In 2014 the Mayor of Lakewood, Colorado reached out to Lakewood Connects Director, Reg Cox with a Big Idea! For 9 years Reg had supported a network of pastors from various Christian faith communities who connected to each other monthly for prayer, support and partnership. The Mayor’s dream was to build upon this example of unity among Christian churches by expanding to invite all faith communities and form another organization, a “Faith Coalition” and connect them to the Mayor/City Manager’s office in order to forge a service partnership, so that together, Faith + Government could advance Greater-Good Projects in the city!
Dreams become Greater-Good Catalysts when they’re shared with others! In 2014 Reg was a Senior Pastor at a medium sized neighborhood church in Lakewood. He didn’t see his church or the church network as a big deal at all. He would tell you that the mayor’s invitation to partner on a big dream was exciting and a bit intimidating! This dream stretched and challenged Reg, but that’s exactly what advancing “Greater Good” initiatives are all about! You can’t do breakthrough greater-good until you’re Stretched!“Stretched” means we ask; “Can we take our Resources of Energy, Money and Time and Merge them with others in order to Exponentially do more good than we could ever accomplish all by ourselves?” We believe this spirit of collaboration and partnership is the key to improving our world and this idea is at the heart of what Lakewood Connects is furthering both here and across the country!
In 2014 the Mayor of Lakewood created the “Lakewood Linked Initiative” starting with the Faith Coalition which merged Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, Latter Day Saints, Catholic and Jewish faiths as a Collaborative Community Service Force. Soon this dream expanded to include Coalitions connecting supplemental Food assistance groups and Service Clubs like the Kiwanis and Rotary in order to build Service Programming Partnerships like the Faith Coalition.
Recently, Chairmen of these three Coalitions had another Big Dream! They realized that by becoming one organization they could enhance their “Greater-Good” Impact Potential! “Serve Spot Lakewood” (SSLW) was formed merging these three Coalitions into one and is currently building a website that will tell stories, recruit volunteers and help transform the culture of the city! What started out with one Coalition has now become a larger movement that will accelerate Partnership and Greater-Good Philosophy, Programming and Power to every corner of the city!
Relationships change the world! When Greater-Good Conversations take place Dreams are born that advance Greater-Good Plans and Programs! It all starts when we talk to each other and build trusted partnerships…when this happens we can dream larger dreams and find ways to make “Impossible”…Possible! This is our hope…we pray that you join us in advancing this philosophy and dream!
Lakewood Connects uses a few inspirational sayings that summarize our core values and convictions. These mantra’s guide our focus, influence and programming. One favorite is “Progress moves at the speed of relationship.” That mantra anchors us on the fact that information and data doesn’t build trust or inspire action! The power of compassion is released when we sit down with another person over a cup of coffee! Face-to-face we can share stories, find common ground and seek a compelling vision of “what-might-be-possible” together!
Recently a tragedy impacted our community involving a fire in an apartment complex in an underserved neighborhood. In the ensuing days several government, education, nonprofit and faith groups all rallied to support and help victims. Sometimes a local tragedy reveals the gaps that exist in our community that can separate healing intentions from helping action. Although all of these sectors had resources…what they didn’t have was fresh connections with each other. Here’s a fact: when relationships are disconnected it can inhibit compassion action.
How do we create a compassion catalyst? In the neighborhood affected by the fire Lakewood Connects has been supporting local church and compassion outpost, “Mountair Christian” for over a decade. They lead many valuable projects and programs. We also work with, “Molholm Elementary” and their leaderships. The church and school have worked together for years and recently Lakewood Connects facilitated new depth in their relationship making coordination between them easier during the tragedy. When the other support organizations jumped in to serve, the church and school were ready to navigate the compassion energy strategically.
The fire caused the loss of life and displacement of over 30 families including a Molholm student and mom. The church and school aimed Lakewood Connects support to precisely fit the needs of that family immediately. Compassion requires timely, strategic and uninhibited action!
Concern + Connections = Compassion Catalyst! There is often a lot of concern for challenges in our community…but until connections are made compassion is stymied! “Relationships change the world” is not just an invitation to make friends, it’s a challenge to create the kinds of connections that remove the goodwill and healing barriers that often exist unnoticed in our culture! Just think, you are just a conversation away from becoming a partner with someone else so that together you can lead positive change in your community when tragedy strikes! Don’t wait until bad things happen! Make that compassion catalyst relationship connection today!
