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Town Halls With A Twist: Joe Neguse's Participants Do Public Service Before Talking Politics

BOULDER, Colo. (CBS4) - Town halls can get rather tense in today's polarized political climate. But Rep. Joe Neguse's town halls come with a twist. The Democrat who represent's Colorado's 2nd Congressional District is injecting volunteerism into the gatherings.

Joe Neguse (3)
(credit: CBS)

Before talking politics, he and his constituents do public service.

"It's something that seems to have been lost in our politics is this concept of service," he said.

Joe Neguse (1)
(credit: CBS)

Fifty people turned out for a service town hall at the Boulder Shelter for the Homeless. Neguse says affordable housing is one of the top issues he hears about. Nicole Collins, a board member at the shelter, was among the volunteers.

"For people to really get front and center and see what we do I think is really amazing," Collins said.

The volunteers spent time cleaning, landscaping and, Neguse says, building community and bridging the political divide.

"The idea of giving folks across the political spectrum an opportunity to go out and do some landscaping together, to serve the community together, I think it helps people empathize with each others' points of view and perhaps become even better listeners."

Joe Neguse (4)
(credit: CBS)

All the political noise is muted, for the moment, by shared public service. Volunteer Joe Dunder says he didn't ask, or care, about other participants' party affiliations.

"It's a good chance to work together towards a common goal," Dunder said.

Joe Wajrowski, a University of Colorado student, suggested that volunteering before the town hall also helped break the ice.

"It takes down a lot of barriers that might otherwise be up," he said.

Joe Neguse (2)
(credit: CBS)

Neguse says at one town hall, even a Republican tracker sent to do opposition research on him ended up doing community service with him.

"I think it will help heal the fabric in our country, which I think is a good thing."

Volunteer Cate Fenner agreed, saying it makes her more hopeful for her community and the country.

"It fills me up and fills my soul," she said.

Neguse hopes those who came to the town hall at the Boulder shelter will continue to do volunteer and that other congressional members will follow his lead.

He's held more town halls than any other freshman member of Congress (16 in the last six months) and three of those have been service town halls.

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