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.


Thursday189
• 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!

Reg’s Activities January through May 2017 (What does Reg do everyday?)

What does Reg do each week? My time each week is focused like this:

  • 20% connecting to pastors and church leaders
  • 20% meeting with business and community leaders/leading groups
  • 20% service activities like Whiz Kids or Lakewood church involvement
  • 10% Jeffco Human Services – Power of Partnership
  • 10% Attending events
  • 10% meetings with school district, county, city leaders/serving on boards
  • 10% administration/organization

Each week I meet with at least 2 – 5 pastors. There are around 30-33 churches that are connected to or active in the Lakewood Church Network and another 20 in the Lakewood Faith Coalition. My goals in these meetings is to consult, encourage, admonish and support. I’m also preaching regularly at churches in the network across Lakewood.

Each month I organize and lead a prayer gathering for pastors from the Church Network. Usually 15-25 faith leaders, Christian therapists and others meet at one of the network churches to pray. We believe prayer is the catalyst that facilitates positive action in Lakewood.

In addition to monthly prayer I lead the Faith Coalition steering committee bi-monthly as they focus on projects and programs related to collaborative church service to the community.

In addition to these groups I serve on committees related to education at the School District Ed Center, meet regularly with other education leaders, city leaders, county leaders and business partners who are aimed at serving in the city at various degrees. These meetings are enjoyable for me and are fueling much of the project direction Lakewood Connects is involved with.

Each week during the school year I support the faith based afterschool tutoring program at Foothills Elementary called Whiz Kids. I’m there Tuesday and Thursday evenings for 2 ½ hours. I also attend Lakewood Church of Christ staff meetings and support programs linked to their community connections ministries. This allows me to nurture the relationship connection between the church and neighborhood, which is the central spiritual passion of my work.

I’m currently serving part time at Jeffco Human Services on reinvigorating their Power of Partnership program which links the county Human Services department to all the nonprofits and churches in the county. This links to various events, meetings and connections that bring together church, government, school, nonprofits and neighborhood associations to perform service together. This is wildly satisfying to participate in.

Last, I don’t do enough admin/organization work as evidenced by a newsletter coming out 3 months late! That’s where I could use some help! Website, newsletters and database management! If you can help please contact me or Amy. Thanks!

 

 

How can I help Lakewood Connects?

There are a few ways you can help us at Lakewood Connects:

  1. Prayer – Lakewood Connects strives to enhance the “brand” church in Lakewood Colorado through linking churches and church members to effective partnership service opportunities with secular and civic leaders in the community. This is effectively a faith building effort and we can use your prayer! Pray for opportunities to make Jesus famous in meetings and projects!
  2. Financial – As a nonprofit the entire operation depends on financial support from friends and supporters like you. Some funds are needed now for building and improving our database, website, newsletters, office supplies, an office, pastor retreats and program needs for a few of the local Title 1 elementary schools. We are always blessed by your gifts and are pursuing support to complete our salary needs and an additional $10,000 for organizational growth plans. If you are in a position to help we are ready to put your gift to work!
  3. Fundraising events in the fall – This fall we will design and host a few fundraising events. If you would like to help Lakewood Connects Board or leadership plan, host or support an event please email Reg and Amy. We will post information on these events in upcoming newsletters.
  4. Webpage development – up to now volunteers including Courtney Drysdale and Don Scanga have led Lakewood Connects webpage development. The webpage helps tell our story and connects folks to our work. We are discussing developing a more robust and professional web presence and a supporter has donated funds for this. If someone in the Denver area had expertise to coach us/help on this that would be appreciated. Please email Reg or Amy.
  5. Newsletter development – obviously Reg is struggling to balance too many spinning plates and regular communication with supporters has fallen by the wayside. If you would like to help Reg and Amy develop regular monthly newsletters please contact us via email.
  6. Supplies for Rose Stein Elementary – Reg is working with a principal of a reopened Title 1 elementary in Lakewood named; Rose Stein. The school needs classroom books, library books, PE equipment and Art supplies before August 2017. We are collaborating with the Jeffco Schools Foundation and they have set up a website to list specific school needs. Click on: https://loveourschools.communityfunded.net/, then on the right side you will see lists of schools and needs. Rose Stein is listed more than once…please donate directly here.

*The picture is of the empty library at Rose Stein elementary…Lakewood Connects is partnering with the Jeffco Schools Foundation to get the supplies this school needs before August 2017! Please Help!