Click here to view a PDF of current volunteer opportunities in Lakewood!
Our world has changed over the past eight months in dramatic and challenging ways. The pandemic split us physically and ideologically and made election year tensions more divisive. The danger in retreating from society is that we can miss noticing the challenges of our neighbors and when we do see them, we’re too emotionally exhausted to find ways to help out!
Beginning last March, Lakewood Connects joined county-wide discussions with over fifty different organizations to build collaborative solutions for serious community food challenges. In September we were awarded a $30,000 grant to support construction of “Pantries” or “Hubs” at three Lakewood elementary schools. We’re excited to tell you this story in our next few newsletters!
Pantries/Hubs Goal? Build a sustainable network of school pantries at Lakewood elementary schools while merging district protocols with a vetted and trained support staff of community volunteers. The long range vision is to guide each “Pantry” into becoming a “Resource Hub” adding neighborhood leaders and community resources such as job enhancement, cooking classes, social emotional support, etc. A local pantry organized and staffed by neighbors and friends can remove barriers many in our world today face to realizing a thriving life.
On the 9th of September, two local nonprofits, Benefits in Action and the JeffCo School Foundation, partnered with Lakewood Connects to apply for a city of Lakewood Cares Act Grant. After the grant was awarded, our Director Reg met with school administration, the principals of the three schools, their leadership teams and the directors of both partner nonprofits to develop the next steps to setting up these Pantries/Hubs over the next few months. Realizing this goal is would be impossible to achieve in the middle of a pandemic without the support of dozens of leaders from multiple organizations that have stepped up to make this breakthrough plan a reality!
What has happened so far? School district facility management has approved the project, all three schools set up their contact leader to lead Pantry/Hub development and, most importantly, each school has received $5,000 in grocery store gift cards! (More about this part of the story in our next blog and December newsletter!)
These last few months Lakewood Connects has been involved in building and supporting partnerships that will bring solutions for some of the most nagging and heartbreaking challenges our community has ever faced. Know that this Thanksgiving week hundreds of families are experiencing a time of gratitude and relief thanks to your support. We can’t do this without you!
By Bernadette Marquez, Title I Family Engagement/Diversity Liaison at Foothills Elementary
It is with great delight and a joyful spirit that I am able to tell the Lakewood Connects Team and their supporters about the good work happening within the heart of the Green Mountain Community that serves the students and families of ALL of the Green Mountain Articulation Area Schools.
The HUB at Foothills Foodies is the brainchild of both Diana Baumgarten (Foothills Elementary School Social Worker) and myself, Bernadette Marquez (Title I Family Engagement/Diversity Liaison). It came about by Diana and I linking arm in arm and combining both of our passion projects into one.
Initially both Diana and I had different but similar projects that we were working on within Foothills Elementary to serve students that we recognized would benefit from supplemental resources that we ourselves could extend through partnerships we had built with community partners. You see, Diana had been serving as the school Social Worker for many years and had seen how underserved Foothills Families were and that many of our families did not always having enough money to buy food. She established a weekend backpack program that she soon realized didn’t meet the unique needs of the families it served. In comes me… when I arrived on the scene at Foothills in the fall of 2017 in my role as Family Engagement Liaison, I came with very wet feet and an eager heart to serve underprivileged families by providing them with the wealth of tools that I had been afforded to have at my fingertips.
Jump ahead one school year…the fall of 2018 and the story of how our interests and commonalities came together… it was due to Mr. Reg Cox, who on the outside looking in envisioned the power of the two of us forming one objective…which is to ensure that ALL students have equal access to food, clothing, and opportunities. It was our mission to eradicate the barriers that stood between them and their education. It was truly a match made in heaven! Something that we both would have never imagined without the prompting of Reg Cox.
After Diana and I met with Reg we embarked on a full-on marathon to bring our dream into fruition. She and I went on an adventure to scope out other schools that serve as Hubs to see what their set-up looked like, we interviewed the teams responsible for starting their individual programs and we sat down and evaluated our very unique Green Mountain population, and devised a plan that we both believed would best serve the most underserved demographic of students and families in and around Foothills Elementary.