When we prioritize certain things in every human interaction it can make the difference between success and failure! As a boy my father coached me to look a person in the eye and give a firm handshake. Our society values fully present interaction. The way we give our attention to others, or not, transmits a message about who we are, if we can be trusted and what we think about them. This “fully present” connection happens in a blink of an eye and it is especially vital in community engagement.
Three reasons the Art of Presence is important in Community Service
First, our presence Heals. Effective service occurs when we are present to listen first and act later. “Healing” occurs before we actually “do” anything! Everyone wants to feel seen and known. When we miss this we accidentally make people feel like a “project” instead of a person to be known. Our presence speaks value.
Second, being present helps us to see the problem behind the problem. The reason people face challenges is hard to see. If we perceive the problem behind the problem we can unlock multiple solutions all at once and empower them to rise above an endless cycle of reoccurring barriers to thriving.
Finally, being fully present defuses static stress. People know they have options and resources to get through challenges but their motivation gets drained by relentless fear and anxiety. Human to human connection refuels folks with enough hope to trust, refocus and rise above the “want-to-try” drain.
For two years our educators have faced anxious parents, masked and remote students, and a culture war that raged on as they, their students, colleagues and families got sick, were hospitalized, and died. What a great time to be present and bring hope to our educators!
Recently Lakewood Connects linked a local branch of a national financial firm; Thrivent, to a teacher affirmation event at an underserved school. These business leaders left their office to greet teachers in the school lounge and serve a catered lunch for over 2 hours! Teachers were encouraged, yes… but the key here was the fact that business leaders were present! They went the extra-mile to sit with educators and connect to them personally. “Feeling valued” happens when “service” moves to feeding a person’s heart and soul with real connection and love!
Lakewood Connects is building a model for school staff affirmation in Lakewood that includes assembling local “teams” from service clubs, churches, businesses and neighborhood association leaders who will continue being fully present into the future with their local school. If you would like more info on this kind of work please contact us at Lakewood Connects! Let’s do good together!
The past two years have emptied our country of goodwill, civility and energy to face the rigors of our fast paced anxiety laden society. “Empty” is an especially dangerous condition for certain leaders in our community like emergency personnel, medical workers, law enforcement and teachers. We’re all tired and stressed but these four sectors of society are functioning beyond their limits! When they break down or quit they exponentially affect tens of thousands of people. It’s time to fill up their appreciation cups!
Lakewood Connects is inspired by a vision statement that states: “Collaboration reduces suffering!” That statement suggests that when business, government, community and faith work together we create exponential positive impact. This vision has led us to find “needs” then create partnerships that execute focused service programs in our community. In 2022 a need we discovered was encouraging educators!
Mid-March, Lakewood Connects partnered with a local business owner, Brandi Koskie, and a financial management company, Thrivent, with an aim to encourage the staff at Creighton Middle School. Brandi’s daughter attends Creighton and she noticed a lack of teacher appreciation activities there. Upon investigation she discovered that the staff there had not experienced community love in over two years! This is unacceptable! We may not be able to give these teachers more money or a less challenging classroom but we can sure find ways to show them love!
Brandi and Lakewood Connects Director, Reg Cox, met with the Thrivent staff and drafted a plan of action that included bringing a top notch BBQ lunch to the school, served up with personal praise from community members who cheered on staff as they entered the lounge and joined them for conversation during lunch. Anyone can drop off food… but true appreciation is delivered in person!
A special note here for anyone interested in imitating this work… the Thrivent team stayed in the lounge that day for 2 ½ hours talking to teachers. They carefully gauged how much presence was appropriate and shared meaningful messages of appreciation with each person who walked in the room. Of course, it’s easier to feel affirmed when you get top quality BBQ! That’s a fact!
Since March Lakewood Connects has partnered with churches, Thrivent Financial/Lakewood and other groups to set up appreciation events in other schools and more are planned! Our community thrives on appreciation, love and goodwill…join us! If you would like info on how to support a local school or how to join us in an upcoming appreciation event, contact us! Let’s do good together!
Twelve weeks ago Lakewood Connects Executive Director, Reg Cox, was involved in a cycling crash that broke dozens of bones, laid him up in the hospital for a week and dramatically altered summer plans! Immediately people showed up! Pastor James Hoxworth and Mayor Adam Paul walked in Reg’s Intensive Care room that first morning. So many showed up, 50 visitors in five days, that Amy cut off the open-door policy! When things are tough in our lives there’s no substitute for being present to show love and bring encouragement!
