Public Schools as Hubs

In the Jefferson County School District there is a concept called; “Schools as Hubs.” The goal of this plan is to use the school as the “Hub,” or life giving heart of the neighborhood. Hub can mean the school serves as the city park for an area of town, or offers meeting space for neighborhood groups, then sometimes schools fill in as a service center meeting resident’s needs through partnerships with nonprofits and host medical professionals for health screenings. Schools as Hubs radically changes the purpose of “school” in ways that can make a local and long lasting positive impact on struggling families.

Recently several schools in Lakewood have taken the “school as Hub” plan to heart in a new way. Currently three schools have transformed part of the school facility into a food pantry and clothing and medical distribution site for the neighborhood. The Hub might be located inside the building or in a portable classroom outside… but either way the Hub brings needed support to families who  have temporary or long term needs. The nearness of the facility and the fact that the folks working in the Hub are people they know and trust is removing the stigma and shame of need in our modern era!

At Foothills Elementary, the “Foothills Foodies” Hub opened up in October in a portable. To make the Hub work, volunteers from local churches organize, stock, and distribute the food. Two staff members from the school coordinate linking school families to the Hub, then dozens of nonprofits and government agencies all lend expertise, food, clothing, and medical supplies. To make the Hub work it literally takes an entire community!

Lakewood Connects is proud to support and or help navigate dozens of potential partners at each Hub site. Each Hub works differently and together with County Human Services the volunteers in the Hub are able to aim those receiving aid towards self-sufficiency and a future plan for thriving and flourishing.

Currently two additional Hubs are being developed at elementary schools in high need neighborhoods in Lakewood. This kind of local support is reducing suffering in our most underserved areas of the city and will become an example of what is possible when a community pulls together for the common good. Thanks for helping us make an immediate positive difference in the lives of 100s of families in Lakewood!

Community-First Focused

Front Porch Coffee Shop at The Bridge Church – building community!

What kind of influence does Lakewood Connects try to make on churches and church leaders? What is the aim of our influence? For millennia, Christian faith has focused on sharing the “Gospel”, or “good news.” That good news is a promise that all people can be freed from anything that separates them from God through Jesus. This good news has been “shared” for 2,000 years and recently it has been shared in ways that offend and anger non-Christians.

It’s hard to convince nonbelieving people about any religious, political, or sales claim. The divisions of our time make believing any message of hope hard. People don’t appreciate anyone forcing their views on them. We live in a cynical, divided and skeptical age.

What is a Jesus believing church supposed to be about in the first place? Before any message can feel like “good news” the struggles, depression or needs of humanity must be met first. A message of hope can’t be heard by a suffering heart.

Lakewood Connects is encouraging, modeling, and leading Lakewood Faith Communities towards a “Community-First Focused” philosophy of ministry life. By this we mean three things: 1) Connection, 2) Compassion, and 3) Collaboration

Connection: Churches must make and build relationships with their local community. By meeting, listening to, and building relationships with our neighbors we obey the “love your neighbor” part of the “greatest command” (Matthew 22:39). Whatever “good news” is, it has to start here!

In 2012-13 Lakewood Connects supported a partnership between education, government, neighborhood associations, business, and faith to transform a derelict school sports field into a “Field of Dreams.” When churches connect service leaders together suffering is reduced in the city! The church is “Switzerland;” their main passion is alleviating pain and it is impossible to do this unless every key agency, program, and service group work together for the greater good.

Compassion: Churches must exemplify meaningful compassionate service in their local community. Often churches do great things in other places, but if suffering goes unmet in those who live across the street then we’re missing the chance for compassion to touch and profoundly change us first!

The service churches offer must be the best programs making the most meaningful impact in the city! The Bridge Church at Bear Creek partners with Bear Creek High School in Lakewood to offer top notch programs supporting mental and emotional support at the school. The church funds this through operating a coffee shop and regular community enrichment events. To facilitate this the church redesigned their building to be a welcoming community gathering space for the neighborhood. By investing in compassion first and ensuring that the programs they offered were top quality the church has become “the light of the world” Jesus envisioned in Matthew 5:14. Over 150 people a day visit the coffee shop and 500 High School students enjoy a pizza lunch on Mondays. Compassion builds a hope bridge!

Collaboration: Churches must invite their nonbelieving neighbors to serve the city with them! When those who believe in Jesus incarnate the Gospel through diverse and trying circumstances without any strings attached then the Jesus we profess will start making sense to our neighbors! Through collaboration in the work of compassion the mysterious veil of the message of God can be lifted. We don’t have time to argue with culture, there is too much suffering in our world and too few collaboration champions out there bringing the world together and forming them into an army of good. Churches must lead their neighbors into meaningful service that changes lives! This is the promise of the Gospel and seeing is believing!

