I was hungry and you fed me…

In every city and County across our nation there are people who struggle to find food. It’s not just homeless populations but in fact most of our hungry neighbors are working, raising families or are aging members of the community who are hidden behind the cloak of detachment and feeble bodies.

This year city of Lakewood Mayor, Adam Paul, declared that his # 1 “Bold” initiative was to feed children. Through his leadership a series of meetings have been formed to link organizations and individuals who are actively feeding hungry people. Who is already working in this space and are there ways to link them together so we can maximize positive impact and fill in hunger gaps in the city?

Lakewood Connects helped facilitate the first “Food” meeting in June and follow up continues…but one opportunity arose out of the discussion that fits our primary aim: schools. Several organizations and individuals are helping bring food to students and families in schools in Lakewood. What opportunities exist in this arena to build effective partnerships? How can we support and enhance this food work?

Lakewood Connects Director, Reg Cox, chairs the Lakewood Faith Coalition. The Coalition merges the Lakewood Church Network (Evangelical/Protestant) and all the other faith communities in the city including Catholic, Latter Day Saints, Mind and Science, Muslim and Buddhist. The Coalition exists to form partnerships between these faith communities so that we can serve the city together!

A main target of the Lakewood Faith Coalition (LFC) is serving the 10 Title 1 Elementary Schools in our city. A majority of students in these schools qualify for free and reduced food services and live in the most underserved neighborhoods in our city. All of these schools we have food needs, in fact some of the schools report as many as 60 families are in need of supplemental food assistance.

The LFC is supporting several programs, organizations or individuals who are providing food at these schools…but one important strategy for this effort has emerged out of the Title 1 office in the Jeffco School District Education Center. This strategy could formalize a “best practice” for how the community partners with the school to serve families in need.

The Coordinator of Family Engagement in the Title 1 school district office to partner with our #1 nonprofit in the County, the Action Center to design a “Food Coop.” The Coop offers fresh and nonperishable food for a small price each month. Families who can’t pay can volunteer in the Coop to cover costs. Families choose their food and the Coop model has produced dignity, excitement and a sense of moving forward towards self-sufficiency for families in need.

In the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 25, Jesus describes the end of time and that the highest value of our faith will be measured by how we served the needs of people we encounter. In the teaching Jesus congratulates people who served others in need. He says that when they fed the hungry they were feeding Him! He says…”I was hungry…and you fed me.”

Lakewood Connects is building effective partnerships between church, school, government and business so the hungry in Lakewood can be fed. You can’t learn if you’re hungry. You can’t find hope and build a future when you’re hungry. This need is solvable…and together with the help of volunteers and your partnership we are feeding the hungry in our city!

Suffering is bad for business

Lakewood Connects builds effective service partnerships between church, school, government and business in Lakewood, Colorado. That last segment, “business” has seen some new and exciting developments during summer 2018.

The board, staff and volunteers associated with Lakewood Connects have been working from a few statements of conviction; one of those is: Collaboration reduces suffering. This statement implies that when organizations or individuals collaborate in service the ambient suffering in a community decreases.

In June Lakewood Connects supported the creation of partnerships between 4 important nonprofit organizations that serve the homeless population in our City and County. Severe Weather Shelter Network facilitates housing for single homeless friends during the worst cold weather nights by linking with local churches to be hosts. Cold Weather Family Shelter has been working with a local church and Mean Streets Ministry to facilitate a warm dry place for families to be housed from November through March. Mean Streets Ministry is our main work that offers various forms of care for the homeless in Lakewood and Living Well Mobil Shower offers dignity and hygiene to our friends.

These 4 organizations formed 1 event designed to raise awareness, recruit volunteers and raise operating funds. Fundraising events become ubiquitous. How do we get better buy in from the larger community to help make good work happen?

In an effort to get support for this event Lakewood Connects Director; Reg Cox, met with Chamber of Commerce leaders seeking advice and links to the business community. By happen stance during the meeting with Chamber leaders Reg met the CEO of the Jeffco Economic Development Corporation (JEDC) who happened by. The JEDC supports and expands business in unincorporated Jefferson, County.

Reg was asked to present to the JEDC along with directors from 4 other nonprofits on how nonprofits contribute to the health of the County. At the meeting Reg was #4 in the lineup and the first presenters outlined contributions of their organization with a myriad of stats and numbers. Lakewood Connects has some stats and numbers but the power behind building partnerships is relationships.

Reg opened his comments with the conviction that collaboration reduces suffering. Then followed up with this parallel idea: Suffering is Bad for Business! When suffering increases in a community every business suffers. If this is true, then when suffering in a community is decreased everyone in business flourishes!

Reg’s reflections that day described how businesses have partnered with schools in underserved neighborhoods to bring incredible breakthrough services and projects that have transformed the lives of 1000’s of people! In just 2 schools business leaders from Thrivent Financial, Academy Mortgage and Costco have partnered with 4 different churches to deliver funds, volunteers and critical supplies so over 500 students and their families can move towards thriving!

Reg completed his comments with an invitation to the 60 business leaders to join with him and other nonprofits to accomplish what none of us can do alone!

The last nonprofit presenter was silent…staring at Reg, then staring at the audience, then finally back at Reg again. Then she said, “Really…I’m supposed to follow that?!”

Just last weekend the event occurred linking our 4 main nonprofits serving the homeless. Funding for advertising, printing and dozens of other set up needs were met by members of our business community!

Lakewood Connects continues to connect businesses to active service partnerships in Lakewood. Fact is, without the intellectual, entrepreneurial and financial savvy of these business leaders the government, school and church partners don’t have a chance at facilitating positive change! Because we realize that suffering is bad for business and if you want to change the community you have to develop and grow the active partnership of business leaders!