Based upon what we observed worked and didn’t work in the school-based Hubs we visited, we recognized that one thing rang true for all of them… Partnerships, Partnerships, Partnerships! It was imperative to establish partnerships with our sister schools, community agencies, religious organizations, grocers, and of course the most important component the stakeholders themselves… our Foothills families.
Thanks to Lakewood Connects, the first partnership we established was with Concordia Lutheran Church (CLC). We met with Donna Miller who is a very active member of CLC and now our Volunteer Coordinator. She spread the word at church and launched our first food drive. It was a great success which gave us so much inspiration to reach out to The Action Center, our neighborhood Safeway Store, all six of the Green Mountain Articulation schools, and our Foothills PTA. Have you ever seen how fast a wildfire ignites and spreads? That was 100% how quickly the good news spread and how rapidly we were able to form and secure partnerships and launch our supplemental food program which we fittingly decided to name Foothills Foodies.
Being that Diana had previously established the weekend backpack program in one of the temporary buildings in the back of the school, we had a space to store and distribute food. Our vision of how food would be distributed was what makes our program very distinct. It was of the utmost importance that families had a dignified experience at Foothills Foodies. Overall, we wanted families to come in and have a shopping experience where they have the ability to select their own food and how we accomplished this was by modeling our program after The Action Center’s 7-day supplemental food program. Instead of a 7-day supply of supplemental food, Foothills Foodies supplies 3-days of supplemental food to see our families through the weekend. Families came in and shopped with the assistance of a form that guided them through their shopping trip. Families selected how many family members in their household and then checked off the allotted items including proteins, fruits, veggies, grains etc. In addition, it was very important to us important that families had access to not only non-perishable food items but also fresh items such as milk, eggs, meat, and fresh fruits and veggies. Through our established partnerships we secured refrigerators and a freezer to store the fresh food that was donated or provided by Safeway, The Action Center, and private donors. It truly was a beautiful whirlwind of vision, humanity, collaboration and loves labor that founded Foothills Foodies!
Spring forward to the fall of 2019…
Diana and I were so amazed and ignited by the results of our previous years work, that we did not want to resolve what we had initially envisioned as sufficient. We had lofty aspirations that still hadn’t come to pass. Beyond just providing food we truly wanted to offer wrap-around services which included providing families access to hygiene products, household items, clothing, and shoes. So began our partnership with A Precious Child. Foothills became a full functioning HUB when we officially became a satellite boutique for A Precious Child who provide clothing, coats, shoes, toiletries, home goods, and basic essentials to our Foothills families. We then extended these services to all Green Mountain Schools students and families. With that, a move to a larger and more adequate space on the Foothills Elementary campus, a name change and a Re-Grand Opening!
The HUB at Foothills Foodies now has the capacity to serve over 1500 families within the articulation area. The HUB at this time is 100% sufficient, relying solely on donations of money, food, and volunteer hours and is recognized as a Health and Human Services Academy Career Pathway for Foothills Students that choose to participate. Again, the mold was broken when The HUB at Foothills Foodies became an option as an extracurricular course for students to participate in the distribution of the necessities offered through the HUB. In fact, Foothills Elementary was recognized by the Colorado Department of Education for providing such innovative courses in the statewide 2019 Promising Partnership Practices publication with recognition from Governor Polis, Mayor Adam Paul, and Jeffco Public School Board Members. Channel 7 and Channel 4 featured the HUB at Foothills Foodies on their newscasts and the Lakewood Sentinel shared with its readers about the resources offered to the community through this truly amazing collaborative.
So, this is how a dream, true collaboration and a labor of love looks like in its most genuine form. I would like to extend an invitation to anyone who wants to financially contribute to the Hub or help out in any way. Contact Reg Cox and he will get those funds to and connect potential volunteers to support us at the HUB at Foothills Foodies. Please feel free to come by the HUB to see it for yourself! It is a sight for sore eyes and will lift your spirits above and beyond what you’d ever expect.
In all the years that Whiz Kids has been at Foothills Elementary, I always knew it was a life changing ministry! I finally had the opportunity to join this last school year and was blessed with a first grade girl named, Heaven. At first, I struggled with knowing how best to tutor her. Even though I had homeschooled my kids, it was not easy to determine her needs or how best to teach her. The Lord answered my prayers about this when her mom, Stephanie, invited me to the parent teacher conference! The teacher gave me great input that helped to shape our focus and our goals during tutoring time.
