Spreading the Philosophy of Partnership

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.

Principal Josh Shapiro and Bernadette Marquez

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!

Attendees on November 3, 2021

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.

LAKEWOOD FAITH COALITION – “A Wish and a Prayer” September 2021

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.

New refrigerator at Lasley 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. 

New furniture for Molhom’s staff lounge

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:

  • shampoo
  • conditioner
  • laundry detergent
  • body wash
  • diapers
  • baby wipes
  • baby food
  • hand soap
  • dishwashing liquid
  • toothpaste
  • toothbrushes

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!

All of the donations!

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!

Blog written by…and for more info on this please contact: Marian Richards, Lakewood Faith Coalition

New Vision: A story of a pastor and a church choosing the hard path

The final gathering of Hope Crossing on June 4, 2021

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! 

Old Church makes Young Hearts Soar!

Hand embroidered tea towels

Holy Shepherd Lutheran Church has been meeting on Kipling Street on the edge of an older Lakewood neighborhood for over 60 years and is comprised of older members who share a long history of worship, service, and love. What you need to know about them is that the positive impact of the church reaches far beyond their neighborhood with an energy surpassing the youngest churches in our community! 

For decades the church has “adopted” their neighborhood school, Eiber Elementary. Eiber students primarily come from families who receive government assistance, and the pandemic has been especially hard on them and their teachers. The educators were tasked with developing online curriculum, remote learning strategies, and handling dual class teaching situations… all new tasks, and they pulled this off in a short turnaround window! Nothing like this has happened in our lifetime and for educators the responsibility for the future success of an entire generation was laid on their lap!

In order to show appreciation for these incredible teachers, one of the members of Holy Shepherd made 50 hand embroidered tea towels and crocheted dishcloth sets for every staff member. These towels were distributed during “teacher appreciation week” along with a note signed by the members and staff of Holy Shepherd. It matters to have your sacrifice and hard work noticed and, we are all indebted to this church for making such a powerful statement representing the appreciation or our entire community!

It’s not the size, location, or age of a church or its member that really matters… what matters is figuring out what resources you have that could bless others in your community and then taking initiative to go to any length to translate the love we feel into the love others experience! That is a lesson we can all learn from Holy Shepherd… an old church that was able to make young hearts soar to new heights of joy!

Serving Churches that Serve the Community: Mission 98

Mission 98 partners with churches to share the compassion and good news of Jesus with people in motels, mobile home communities, and apartment communities in the Lakewood-Denver metro area.  One of the reasons I was excited to join the team at Mission 98 is a conversation I had with LuAnn Turner, Mission 98’s Founder and now-retired Executive Director. “Mission 98 is here to serve churches,” she told me. It took me a minute to digest that statement but the significance of it quickly sank in.  Mission 98 is a para-church ministry. As a former Lead Pastor, I was familiar with para-church ministries—often very good ministries—who approached me looking for volunteers or financial support. I get it. They were doing good ministry, and they needed volunteers and funding to keep doing it. 

But here was LuAnn turning that expectation on its head. Mission 98 doesn’t partner with churches so that churches can contribute to their ministry. They partner with churches to help them flourish in their ministry. So they
approach church leaders not asking for volunteers and funding—but asking how they are doing and how Mission 98 can support their ministry. Mission 98’s ministry is grounded in relationships, and that includes the churches that they partner with. 

There are two general ways they partner with churches. If a pastor wants to encourage his or her people to serve beyond the walls of the church and see how God is at work in the community, they can provide opportunities for people to serve and catch a vision for ministry in the community. As they serve in ministries such as kids clubs, teen nights, community meals, clothing ministry and special holiday events, they will get a taste of sharing the love and gospel of Jesus in relationships and there’s a good chance they will get hooked! They will get to know, love, and respect people who are different from them and that, too, will enlarge their vision of how God is at work in the world. They will also learn some simple but effective ways of caring for neighbors and sharing the gospel that can translate to many different ministry settings. People who serve with Mission 98 will raise the temperature of their church’s mission and outreach.

