Our Everyday Neighborhood Hero: Bernadette

Family Engagement Liaison, Bernadette Marquez

Wednesday of Christmas week 2020, Lakewood Connects Director Reg Cox stopped by to visit Foothills Elementary School’s Family Engagement Liaison, Bernadette Marquez, at the end one of the hardest years in American education history. Teachers and students were at home for a well-deserved break by Wednesday, but not Bernadette. She was at school creating hope for hundreds of families and kids, and Lakewood Connects was blessed to be there supporting her!

Reg was there that day to deliver computer routers that Lakewood Connects partners had supplied to support student remote learning tech needs. Bernadette’s job is to create family connections, support student success, and link families in crisis with help. But in addition, she also manages “Foodies” (a pantry located on school property). Lakewood Connects was blessed to be part of establishing Foodies, which provides food, clothing, and medical supplies for the community.

Wednesday afternoon, December 23, the school cafeteria was full of wrapped gifts and boxes of food and turkeys for families dropping by to pick them up. Bernadette could have been home with her family but she was so fired up to be there instead, because the food and toys had been donated by local churches, neighbors, and businesses, and she couldn’t wait to give all of these goods out to her families.

When neighborhood organizations come together a kind of “synergistic goodwill web” forms and together they are able to solve problems and remove barriers to alleviating suffering. Bernadette’s reward is the encouragement she feels working with her neighborhood partners. What a little thing it is to build a partnership, but that little thing is changing the lives of hundreds of people in hundreds of positive ways! 

A little encouragement goes a long way… like the encouragement you’ve given to us at Lakewood Connects! Thanks for your support that ensures that our work and vision of building partnerships to alleviate suffering continues. This model of collaboration building, the re-envisioning the role of “church” and the tangible proof that government, education, business, and faith can be problem solving partners is catching on in other places nationally! Thanks for making this all possible!

Happy New Year!

The Board and staff at Lakewood Connects

Fruits of Relationship Building: Lift Zones!

Foothills Elementary Principal Josh Shapiro and Green Mountain High School Principal Colleen Owens

Lakewood Connects Executive Director, Reg Cox builds relationships with leaders from Government, Education, Business, and Faith because you can’t create breakthrough solutions to the problems of society without first building partnerships! Every partnership is formed one-on-one and upon these relationship foundations come problem solving ideas, plans, and vision!

Problem: Students in K-12 need reliable at-home internet, but many do not have it! Solution: Create a partnership with an Internet provider and set up “Lift Zones” at different facilities offering free internet for students/families to use from their cars in the parking lot!

Comcast, the School Foundation, and Lakewood Connects are finalizing the “Lift Zone” plan. A list of possible facilities were proposed, including 6 churches! The Comcast team was surprised that so many of the proposed sites were churches! That’s when the Executive Director of the School Foundation responded, “Churches are our most important education partner!”

It’s during these little moments when all of this relationship building pays off. It really did matter that we raised money for school projects, showed up for after-school tutoring, hosted Christmas Parties, sponsored Teacher appreciation events, and attended PTA meetings at a school where our kids never attended! You can’t improve a community if you don’t first build relationships! But we can’t build relationships that matter without your help! Thanks for supporting Lakewood Connects so together we can build relationships that change the future of the world!

To read more, check out the Denver Post story about Lift Zones.

Pantry Partnership Program Part 2

Just before Thanksgiving, we began this story about the partnership Lakewood Connects is participating in with two other nonprofits and Jeffco Schools to build, resource, and develop three elementary school pantries/hubs in Lakewood. In September we were awarded a $30,000 grant to support construction of these pantries/hubs and this is the next part of the story!

School district facility management approved the project and all three schools have determined their pantry/hub location, but more importantly, each school has received $5,000 in grocery store gift cards! What does this mean? This means that during the past two weeks school staff have begun giving families in need thousands of dollars in grocery store gift cards.

Situation: Many of these families are essential workers. That means they work in service industries and have a difficult time supporting online school for their students. As work hours have been recently cut for some of these families, they now face an unprecedented financial balancing act! The gift cards were something they didn’t expect and arrived at precisely the right time to transform their family Thanksgiving from a week of stress and anxiety to a time of great joy and blessing!