With this new game plan, it was so rewarding to see her academic improvements! In December, every time we worked on reading, she was resistant and uncomfortable. She mixed up letters and did not know sight words. However by our last tutor time, she not only felt very comfortable with reading but also confident and happy!
Besides this academic growth, it did not take me long to realize how much farther reaching this ministry is! I had many direct and indirect opportunities “to make Jesus famous”, besides the one on one tutor time. Parents also regularly saw “Jesus with skin on” at the end of our tutor times, at the Christmas party, and at the end of year party. Heaven’s family was so comfortable and connected that Stephanie brought food to the Christmas party and her son helped serve and clean up! Besides the family being impacted by Jesus, the school and teachers were also. Not only did they see better grades, but also tutors connected with teachers who were still there during tutor time.
The direct ways of sharing Jesus were through club time and through the tutor team. We were like a big, happy family with the sole purpose of loving on these kids and bringing Jesus to these kids! The solidarity and support of this “community” was apparent when one of us couldn’t be there, others stepped in to tutor or to team up. Club time was so “successful” that by the end of the year, the kids were able to clearly and confidently share the story of Jesus!
Heaven and I connected so well that every Tuesday morning she would tell Stephanie that she couldn’t miss Tuesday because it was “Lisa Day”. Also the family and I felt so connected that they gave me gifts and cards, and even shared prayer requests! Stephanie and I plan to set up a time to hang out with Heaven this summer. This is all so much a “God-thing”!
As I’m remembering all of this, I’m realizing how much I look forward to the next school year, thanking the Lord and anticipating how He is going to shine Jesus at Whiz Kids again!
-Lisa Welsh, Lakewood Connects Board Member and Whiz Kid tutor
A huge part of what we do at Lakewood Connects is right in our name — we form connections to make Lakewood a better place. Sometimes that means knowing the places that have needs, so when an opportunity comes up, we can get the right people talking to transfer resources and improve life on both sides.
Recently, Confluent Development (full disclosure: one of our board members works for Confluent) purchased a new building and the previous owners left behind a bunch of furniture & fixtures that were in great shape! Since Confluent didn’t need these materials, they wanted to donate them to local schools and churches that would need them. Through connections, the nearly $40,000 of furniture and fixtures was distributed to three schools and one church.
Augustine Classical Academy
Bethlehem Lutheran School
Sewall Child Development Center and Mountain Christian Church also received equipment!
- 19 Folding flat top tables, very versatile, high quality, expensive.
- 46 Folding stackable chairs.
- 2 large rolling whiteboards
- Teaching lectern, and teaching assistant.
- Cubes and additional working space
This truly was a case of businesses, schools, and a church coming together to improve the quality of life in Lakewood. We are grateful to be part of this work!
On Monday morning, the day after Earth Day, I had the pleasure of attending the Foothills Elementary Garden Opening Ceremony at Foothills Elementary. My toddler son tagged along, and we both had a great time watching all the students!
We started the morning in the school gym, where I was told they start every school day to have their Morning Meeting before going to their classrooms. After some announcements and the pledge of allegiance, the entire student body went out to the area near the garden to listen to speakers and see the garden. I was so impressed by the way the students were all so engaged in what was happening!
Outside, many parents and community members joined the students, teachers, and staff of Foothills. There were invited guest speakers from the Jeffco School Board, Mayor Adam Paul, principals from other Green Mountain area schools, and Diane Rhodus, an instrumental part of the project and a Lakewood Connects Board Member. Amazing job Diane! Reg Cox, Lakewood Connects Executive Director was also invited to sit among honored guests during the opening ceremony.
This project and this ceremony was a true collaboration on every level. As an outsider, there just as a Lakewood Connects board member and community member to support this work, I was amazed at what is happening here. The sense of community is incredible, and it’s something I hope that my child and my family gets to experience someday. The connections between schools, government, businesses, and churches truly make a difference in the lives of people in Lakewood. I’m thankful to call this city home, thankful to call Diane and Reg friends, and thankful that projects like this ultimately bring glory to God through His people.
I’m looking forward to seeing what the students grow in the garden and how it grows our community!
Lakewood Connects Board Member