Cloverdale Church of God has supported the homework club in the most impacted Title I elementary school in the city for several years. While serving this high need school pastor Michael Hooven is often referred to as the “School Pastor.” There is no official title like that in a public school… but he earned that title by leading initiatives and building partnerships that change lives. This year this school will take a bold step and set up a facility offering food, clothing and medical supplies to the community. To support this work Pastor Hooven gave up his church office; it’s now a food storage room! Building collaboration isn’t a slogan or a bumper sticker icon, it’s a path of sacrifice that erases suffering!

Community-first focused… this is the kind of leadership needed for every community in our country today. Lakewood Connects is honored to encourage, model and lead churches and church leaders to a Community-First Focus in order to reduce suffering in our city! Thanks so much for your support!

Church as Shalom Outposts

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The world doesn’t need any more inward focused fear based churches and faith communities! Why does “Church” exist? What is the “Why” that brings together all of the aspects of Faith, Life and Positive Impact on the world for a body of believers gathering in the city of Lakewood?

Since 2005 Reg has led efforts to redefine why churches exist and what they can do together that no one church can do alone! The Church Network and Lakewood Faith Coalition together solve the problems in the city by building faith partners from our city! It is partnership that is going to change the world for good!

Reg challenges Faith Communities to envision their greater purpose as serving the greater good! “Inward” focused churches use their resources for themselves, but when a body of believers exists to serve their community and partners with other Faith Communities, Amazing Things happen!

Since 2012 these “Amazing Things” in Lakewood include raising $100’s of thousands of dollars to transform outdoor space at schools, mentoring over 450 children, supporting supplemental food programs feeding 1000’s and housing the homeless in churches across the city in the winter.

All of this is well and good but the bigger “Amazing Thing” might be that the fact that unity between faith traditions exists at all!  It is amazing when Churches merge their resources with the gifts and talents of other Faith Communities in order to broaden and deepen effective service impact. None of this unifying work happens without a champion and Lakewood Connects is that champion!

This year Reg has worked with a new group to support a vision tentatively called; “Shalom Outposts.” The Jewish word; “Shalom” means “Peace”, but it also means “Thriving” or “Flourishing.” When local churches thrive and flourish they, then can partner with others in order to create thriving flourishing neighborhoods. These churches become “Shalom Outposts” in their neighborhood!

Many Faith Communities in our city are struggling… one example would be Mountair Christian. This 100+ year old church serves their neighborhood in vital ways but it is aging and languishes with less than 50 members. In early June Reg led a group of faith, business and government leaders in a prayer walk in the Mountair neighborhood along with Pastor Ruben Rodriguez and the church leadership team.

We can find partnership opportunities within the Business, Government and Education communities that can support great Shalom Outposts like Mountair! The church like this needs a different “footprint” to operate from other than the traditional sanctuary! Could they transition to operate out of a Community Center? What about partnering with a Multi-Family Housing Facility? In order for the Shalom Outpost to thrive and create a thriving community we need to find new ways to do and be “Church!”

Thanks for your partnership with Lakewood Connects! The Shalom of our city depends on the work you are doing to thrive, flourish and envision a new wave of Community Connected Churches!

The Salazar Philanthropy Award

For 3 years Lakewood Connects has partnered with you to create a flourishing Lakewood by building partnerships. There is no reason why Government, Faith, Education and Business can’t work together for the common good! They just need a champion like you and Lakewood Connects to make good happen!

An effective leader in supporting schools in struggling neighborhoods is the Jeffco Schools Foundation. The foundation connects caring members of the community to classroom needs by raising funds and building partnerships to bridge gaps facing schools, teachers and students. Lakewood Connects has partnered with the foundation on several projects and their expert advice helps us aim service partnerships towards maximum positive impact.

Each April the foundation hosts their Gala, a capstone event that brings together School Administration, County, City, Business, Health and Faith leaders from across Jefferson, County.

At the Gala each year two awards are given out, the Norma Anderson Lifetime Achievement in Education Award and the Salazar Achievement in Philanthropy Award. Both awards are extreme honors and Lakewood Connects Executive Director Reg Cox was recognized as the recipient of the Salazar Award this year. Here is a short video that tells the story of the award and why Lakewood Connects was recognized at this year’s Gala.

This video and award are a tribute to hundreds of volunteers, partners and friends who have given thousands of hours to support the vision of Connection and Partnership in Lakewood, Colorado. It is our hope that this Partnership Vision spreads to others across the country, re-imagines what Faith and “Church” is for, and builds Pathways of Transformation to millions of people struggling in various ways. When we break down the fear, misunderstanding, prejudice and wounds separating organizations, ideologies, faith, races, gender and professional services in our country we can realize the dreams and hopes we all share and cherish! Thank you for believing in the better and fighting with us for the best!