What’s next? How do we make these pantries/hubs sustainable for the long term without taxing school staff? The Lakewood Connects board is involved in discussions with partner nonprofit, Benefits in Action, and the Lakewood Faith Coalition to develop plans to build out a website, communication plan, volunteer sign up, training plan, and finally a food resource plan for these pantries/hubs. This long range plan will be built with trusted community partners and designed to support the five schools now in the program and the many others in the district that we will expand to support in the years to come! Look for upcoming Blogs that will update you on the progress of this work. Your insight/ideas/expertise in this program development are welcomed!

Lakewood and Jefferson County is struggling… what is Lakewood Connects doing about it?

reg's computer

The goal of building partnerships in Lakewood and Jefferson, County is a Healthy Thriving community. We believe suffering is unnecessary for our friends and neighbors and here are a few ways we are partnering with community leaders during to bring positive change to our city:

  • Racial equity: Lakewood Connects Executive Director, Reg Cox, serves on the Health Department’s Racial Equity and Food Policy Council. This past June the Health Department declared systematic and structural racism as a health crisis. We are proud to work to heal injustice in our city.
  • Food: Lakewood Connects is partnering with, Benefits in Action to develop two breakthrough programs; the first is called; “Food Delivery” and links church members to Benefits in Action to deliver food to over 350 addresses in our area for residents who cannot go to food pantry sites. For more info on volunteering, click here.
  • Helping Neighbors with Needs: Many in Lakewood are struggling but are unsure how and where to get help. Lakewood Connects and Benefits in Action developed a Navigator Program so trained volunteers can help people find support.
  • College Students Serve: 450 new freshmen start college at Colorado Christian University in Lakewood Monday 8/24. Lakewood Connects partnered with CCU’s Service office to introduce these students to 9 Lakewood Service Organizations helping the homeless, kids needing tutoring and other programs linked to loving our neighbors. We will sign up 100’s of students for yearlong service.
  • Tutoring: For 8 years Lakewood Connects has helped recruit 150 volunteers to tutor 150 students in local elementary schools. This year tutoring goes online. We are working to recruit tutors and develop connection activities for students and their families. Click here for information on volunteering with Whiz Kids.

Faith Response to a Crisis Stories – April 2020

Finding Food for a Community in Need – Concordia Lutheran

Concordia food drive 4.2020

After the stay at home order and ensuing economic struggles to our community, Concordia Lutheran Church was determined to continue being a Matthew 28 church. Concordia put out an urgent request to its congregation and to the Green Mountain community for food or money donations to help support the pantry at Foothills Elementary School, called “Foothills Foodies” and the Jeffco Action Center our community’s main Nonprofit supporting food supply for the city. The church members and the community around the church responded with an abundance of love and joy! As of April 1, there have been over $2,000 in cash donations and over 600 lbs of food donated. Concordia will continue this food drive every Saturday until all needs go away! Food donations can be delivered to Concordia Lutheran Church and cash donations on the website (be sure to choose COVID-19 Care Cases as your donation destination). Pastors: Gregg McCaslin and Patrick Moore


Church is OPEN! Stories about Calvary Belmar

Calvary Belmar has been active supporting Foster and Adoption families. Their worship each week is full of the Spirit and that Spirit has moved them into the neighborhood around them through acts like this:

  • Single Moms: They assist single moms with groceries cards, ground beef and recently distributed $1200 worth of Grocery Store and Walmart gift cards.
  • Food: The church supports the Action Center with volunteers and collects food for foster care families.
  • Prayer: Church leaders model a community pastoral prayer. Recently a staff member engaged a grocery store manager about praying for her. She began to cry, thanked the pastor and said; “We need it!”
  • Homeless: Local homeless friend, Rick, lives in his car. After the car broke down church members towed it to a shop and put him in a hotel for the weekend. Now he’s good to go!
  • Local Businesses!  The Church supports a couple of local restaurants by purchasing burritos then distributing them to front line workers at other local businesses! They also donated PPE for their employees. This is how “Love your Neighbor” is preached effectively today!

For more information, email Pastor Scott Morrison.


Mission 98 turning Bad Times into Opportunities for Connection

Mission 98 food bags 4.2020

Mission 98 is all about building caring relationships in high need apartments, motels and mobile homes. Recently, Mission 98 team members have focused on delivering food bags door to door. After the delivery they ask, “Would you like us to pray for you?” Almost everyone says, “Yes!” The “caring” part of their mission is all about relationship connections.

