In 2019, our CEO Javier Alberto Soto started the bike tour as a way to get to know the community, to listen and learn about the challenges and goals of each of Denver’s unique neighborhoods.
Rather than inviting people to come into the foundation’s space and meet on the foundation’s terms, the bike tour allows us to flip that approach and meet people where they are.
The goal is simple, to listen to people throughout Denver and gain a deeper understanding of the challenges our community is facing and insight into how we can do our work better.
President and CEO Javier Alberto Soto bikes with staff and board members from The Denver Foundation offices to places in the community. There he leads these important conversations and listens for ways philanthropy can help.
Biking to all 78 Denver neighborhoods
This fall, we reached a major milestone biking through all 78 Denver neighborhoods!
Globeville, Elyria Swansea, Cherry Creek, Rhino, Barnum, Cap Hill, Cheeseman, Highlands, Sunnyside, Montbello, Valverde, just to name a few.
At each stop, we met with community leaders, small business owners, nonprofit executive directors and staff, library staff, and even government leaders with RTD.
“Many themes emerged,” said Soto about his conversations with residents. “We heard concerns around housing affordability, public safety, transportation options, and economic issues of all kinds. These were issues that echoed what we had heard in our listening sessions that informed our strategic framework. But there were some unique neighborhood-level issues as well, like safety issues in East Colfax.”
It took us four years to complete all 78 Denver neighborhoods because of the pause we had to take during the pandemic, but it was worth it because we were able to see how the pandemic changed Denver and where we could plug in as a community foundation.
Perhaps the stop that impacted us the most was the one we biked to Westwood.
In July of 2022, Javier Alberto Soto and staff biked to southwest Denver, where they were 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.
There they learned about a mobile home park that was potentially going to be purchased by a venture capital firm, forcing the residents to relocate – a pattern we’ve seen throughout our country and pretty intensely right here in our state. Families who own mobile homes don’t usually own the land underneath their homes. Because of that, they’re vulnerable to the landlord’s plans with that land.
Dozens of landlords have opted to sell the land, putting residents in tough situations. They have to move the mobile home to another park, which is costly and often impossible to find, or leave their life-long investment behind and start over.
“The impact on residents can be devastating,” said Soto. “It was important for us to meaningfully intervene in the best way we could as a community foundation.”
“The challenges and pain and the ideas and hopes I heard in Westwood made me believe that we can come to a solution together,” said Soto who immediately started conversations with The Denver Foundation team about solutions that could include policy changes and impact investments.
Since then, we’ve supported our grantees’ efforts to change the state law to have a more equitable process for residents to purchase the land underneath their mobile homes.
The hope is that the mobile home park residents could purchase the land underneath their homes and feel relief knowing their housing situations are more stable.
All that started with a bike stop in Westwood. “If I didn’t do the bike tour, I’m not sure we would have been involved with this issue to the depth we are,” said Soto.
Our job at The Denver Foundation is to be a meaningful part of our community fabric. We have trusted relationships with people who want to make a difference, we make thoughtful efforts to understand the community’s needs and invest in organizations working to address those needs.
This bike tour is at the heart of why we do what we do.