7th Annual Whiz Kids Christmas Party

Each of the 7 years Lakewood Church of Christ has partnered with other area churches and the Green Mountain Civic Association to support the in school/after school faith based tutoring program, Whiz Kids, at Foothills Elementary School, the highlight of the year has been a Christmas Party/Dinner at the church in early December. This year’s dinner occurred Tuesday, December 4 at the Lakewood Church and it was the largest and most successful party yet!

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The goals of the Whiz Kid Christmas Dinner/Party are to:

  • Encourage the students and their families
  • Create better connections between school, church and community
  • Offer an experience for these students and their families that will nurture a deep sense of blessing and support in their lives that will help them feel loved throughout the year.

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At each Christmas event families arrive around 6pm, the kids enjoy fun crafts and activities while the adults enjoy appetizers and conversation with each other, community members, church members, principal Josh Shapiro and even city leaders such as Mayor Adam Paul and City Councilman Dave Skilling. It is hard to exaggerate how important it is for these parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and other guardians to experience the value of this kind of interaction.

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The dinner is served at 7pm and is always an over-the-top meal. This year featured BBQ from Pigging Out and homemade vegetables prepared by church and community members. A pair of local High School students played dinner music for the 140+ dinner guests in the auditorium of the Lakewood Church whose teens had transformed into a Christmas lighted banquet hall.

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After dinner the evening’s experience featured Principal Shapiro leading us all in; “shout-out’s” from students, tutors and others reinforcing a culture of encouragement, blessing and noticing what is good in others, some wonderful Christmas music and songs led by tutor Melanie Crane and the traditional Ham/Turkey/Gift Certificate giveaways to close out the evening. A local sporting goods manufacturer, Park & Sun Sports in Englewood donates activity based gifts that are available for all the families.

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A lot can be said for the encouragement, connections and blessing goals of the event but the real power of an evening like this is best illustrated in the life of one of the young single mothers who attended. It was her first experience with the Christmas event because her student is in 1st grade. It is sometimes intimidating to visit a church or take off work to participate in something like this with people you don’t know but this mom came anyway.

IMG_1810During the event she warmed up as she watched her young children enjoy the meal and activities. She began to let down her guard in conversation around the table with tutors, community and church members. Finally, at the end of the night she revealed that she was in a desperate situation. Church and community members have surrounded her with support and tangible strategies through partnerships with local government and nonprofit agencies and she is now on the pathway to self-sufficiency, security and a dramatically improved Christmas season for her and her two kids.

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A meal and celebration is great…but in the end this kind of connection forms the foundation for transforming the lives and future for dozens of families and students in our neighborhoods across the city. Thanks for your encouragement, support and partnership so this kind of program and experience can flourish and multiply!

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!

Community Grant Program

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Lakewood City Council working on the Community Grant Program

The Community Grant Program (CGP) in Lakewood awards financial grants of various amounts to nonprofit organizations who are working in the city and who apply for the grant. At first it can feel strange for the city to offer tax collected money as a grant to nonprofits, but I think there are at least 5 good reasons why this is a good idea for the City of Lakewood to do. Thankfully, the Mayor and a unanimous vote from the City Council agrees!

Here are some reasons why incentivizing nonprofits in a city is a good idea:

  1. Bargain Multiplication: The City Council seeks to guide the BEST use of tax payer dollars. Nonprofits (NPs) perform services the City/County/State can’t or don’t perform, and they do it without impacting the tax base. The CGP allows the city, at a bargain amount, to ensure that these vital services continue. By using a minimum of money the City Council can multiply a maximum of good!
  2. Best Practices: The CGP enables the city to award NPs best practices thus defining of what excellence looks like in an organization. Other NPs will aspire to rise to the excellence of the organizations who receive the grant. It is wise for the city to aim all NPs towards excellence and the grant ensures strong, vital and impactful NPs that are run wisely and efficiently.
  3. Greater Good: The CGP inspires innovative compassionate breakthrough vision in the city by people who notice needs and are compelled to answer them. By noticing and rewarding the compassionate entrepreneurial spirit already working hard in our community we multiply the good and minimize the suffering of our citizens. This grant will increase the overall good accomplished in our city!
  4. Minimize Suffering: The CGP lowers suffering in Lakewood. There is no way County Human Services and other organizations can find and help all the people in our city who are struggling. The CGP is a goodwill catalyst spinning off more citizens who feel deputized to help their neighbors. The more Lakewood becomes a caring and serving city the lower the composite pain existing in our city.
  5. Loving Neighbors = Loving City: The CGP reveals the hidden stories of sacrifice and service in our city. Every day hundreds of people in Lakewood go out of their way to help their neighbor. NPs are loving neighbors organized to maximize their talents, treasures, and time in order to impact the most people with the greatest good. Every dollar given in this grant will multiply into the unseen heroic acts that make Lakewood vital into and through the future.