Each person has a story… they’ve heard stories about of the family member deaths, miscarriages, job losses and fear. Relationships help heal fearful hearts!  Just because the world is in chaos doesn’t mean we have to allow it to own and control our community! Contact LuAnn for more information and how to help.


Practical Marriage Advice for your neighbors from Vineyard Lakewood

Troubling times are especially hard on family relationships. Weeks into quarantine, every family relationship will show signs of strain! That’s why Vineyard Lakewood has put some helpful marriage tip fliers out in neighborhoods where members live! “Hope” is just wishful thinking until you make it tangible, achievable and practical!

Pastor Christian Summers 

LW Vinyard 4.2020


A small church taking on a big mission: reduce community suffering – Mission Lakewood

Mission Lakewood Church began to respond to the impact of COVID-19 immediately! They redesigned their website and social media pages to aim their members and friends towards opportunities to help.

Near the church is Foothills Elementary, so Mission is supporting their pantry, “Foothills Foodies.” This church of 100 brought 27 bags of food filled with what a family would need for a full day. The church has continued to be an important partner in their neighborhood supporting food drives and delivering it to families in need.

For Pastor Darvin Wallis, it feels overwhelming to consider how much need and suffering is bubbling just below the surface. But, as he watched people show up with bags of food he knew that; “God’s got this!” Three church member families have lost their jobs, and yet, all three of those families brought food for children in the community! Three families who were not sure how they were going to pay their mortgage were still buying food to give to others! That kind of love and sacrifice is irrational yet that’s exactly the sort of love Jesus equips us to have.

Pastor to Pastor – The Importance of a Spiritual Retreat by Pastor Mike Hooven

Hooven.5.2020 spiritualretreatBLOG

For several years now I have been taking some time in the late fall to get away on a spiritual retreat. This consists of going to a retreat center for 3 or 4 nights. There are many different places that are free or discounted for pastors to go to. One that I have gone to is free. Last year I went the way of an Airbnb in Steamboat Springs. I would not suggest this route unless you know the place is isolated. While I was able to accomplish a lot, I could have accomplished more in an isolated location.

I began this practice after my second year of ministry in 2017. This is my first church as the lead pastor; I was feeling overwhelmed, beat up, spiritually dry, directionless and so much more. Trying to get through this at home was just too hard. At home there were too many distractions and too many people vying for my time. I felt like I was constantly dodging arrows. I needed to rest and reset.

I have known of different retreat centers from my time in Indiana. There was a place in Danville, IN, on a farm that my pastor at the time knew about. We had a staff and spouse retreat at this place. The man who owned the farm had built it himself to bless pastors and their families with a place to go at no cost. You only needed to bring yourself and your food. This place was amazing, there was enough room to sleep 12 comfortably, a hot tub, huge fireplace, a pond to fish out of and so much more. But the best thing that it provided was a place of solitude. A place where you could get away from everything and get with God.

So when I needed such a place I began searching online and was fortunate to find a great little cabin on a ranch. I love that there are farmers out there with a heart to bless pastors. I was able to secure a reservation at the beginning of December in 2017.

After my first spiritual retreat, I was convinced that this is something that needs to be a regular yearly practice. I have determined that for myself, early October would be the ideal time. I say this for a couple of reasons, first it allows me time to be prepared for the upcoming holiday season, second it allows me to seek God’s direction for my church for the upcoming year. I am able to get a handle on the next years preaching calendar, hear from God about the things I need to focus on personally, pray a lot, sit in God’s presence and rest.

I don’t lead a large church, however, that doesn’t keep the enemy from trying to tear me down, frustrate me or attack me from all sides. As pastors we all need a time of rest, a time to relax and be in God’s presence and recuperate. We all know about Sabbath, we preach about it, encourage others to honor it, but how often do we truly practice Sabbath? We may be able to take a family vacation, but let’s be honest, the first two days you’re trying to relax and depending on your family relaxing may not be a possibility, then when you finally do get the chance it’s time to go home, back to your ministry and the demands that are a part of that.

When I returned from this year’s retreat, my heart was softer than it has been in a long time. God used my time with Him to challenge me personally and professionally. Today, I am convinced that I would not have handled this Covid-19 situation as well as I have been able to. I have been able to lead boldly and decisively, because my heart was already prepared.

I encourage any pastor to take a yearly spiritual retreat. You, your family and your ministry will be better because you did.

