Faith Response to a Crisis Stories – April 2020

Finding Food for a Community in Need – Concordia Lutheran

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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

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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 

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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

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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!  

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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!

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!