Community leading community

Lakewood Forward symposium

Lakewood, like most major metro areas in the nation, has diverse populations, generations and socioeconomic sub categories all living together in the same community. These differences can divide or they can serve as a platform for civil dialogue. Left to our own devices human beings divide. “Together” isn’t natural for many reasons, so there will always be a need for leadership in building a clear, positive and accurate picture of “togetherness” and with it a road map for how to get there.

It makes sense that “together” is led by a group. In Lakewood a new group has formed with the task of helping bridge the divides in our community, that group is called Lakewood Forward. Lakewood Forward states its aim as: “Lakewood Forward informs, inspires, activates, and strengthens our community. We embrace change and innovation while respecting our heritage. We elevate ideas and solutions that will outlast institutions and government cycles.”

What does that mean, and what does that look like in action? Lakewood Forward recently hosted a Symposium at the local Elks club hosting 100 folks from the community. The Symposium was aimed at “Facts not Fear”, and this was accomplished by hosting three local experts from the areas of Education, Transportation and Housing to talk about the specific needs, opportunities, plans and challenges in their areas.

Suffice to say each presenter had great thoughts, pertinent information, and solid facts about their topic, and the audience questions were delivered and answered with dignity and respect. Lakewood Forward has intentionally invited audience members with diverse and opposing opinions on the topics. The goal of the Symposium was to walk away friends in disagreement who were informed and capable of sharing accurate information with others.

Here’s the key insight: “Cities are never the same… they can become better or they can become worse!” Former Mayor Steve Burkholder opened with this reflection, and it is a critical truth. Change is a constant. To become successful in leading a city towards “better” we must have accurate information, civil discourse, and the willingness to work with others with whom we disagree. “Better” is only possible when we treat each other with dignity and commit to looking forward!

It is an honor to serve on the board with Lakewood Forward and bring with me the goodwill and “sleeves rolled up and ready to help” attitude of over 30 churches and faith communities! Together we can and so together we must, because our future and everything we value depends on it!

 

Bold vision from a bold city leader

Mayor Adam Paul

Lakewood Connects exists to merge, mentor and mobilize faith communities for meaningful partnerships with businesses, government and schools in Lakewood, Colorado. A key part of this vision is developing partnerships between churches and government. City and County Government leaders and organizations set the boundaries, strategies and responsibilities to sustain great ideas and programs. In Lakewood one of the most important political leaders to develop a relationship with is the Mayor, Adam Paul.

Adam and I have worked together for over 7 years. He lives in the Green Mountain neighborhood near the Lakewood Church where I pastored for 15 years, and we worked together on projects like the “Foothills Field of Dreams” at Foothills Elementary School in 2012-2013.

Recently the Mayor spoke at Lakewood Church along with former Mayor Steve Burkholder on the topic of “Committed to our Community.”

Each year the Mayor delivers the “state of the city” address at a lunch meeting in front of 400 people and a TV audience. I was fortunate to attend this year’s lunch Thursday March 8. It’s a big deal that the leader of the city leads the city. But it is more important that the leader of the city leads the city towards excellent, noble, and visionary goals and dreams that touch on the needs of everyone in the city and at the same time leads the city to a successful future. Lakewood is fortunate to have a person who is capable and bold enough to lead the city with that kind of vision.

Mayor Paul shared that the slogan for the City of Lakewood for 2018 is “Boldness!” There could not be a truer slogan or task ahead for any leader of any city in America today! Lakewood faces tremendous challenges in areas like aging population, homelessness, affordable housing, smart growth, its relationship with the County, its relationship with neighboring cities, and bringing together all of the diversity in the city to agree on a clear future goal and commit to working together to achieve that important common destiny!

Mayor Paul said his “one thing” for the year personally was childhood hunger. Near to that topic was affordable housing. During the lunch address he highlighted the work done by Pastor Drew Ross of Bethlehem Lutheran and their new Mobile Shower called “Living Well” and Principal Esther Valdez at Rose Stein Elementary. Both Drew and Esther are close friends and partners with Lakewood Connects!

Lakewood Connects is blessed to be a partner supporting Mayor Paul and everyone else leading in our community! It will definitely take boldness to envision the future and forge a pathway towards it! We plan to be here and appreciate your partnership and support! BOLD in 2018!