As Reg returned home, longtime friend Dr. Glen Villanueva flew in to help with the transition. Can’t have better care than a doctor in the house! As Reg continues to advance through stages of healing and is now back to work it is all of your relationship connections that have become the key to his healing.
Reg’s first in-person meeting was with a group of government and nonprofit leaders in June. As things started several asked if he would share the bike crash story. Reg has worked with these leaders for years on various programs and projects and the relationship has always felt warm but professional. Mid-story several folks at the table began to cry. It was then Reg realized that his relationships had long surpassed mere project management and had become something personal. Real. Deep. Meaningful.
That kind of human connection is the essence of what Lakewood Connects is all about! We create partnerships that become the foundation for creating solutions where once there were only challenges, suffering, and heartbreak! We can bring healing to a broken world the same way Reg has experienced healing in his body and mind… relationship connections and love make broken things whole again!
Fall opportunities: For our Lakewood area partners several volunteer and service opportunities exist this fall that we invite you to join us in:
Whiz Kids after-school tutoring is entering its 10th year in Lakewood and we have never needed to find tutors as much as we need to this year! Enrollments are falling across the country and raising academic scores is at the heart of what helps a school, students and families thrive. Please contact: Janeal Doctolero for more info about Whiz Kids.
Finally, we are partnering with several nonprofits and coalitions that have established and resourced Family Centers at five Lakewood elementary schools. Family Centers offer food, clothing, and support services at underserved schools to families in the school and community. This is a partnership with food organizations, the school and community partners including churches to deliver the exact items each Family Center needs to serve their families. We could use your help! Please Contact: Miriam Richards
Along with tutoring Lakewood Connects is partnering with several organizations and individuals to support Teacher Appreciation at underserved schools. The effects of the pandemic are showing up in dwindling teacher numbers. An encouraged and appreciated educator is a more resilient educator! Please help us bless our educators!
…Build Hubs at schools that create thriving for families in need. Bernadette Marquez – Family Engagement Liaison at Foothills Elementary: “Schools like mine that support students, families and our neighborhood through the Hub, an onsite pantry of food, clothing and support that helps our community make it through rough patches in the road of life.”
…Surround an underserved school with community support. Laurie McKibben – Dean at Foothills Elementary School. “Helping an “underserved school” transform into an “Abundantly served” school! There are lots of ways the community can support a school like mine volunteering with PTA, Watch Dog’s, Tutoring and many other ways! When my school is thriving so is the entire neighborhood!”
…Help single moms navigate life to move from surviving to thriving. J, a single mom in Lakewood: “Single mothers like me as we work through the system of applications. Thanks for helping me move from surviving to thriving!”
…Mentor students to reach their full potential. Minka, A 5th Grade student at Foothills Elementary: “Students like me who are getting great tutoring help after school! Whiz Kids is great! I love my tutor Ms. Debbie!”
…Build hope in pastors and churches so they create hope in communities. Rev. Ruben Rodriguez, Mountain Christian Church, Lakewood, Colorado: “Creating a thriving church begins with a thriving pastor and leadership team. Pastor’s benefit from friendship, connection with other pastors…thanks for supporting seasoned faith leader who support our work!”
Local Friends: If you want to sign up for one of our Coffee Chats to learn more about Lakewood Connects and discover how you can serve your community, send us a private message. We’re looking forward to meeting and DOING GOOD TOGETHER in Lakewood!
A philosophy is a way of thinking that reflects values or convictions that change the why and way we do things. In many ways Lakewood Connects is a philosophy for the way churches and faith leaders focus their impact. We coach churches to invest in service to the community first and believe that through prioritizing them over us their sense of purpose and own needs will be met. There are many teachings of Jesus that substantiate this others first philosophic path and yet this vision often clashes with the success metric of an us first culture. To help expand this vision, Lakewood Connects is committed to practicing this philosophy in our own community! It’s easier to explain ideas when we lead by example.
Since 2012 several churches in Lakewood, Colorado have invested time, energy, and money into supporting underserved elementary schools. Lakewood Connects has led efforts to raise money for facility renovations, PTAs, food programs, and staff support. We have built partnerships with schools to facilitate tutoring, neighborhood-school gardens, carnivals, Christmas programs, fitness events, fundraising activities, and many other programs that flourish because of a “lets-do-this-together” spirit. What started between schools and churches in Lakewood has expanded to include neighborhood associations, businesses/nonprofits, and government all collaborating on a scale that has potential to by-pass obstacles to community vitality that often eludes these kinds of neighborhoods and schools.
