Peak was eye-opening. She said, “Some family relationships aren’t the greatest and people don’t have a home. Once a fight broke out while we were setting up and serving the food. It had nothing to do with the fact that we were there with a meal, but they had to close the kitchen and move us away from the area. I feel really grateful to have a house, food on the table, and a great family.” 

Emily also loves animals and has been volunteering at MAMCO Rescue, Moms and Mutts Colorado Rescue for Pregnant and Nursing Dogs on West Oxford Avenue in Sheridan. There, she helps check in people who might adopt dogs. She also cleans up dog poop because that is what needs doing.

Picking up donated treats from Crumbl Cookie for Urban Peak gave Emily a great feeling. Photos courtesy of Sara Miller

We wanted to know how Emily’s parents, Herb and Sara, imparted the importance of giving back. Sara explained, “As parents, we’ve taught our children the important Jewish value of Tikkun Olam, repairing and improving the world through acts of love and kindness. Part of taking on responsibility as a Bat/Bar Mitzvah means giving back to our community as we are not in this world as just individuals but connected to one another. As a family, we put this into practice by volunteering in food drives, donating meals to homeless shelters, and encouraging our kids to do the right thing when nobody’s watching. Every act of kindness matters and it’s up to each of us to do our part.”

When she grows up, Emily hopes to be a physical therapist or a sideline sports reporter. Whatever she does, she wants to work with people.

To learn more about how you can get involved with Urban Peak, please visit or contact Andrea Alcala at 303.974.2951 or  andrea.alcala@urbanpeakorg.

You can support MAMCO via their website,