Psalm 34:8 Taste and see that the Lord is good. Oh, the joys of those who take refuge in him!

Pastor Michael HoovenCloverdale Church of God

Making Connections: Supporting Single Parents by linking Churches to the School District!

The following is a story of helping a single parent in Lakewood through connections made by Lakewood Connects.

The Community and Family Connections Department at the JeffCo School District supports families who are experiencing housing instability. Through our intensive outreach since Covid-19, we have heard from many families who are struggling with food insecurities.  On a recent call, I spoke with a single mom struggling financially to put food on her table and just making it to pay housing bills. Mom has an immune compromising health issue, which is a barrier to her working as she cannot be in the public at this time. Her daughter has gluten and dairy limitations, limiting food that can be purchased. With finances being so tight, mom stressed how she would afford the gluten free and dairy free diet her daughter requires.

Through my connections with Reg Cox with Lakewood Connects, we were able to connect the family with The Bridge Church at Bear Creek.  The group at The Bridge, did an amazing job to fill this need. Not only did they provide some of mom’s wish list items but also way above and beyond.  Mom called after the delivery, crying tears of joy. She stated that it gave her some light and relieved a little stress off of meals for the week.  Her daughter was even more excited because her favorite gluten free baguettes were in the box. Thank you team for wrapping your arms around this mom, we cannot express our gratitude.

Naomi Xayavongsa – Community and Family Connections Coordinator, Jeffco Schools – Title I office

Especially in these times it’s vital that we make like the Beatles song and come together. Churches, schools, and the communities they serve ought to be working together to address the needs of their families. I’m the new Jr. High director at our church and, though my responsibilities are often tied to the students and families of our church, I believe that I’m here to serve and work with the larger Bridge Church community.

As soon as I was informed of Jennifer and her child’s situation I was ready to drop what I was doing and do some grocery shopping. I dropped off everything from pasta to gluten free breakfast bars. Jennifer texted us letting us know how excited her child was and I know that this would have never happened if it hadn’t been for the teamwork between the church and the school. Our church and the school are firm believers in working together to serve the greater community. Though this may have been a quick grocery run I know it means so much more to Jennifer, her family, and our community to know that we’re coming together, right now, to serve our families.

Matt Bowen – Jr. High and Community pastor / Bridge Church at Bear Creek

Connections: From the PTA to a Candy manufacturer to blessing front line workers at a Hospital!

 

Through Lakewood Connects’ support of local PTAs at under-served elementary schools, we have enjoyed more connections with more of our community. Recently, PTA leader and close friend Brandi Koskie, who supports Foothills Elementary School, reached out with a connection to her friend Lauren Martin, the National Retail Activation Manager for Lily’s Sweets in Boulder, Colorado. Lily’s wanted to donate some of their product, high-end candy, to an appropriate entity. In conversations with Lauren I found out that they had over 1500 individual units of candy to donate…quite a lot!

I was able to reach out to friend Monica Buhlig, Group Director of Community Health, Denver Metro Region for Centura Health. She connected me to Amanda Popp, Philanthropy Officer at St. Anthony Health Foundation, who informed me that starting Friday, May 15, it was “Hospital Week.” She arranged for a day when Lily’s could drop off the candy at the hospital. Then, administrators could hand deliver it to the 1500 employees at the hospital thanking them for their front line service. 

This is greatly satisfying for everyone in the community to be able to serve the front line servants!

In addition, Amanda mentioned that community members could give her homemade “thank you” and encouragement posters to set up along the walls of the employee entrance to the hospital. Local chamber of commerce group Alameda Connects and the local Thrivent Financial office made posters.

The response from Amanda from St. Anthony’s reads: “Thank you again for your tremendous support of St. Anthony Hospital during this challenging time–we are grateful for your partnership. I hung the posters yesterday and wanted to share a few photos. These are located at the associate entrance and will provide joy and encouragement to our caregivers on a daily basis. It means a lot that you and your families took the time to create these!”. 

Amanda reports that the Lily’s Sweets candy was a “huge hit” among the Flight for Life crewmembers!  

LWC.5.2020.LilysBlog1

Lakewood Connects exists to make connections that transform the story of our community from one of detachment, struggle, and fear to one of connection, thriving, and courage. Thanks for your support and encouragement that makes it possible to do the impossible!

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!