The results of this work speak for themselves: state board/chamber of commerce/school district commendations, school academic/enrollment increases, improved staff morale, restored business and neighborhood involvement with schools, growth of parental involvement, and other family/student successes. It just feels different when you walk down the halls of a school that is surrounded by community love and support and this is the real measure of success that we long to grow and expand.
A celebration of this work occurred Wednesday November 3, when Lakewood Connects supported Foothills Elementary leaders Bernadette Marquez and Principal Josh Shapiro (shown below) who hosted a “thank you” breakfast for various community partners who have supported the school over the years.
The attendees at the event represented a diverse sample of the kinds of people and organizations who partner to support and create a thriving community: a County Commissioner, Pastors, School Board President, Volunteers, Foundations, Police Officers, Students, Business Leaders, and the Mayor. The excitement in the room was contagious. It’s a picture of what partnership can produce when Government, Business, Faith and Education work together to help underserved students, families and educators thrive! Partnership transformed an underserved school into an abundantly served school!
But what is it like to lead in an underserved school or neighborhood without this kind of support? That is the challenge that lies ahead! Can we build partnerships like the one at Foothills for other schools across the city? In other cities? Lakewood Connects believes this vision of flourishing starts with a philosophic shift in church and faith leaders! Churches are full of people who believe that giving themselves to others first is their life mission. At Lakewood Connects we believe church can be the convener of community connection! In 2022 and beyond we are working to further this philosophy and spread its positive impact.
This holiday season we are grateful for your encouragement and support for Lakewood Connects. The story of the partnerships at Foothills Elementary is only the beginning! Let’s Do Good Together!
Our biggest fundraising event of the year occurs on Colorado Gives Day, Tuesday December 7. Thanks for considering us as part of your charitable giving this year.
History: The Lakewood Faith Coalition was established in 2014 by then Mayor Bob Murphy to bring together faith groups, businesses and others to work together to ensure that all residents in Lakewood can thrive. The work of the Lakewood Faith Coalition (LFC) continues today under Mayor Adam Paul.
In 2017, the LFC became enthusiastic with the thought of helping Title I Schools in the area. Some success had already been seen with a couple of schools having a space in their building or in a “temporary” building located on their campus where a community resource center had been established. Others were able to help families with immediate food needs using just a small cabinet or closet. Partnerships were then formed with faith groups, service groups, and individual schools. The idea of a community resource center (sometimes called a “hub”) gained steam and the LFC put together a plan. The plan included food, clothing, and service resources for families.
Then came 2020, and COVID-19. Schools were closed, almost everyone was scrambling to work out of their homes. Contact was limited. Two weeks turned into many months. When schools reopened, no visitors were allowed in the schools, and the LFC wondered what could be done. People wanted to help. We all wanted to do SOMETHING.
In April of 2021, a $30,000 grant was received from the City of Lakewood for three Title I Schools in Jeffco Public Schools—Molholm Elementary, Lasley Elementary, and Emory Elementary. Each school was given $10,000 specifically for the development of their resource centers. $5,000 was used immediately for grocery gift cards for Families in need. $5,000 was spent on infrastructure for the physical locations.
In August, 2021, Dave Weiss (Community Superintendent in the Alameda and Jefferson articulation areas) facilitated a meeting including the LFC, principals from the three Title I schools, and Jane Barnes (Benefits in Action/Council to End Hunger in Lakewood), as well as the principal from Foothills Elementary. Foothills is one of the schools with a functioning resource center. The LFC offered to set up a “Wish List” system wherein the principals could ask for whatever they need, and the LFC could fulfill the requests when possible. Worst case scenario, the answer would be, “We’re sorry we can’t do it.” Best case scenario, the answer would be, “Wish granted.”
HERE’S WHAT HAPPENED!
Two schools wished for refrigerators–Lasley Elementary, and Emory Elementary.
A gently used and clean refrigerator was located and delivered to Lasley Elem. Another donor is arranging to fulfill the refrigerator wish at Emory Elem.
Molholm Elem. principal’s first wish was to upgrade the staff lounge. The furniture which was in place was old, rickety, and sized for fourth grade students.
