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!

What If?

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There are challenges and problems in our society that can be solved… but never are, because they require collaboration, partnership and across-the-aisle civil conversation.

The Lakewood Faith Coalition is a network of faith communities that partner to serve together. They are currently developing Support Teams for each of the eight, Title 1 elementary schools in the city. (Title 1 is a federal designation for a school that has 65%+ of its students receiving supplemental food assistance.) A “Support Team” is comprised of community members who meet regularly with school leaders to assess needs and strategize solutions.

Recently, Lakewood City Connector Reg Cox was visiting a Title 1 elementary school in Lakewood to help build the Support Team there. He was meeting with an administrator, the Principal, and a faith leader who will chair that school’s team. Each school hopes that a relationship with the Coalition will lead to improved academic scores, lower absences, and decreased discipline issues. At this school Reg was informed that they are working with 50 homeless families. 50!

The Coalition could recruit 100 tutors but may only barely move academic scores at this school because students from homeless families face debilitating struggles that disproportionately offset the progress of the rest of the student body! These homeless families are connected to Jefferson County Human Services and other services, yet without stable housing the work of these services can only have minimal impact on improving their lives.

What if we solved this part of the larger homeless need in our county?

  • What if we had a network of property owners who partnered with the school system? What if Jefferson County Human Services, nonprofits, and county and civic leaders worked together to develop strategies to get these families in stable housing?
  • What if these families were housed in small to medium sized housing facilities in neighborhoods throughout the school district to help facilitate commutes to school, work, and transportation?
  • What if these families were rewarded with stable housing as a condition for continuing to work with support from various agencies prescribed to help them?
  • What if property owners who wanted to help solve community needs were able to use their properties for housing and could also make a modest profit to pay back investors?
  • What if Jeffco was the first major district in the country to house all of its homeless families?

What are some next steps in making this dream a reality?

  • County Leadership: In order to move this from a dream to a plan, county government leaders should begin this conversation, because they have the ability to reach beyond city boundaries to unite government, business, and school leaders to work on this need. Lakewood Connects is currently seeking advice and support for this brainstorm.
  • Model: We need a model of an affordable housing unit/facility with a modest number of families to start with. Rick Roberts and the Legacy Grace Community Development Corporation is working to purchase and develop an apartment facility for homeless housing. Legacy Grace might be the model project to test, learn from, and build on in Jefferson, County. Lakewood Connects is actively supporting Rick in this dream.
  • Story: We need a strong PR strategy to tell stories and celebrate successes of students, families, property owners and neighborhoods in order to help shape the public narrative of affordable housing. Lakewood Connects is helping spread this idea to key leaders who might make it happen.

Community, Kids, and Whiz Kid Christmas Dinner 2017!

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Each of the past six school years members from three Green Mountain Neighborhood area churches (Lakewood Church of Christ, Concordia Lutheran, and Faith Mountain Church) have partnered with neighbors from the Green Mountain Civic Association and other community volunteers to support students at Foothills Elementary School here in the Green Mountain neighborhood of west Lakewood. The goal of this collaboration of neighbors, churches and friends is an afterschool tutoring program called Whiz Kids.

Whiz Kids has been changing lives in positive ways and operating in Denver for over 25 years. The afterschool tutoring program is faith based and uses community volunteers for one-on-one tutoring for students. In six years the impact of Whiz Kids at Foothills Elementary has been tremendous: academic scores, enrollment, teacher morale and family engagement have all improved dramatically!

A high point of our Foothills Whiz Kid program year is an annual Christmas party held at Lakewood Church of Christ each December. On December the 7, we held our 6th and biggest dinner event yet! Over 130 were in attendance!  Students, their families, tutors, teachers, Santa, and community members attended and enjoyed an incredible meal, entertainment, dessert, a blessing from Principal Josh Shapiro, gifts and a turkey raffle! The energy in the room was joyful and festive!

The goal of the dinner is to bless these families with one of the best meals they will receive all year and celebrate the hard work of our students. When you support Lakewood Connects you literally change the future for 100s of students across Lakewood, Colorado!

This year the spirit of community was demonstrated when two families with graduated Whiz Kids came back to help with the event. Sometimes you don’t realize how important a program is to someone until you ask them to help with it after they have moved on from it. Their energy for serving at the dinner party was an unexpected highlight of the event for the tutors and community volunteers and helped us all realize that the sacrifices of what we’re doing here continues to bless and make an impact long into the future.

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Lakewood Connects – Leading Leaders

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A community is only as strong as the strength of its leaders! Wednesday November 8, 20 leaders met on the campus of Colorado Christian University to participate in the first “Lakewood Leadership Lunch.” Lakewood Connects and Thrivent Financial partnered to create the event which merged faith, education, government, nonprofit and business leaders for the purpose of growing the leadership capital in the city of Lakewood.