The second way Mission 98 partners with churches is when a church wants to reach out to people in a specific motel, mobile home park or apartment community. Mission 98 loves this because they believe God calls every church to reach out to love their neighbors and share the good news of Jesus. They think the best way they can help a church succeed in this ministry is in an ongoing equipping relationship. Mission 98 can share some vision, strategies, and lessons-learned from years of reaching out to people in apartments, mobile homes, and motels. They’ll invite that church to come and visit the ministries to help them develop their own vision. Fundamentally, they believe in the local church and we are more interested in seeing ministry multiply in local churches than they are in building up the ministry of Mission 98.

For more info about Mission 98: contact Fred Elliot-Hart or visit Mission 98’s website.

Mission 98 is a key partner in reducing suffering in Lakewood! 

Mission 98 partners with churches to share the compassion of Jesus with people in motels, mobile homes, and apartment communities in Lakewood through connecting residents with programs, resources, and relationships that transform their lives in positive ways. For years Mission 98 has linked churches to neighbors in need in April a group of fathers and their High School senior sons visited and Lakewood Connects, Reg Cox put them to work delivering furniture to a grandmother in Section 8 housing who was raising her 3 grandchildren. During the pandemic the needs of the most fragile community members increased dramatically. Thousands of people who never needed support found themselves without work, short on rent, out of food and struggling with transportation issues they have never experienced before. Elementary aged students in this mix suffered the most and the video here gives a glimpse into the connecting and partnership building role Lakewood Connects takes to link Mission 98 to churches in our city. Collaboration reduces suffering and when we lower suffering, everyone in our community wins! 

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!

Pantry Partnership Program Part 1

Reg Cox with Benefits in Action Director, Jane Barns

Our world has changed over the past eight months in dramatic and challenging ways. The pandemic split us physically and ideologically and made election year tensions more divisive. The danger in retreating from society is that we can miss noticing the challenges of our neighbors and when we do see them, we’re too emotionally exhausted to find ways to help out!

Beginning last March, Lakewood Connects joined county-wide discussions with over fifty different organizations to build collaborative solutions for serious community food challenges. In September we were awarded a $30,000 grant to support construction of “Pantries” or “Hubs” at three Lakewood elementary schools. We’re excited to tell you this story in our next few newsletters!

Pantries/Hubs Goal? Build a sustainable network of school pantries at Lakewood elementary schools while merging district protocols with a vetted and trained support staff of community volunteers. The long range vision is to guide each “Pantry” into becoming a “Resource Hub” adding neighborhood leaders and community resources such as job enhancement, cooking classes, social emotional support, etc. A local pantry organized and staffed by neighbors and friends can remove barriers many in our world today face to realizing a thriving life.

On the 9th of September, two local nonprofits, Benefits in Action and the JeffCo School Foundation, partnered with Lakewood Connects to apply for a city of Lakewood Cares Act Grant. After the grant was awarded, our Director Reg met with school administration, the principals of the three schools, their leadership teams and the directors of both partner nonprofits to develop the next steps to setting up these Pantries/Hubs over the next few months. Realizing this goal is would be impossible to achieve in the middle of a pandemic without the support of dozens of leaders from multiple organizations that have stepped up to make this breakthrough plan a reality!

What has happened so far? School district facility management has approved the project, all three schools set up their contact leader to lead Pantry/Hub development and, most importantly, each school has received $5,000 in grocery store gift cards! (More about this part of the story in our next blog and December newsletter!)

These last few months Lakewood Connects has been involved in building and supporting partnerships that will bring solutions for some of the most nagging and heartbreaking challenges our community has ever faced. Know that this Thanksgiving week hundreds of families are experiencing a time of gratitude and relief thanks to your support. We can’t do this without you!