A gently used “adult-sized” set of furniture including two round tables and 16 chairs were donated and moved into Molholm.
The Lasley Elem. principal wished for some trim painting in school hallways. Over time, various colors had been used. Volunteers came and painted them “blue”, to match the front entry doors.
All three school principals and their Family Engagement Liaisons (FEL) wished for a basic inventory of non-food commodities to stock the shelves of their resource centers, including:
Four faith groups joined with Jane Barnes (Benefits in Action www.benefitsinaction.org/Council to End Hunger in Lakewood) to fulfill this wish—Green Mountain Presbyterian Church, Phillips United Methodist Church, Mile Hi Church, and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on the National Day of Service on September 11th. We received everything we asked for and more!
Each school was given an estimated initial supply sufficient for approximately 24 families/individuals. As it is difficult to know exactly what the demand will be in each resource center, the FEL for each school was asked to update the LFC as supplies are depleted and as they determine different products which might be added to this wish list area.
This is what one delivery looked like before it was loaded onto vehicles for delivery.
WISH LIST UPDATE
Emory Elementary is still looking for some area rugs for their resource center. 8’ x 10’, circular, or other sizes would be welcomed. Indoor/outdoor would probably work best, and a gift card to Re-Store might even be better!
Molholm Elementary is hoping for more shelving for their resource center. Metal shelving units on wheels work best for their needs.
Molholm Elementary has an upcoming Halloween event and is seeking Halloween costumes in children’s sizes.
Molholm Elementary wishes they had additional clothing racks, plastic storage boxes, and hangers for their clothing inventory.
Stocking the commodities items going forward: We have set up an Amazon “Custom Gift Registry” so that donors can purchase with ease and confidence. It can be accessed on the Amazon website by clicking on Registry, then typing Lakewood Faith Coalition in the blank for Registrant Name, then choosing Custom Gift List from the drop-down menu under registry type, and then click search. Alternately, here is a link.
This registry can be edited as needed. Some items have been removed as we still have a “banked” inventory of commodities for replenishing school resource centers.
Last but NOT least, a wish from the Lakewood Faith Coalition Steering Committee: SCHOOL STAFF APPRECIATION for all of our Title I Schools. These incredible humans ask nothing for themselves but only for the students and families they serve. Baked goods, pizza lunches/dinners, gift cards, snacks during conferences….enough said!!!
This is the wish and the prayer…that working together, Lakewood residents can thrive and together, we can!
Friday night, June 4, 2021, Lakewood Connects Executive Director Reg Cox and his wife Amy attended the celebration of 64 years of a Lakewood church, Hope Crossing, at their closing service. Reg serves as a mentor supporting pastors and churches so they can thrive… so, you might rightly ask, “how is this church closing a good thing?”
Pastor Matt Ellis, his wife Carrie, and family had been brought in to “transition” an older church to a new vision and future! Transitioning Churches (older churches with a new pastor, worship style, and ministry plan) face a high risk of failure. Pastor Ellis and his leaders knew this as they started 12 years ago but things looked good as the church grew for 8 years. But over the past 2 years and through the pandemic a combination of trials converged on Matt and the church, and they realized that they had very little chance to move forward to a place of “thriving.” The decision was made to close Hope Crossing and sell the building, hopefully to another church.
In April, the Hope Crossing leaders met with another church who needed a building. That church enjoys 250+ active members and shares the vision and core theological values of Hope Crossing. The building was sold to this church at an affordable price. Why? Because it never was about Hope Crossing or Pastor Ellis; it has always been about loving our neighbors and advancing the good of the community. Period.
The event that Friday night brought Reg and Amy to tears as story after story of changed lives were shared. The impact of Hope Crossing will be a testimony of God’s goodness and mercy for generations to come! In fact, the church lives on right now inspiring every church in the city!
But there’s something else you should know; in May, Matt lost his left eye during a routine surgery. So in one week Matt lost his eye, his job, his church and what can feel like his life’s purpose. But the bigger story isn’t about a lost eye or a church ending; it’s a story of a pastor, his family, and church that put the needs of their community first! This is a hard path, but it is the only path that leads us to become what church, faith, and community must become!
Thanks for supporting pastors like Matt and churches like Hope Crossing by supporting Lakewood Connects. Together we are rewriting the story of how faith can affect the greater good in a community and in our world!