“Use your voice. Your voice is your strength.”
Those simple words were shared by Andrea Loudd, a resident of southwest Denver resident and community activist, during our visit to the Westwood neighborhood last month. Andrea was part of a large group of residents that came to meet with a group of Denver Foundation staffers, as part of our ongoing bike tour through the city’s neighborhoods. She expressed what so many of us know: that we strengthen the fabric of our community by elevating all voices and perspectives. This idea is core to our strategic priorities and how we are implementing our work. This is also a guiding principle behind the bike tour.
When I came to Denver from Miami in 2019, I recognized that I was joining a thriving, connected community where people have deep ties to each other. The bike tour was an important opportunity to embed myself in the community and understand the important issues faced by people here.
In my first year I biked nearly 100 miles around Denver, meeting with people in neighborhoods including Westwood, Montbello, Downtown, and Globeville/Elyria-Swansea. I was so grateful to the community members who welcomed me and shared their thoughts. Then our community conversations moved online.
A lot has changed since then and I was anxious and excited to come back to the community and see how everything is going three years into the pandemic.
We resumed the bike tour in May and it will continue throughout the summer. The Montbello Organizing Committee and Colorado Changemakers Collective welcomed us for our first stop of the year. I visited Montbello before the pandemic started and I wanted to know what has changed and what we can do to support this community.
Javier Alberto Soto President and CEO, The Denver Foundation
This was a lively and enlightening conversation. We heard about the need to support education, climate, and equity in this community and the possible ways charitable giving can help. This stop showed that the real power of the bike tour visits primarily lies in bringing people together. It was clear there is so much potential in one single community and the foundation’s role, in part, is to facilitate connections and support their work together.
In July we biked to southwest Denver, welcomed by Una Mano, Una Esperanza, an organization that inspires the Latino community to navigate systems in the United States, and BuCu West Development Association. The conversation, in Spanish, illustrated their desire for the Latino community in this neighborhood to “save our culture and, at the same time, improve our lives here.”
We heard about the challenges with stable, affordable housing, particularly among those who live in mobile home parks. We heard about the need for changes to ensure that families aren’t forced out of the community they love because of increased housing costs.
This conversation made me think about what The Denver Foundation can do. We are dedicated to addressing housing as part of our grantmaking and policy work. The challenges and pain and the ideas and hopes I heard in Westwood make me believe that we can come to a solution together. I’ve already started conversations with the team at The Denver Foundation to explore solutions, including policy actions, that can keep communities together.
During a bike tour stop during our first year, one person shared: “I dream of a strong community where everyone has the opportunity to thrive.” We will continue to work with you to make that dream a reality.
We are looking forward to joining the East Colfax Neighborhood Association on August 25 for our next stop.