Relationships Change the World: Volunteers + Tutoring = Healthier Families

In 2012 a special partnership was built in an underserved and overlooked neighborhood in Lakewood, Colorado. Lakewood Church of Christ was built in 1973, the same year that Foothills Elementary School started just 2 blocks away. Over time the neighborhood filled in with over 1100 homes and 4,000 apartments. The apartments became a haven for folks who were less financially secure and their neighbors in homes gradually detached from them and the school. 

In 2012 Lakewood Church of Christ started a tutoring program at Foothills called “Whiz Kids” and it immediately yielded positive results. Tutors meet weekly with a student and support teacher advised goals and the investment has been life transforming for 100’s of students since then! But a vital part of the Whiz Kids positive impact doesn’t actually occur in the school! This special event takes place during one night every year up the hill at the church!  

The Whiz Kid Christmas Party is held yearly at Lakewood Church of Christ and includes a great meal, entertainment, gifts and a special kind of table conversation that’s a game-changer for students and families. During the meal tutors share success stories, list specific accomplishments and celebrate student achievements. You might overlook the importance of this at first…but underserved families are woefully under-equipped to facilitate this is a kind of conversation. They need actionable examples to imitate in order to be affirming to their kids. 

Social/Emotional development research tells us that it takes 6 positive statements to outweigh the impact of 1 negative one. This is exaggerated when you factor in an elementary aged student who is trying to find their way in life through the personal-worth minefield. It’s actually not hard to help someone learn to read or do math…but equipping an 8 year old with the tools they need to grow up loving themselves and feeling worthy is more important than we could possibly explain in this simple blog post!  

Imagine sitting at that Christmas dinner table with a single mom, her mom or another relative and then her 3 kids. The tutor initiates conversation and then points out some of the achievements of the Whiz Kid and tells stories illustrating how that student is progressing and growing. The tutor deflects any off hand or inappropriate responses from the adults and models over-and-over how to affirm, pursue and bless children. 

It’s astounding how simple yet profound this exercise is…yet over the years this one meal and hour of conversation has been more transformative for students and their families than almost anything else we do under the guise of “tutoring” and serving kids in the neighborhood. 

Volunteers + Tutoring = Healthier Families! It’s a simple equation that involves stepping up to be available to serve through relationship in the communities where we live. 

Relationships Change the World: New Friends + 2 Cups of Coffee = Unlimited Potential

One of the advantages of loving coffee is the fact that most young adults love it too! So if you’re older (like Lakewood Connects Director, Reg Cox) and you hope to connect with young leaders you offer to buy their cup! Such was the set-up recently between Reg and Colorado Christian University student body vice president, Sarah. Sarah had reached out asking if Lakewood Connects could help her revitalize an event called; “CCU 4 Lakewood” (CCU4LW). Reg had helped develop this student led community service program back in 2018 and now Sarah wanted to get it going again! When you “Caffeinate” a new friendship and add a Big Dream you increase the potential for something powerful to happen!

In 2018 CCU students formed four Community Service targets in the neighborhood near campus. CCU has existed for decades, and as a community they’re committed in becoming a partner with local churches and organizations to Serve the city! In 2018 CCU4LW connected to Senior Adults, served Food in an underserved community, supported a local church’s program for Homeless Neighbors and played with students in a local Elementary School. A key focus for CCU4LW experience is that the service all takes place in neighborhoods near the university!

Here’s a Philosophy that guides Lakewood Connects: “Proximity transforms the impact potential of who, what, why and how we serve”. When you’re walking across the street to serve someone instead of driving 45 minutes or flying to another country you’re suddenly transported into “living with” those you serve. Relationship based service transforms us from custodians of compassionate action into neighbors loving our extended family. Through the power of close proximity we enter into “relationship” connections and experience something wholly different and more valuable than “one off” service. This is where life change potential exists!

This coming February 14, Lakewood Connects Director; Reg Cox will speak in chapel to kick off “CCU Loves Lakewood!” By February 2023 several things will be in action that will transform the lives of both students and community members in positive ways…and all of this started as 2 people became new friends and shared 2 cups of coffee and shared greater-good plans and dreams!

We believe that relationships change the world! Please join us in building new friendships and dreaming bigger partnership dreams in 2023!