The event featured presentation clips from the 2016 Willow Creek Leadership conference called, “Leadership Summit.” Our first clip was a 7 minute dose of challenge from Willow Creek senior pastor Bill Hybels. He challenged that the “passion level“ of the leader sets the passion pace of their organization. He reminded us that it is no one’s responsibility to fill the “passion bucket” of the leader, other than that leader. So…what am I doing to keep my passion bucket full?

The second presentation was by bestselling author and researcher Dr. Travis Bradberry. His book called; “Emotional Intelligence 2.0” challenges us to understand the difference between IQ, Personality and EQ, or “Emotional Intelligence.” Where IQ and Personality are set our emotional intelligence can grow, morph and improve thus directly impacting our success and leadership effectiveness. We can change for the better and this presentation and subsequent discussions sharpened our resolve and set the pathway for these steps in our lives.

Finally, we were taught by the world leadership equipping leader John C. Maxwell. Maxwell aimed us at “The One Thing to Get Right.” Leaders add value to people. This call was convicting and motivating and his stories perfectly illustrated how vital and important adding value is. Leaders change people for the better and that change is THE key for positively transforming our world.

Attending the event were leaders from the largest Chamber of Commerce organization in Jefferson, County, a former Lakewood mayor, a leader of a government supporting foundation, nonprofit organization leaders and many other kinds of leaders all working together to build up one another’s leadership strengths and confidence. Fact is many of these leaders would have disagreed strongly with one another about many specific topics…but in this venue they all grew closer to one another and closer to their highest leadership potential.

Lakewood Connects is working in many ways to connect leaders to leaders and leaders to the possible community initiatives that will never be realized until we work on these problems together!

A week in the life of Lakewood Connects July 11—15, 2017

Lakewood Connects: Mobilizing churches for effective service in the community

178Monday
• Met with the new church relations director at Lutheran Family Services and helped her make plans for networking with city, school, and church leaders in Lakewood.
• Mentoring time with a local pastor. This is one of the core goals for Lakewood Connects as we work to strengthen faith leaders.
• Facilitated community connections so that 40 teen counselors from a local camp for inner city kids could have food and a nice place to meet for their celebration dinner.

 

181Pictured: Teen counselors from Zocalo camp enjoying a great meal provided by Lakewood leader Bill Marino/Olive Garden/Bill Marino, Lakewood leader from the Lakewood – West Colfax Business Improvement District. The dinner was held at Bethlehem Lutheran church who offered their serving hall for free. Lakewood Connects works to link business, church, neighborhood, nonprofits, government and schools together so everyone benefits from partnership. When we pull together nothing is impossible!


183Tuesday
• Linked a new church plant with Green Mountain High School’s principal so the church can meet there this fall. Relationships make all the difference for helping link churches to schools!
• Gathered and led pastors from the Lakewood Church Network for prayer at the Cove Bar. Sometimes church leaders return to the places Jesus used to minister in!
• Participated in the nonprofit roundtable with West Chamber of Commerce. It’s important that Lakewood Connects participates in community wide vision and helps build networks for excellence and leadership across the aisle separating us.


Wednesday
• Prepared the Jeffco Human Services “Power of Partnership” program for database support. Power of Partnership links government, churches, and nonprofits for collaborative service networking in Jeffco.
• Met with city Affordable Housing Leaders to better communicate what the most vulnerable populations in the city need now and in the future. This will be one of our most important problems to solve!
• Consulted with leaders of an apartment ministry as they seek to help more families in needy neighborhoods.


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• Consulted with leaders of local Lakewood Service Clubs as they form a new network aimed at serving the city together. Their first priority is helping Title 1 elementary schools. Pictured here, leaders from the group look at art tables in Rose Stein Elementary that were constructed by prisoners. Rose Stein will start their first reopened school year with a team of local churches, service clubs, businesses and neighborhood association partners helping the school in the years to come.
• Chaired the Lakewood Faith Coalition Team’s regular meeting. The Faith Coalition is a network of over 50 faith communities in the city serving together!


201Friday
• Met with the Lakewood Connects Action Team to plan next steps. A top priority is fund raising plans for this fall.
• Linked Thrivent Financial with Rose Stein Elementary. Pictured here are Principal Esther Valdez and Thrivent’s Tim Tier. Thrivent provided books for the school and is also researching ways to participate in a landscaping project at and for the school in the next 3 weeks! When Tim left the school that morning, principal Valdez literally jumped up in the air with excitement! Lakewood Connects is bringing joy to Lakewood!