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Holiday Sharing Lights the Darkness

By Nancy Hahn

The last few months have been disastrous for many people in our country and heart-rending for all of us. We witnessed hurricanes, massive fires, and manmade disasters of shootings, more shootings, and trucks driven into crowds. Faced with a flood of disasters we can’t control and can’t forget, we all can raise the good by finding ways to do something worthy and helpful in our own communities.

With the holiday season approaching, there are many ways to do just that. There are ways to give your time in volunteer activities. Donating food, toys, clothing and other items can add an extra boost of comfort and joy for someone’s holiday, also.

The Action Center

The Action Center at 8755 W. 14th Ave., Lakewood, provides needed support for struggling families and, also, for the homeless across Jefferson County.  The holidays put an extra strain on families who are already barely getting by. The Action Center can make the difference between a happy holiday and no holiday.

Nonperishable food items, as well as, jackets, winter boots and sleeping bags, are in short supply. The center packs thousands of Thanksgiving food boxes for families and hosts a Santa Shop, too. Parents can visit the shop without their little ones and choose the perfect Santa presents for Christmas morning. Donations of winter clothes, toys and school supplies are always needed.

An abundance of both donations and volunteers are important during this busy season. For more information, check out the Action Center online at or call 303-237-7704.

Wheat Ridge Optimists’ Blue Santa Toy Drive

The Wheat Ridge Optimist Club is guided by the Optimist vision to provide hope and a positive outlook in young people. Their activities encourage youngsters to have an active interest in their communities and civic activities. The Optimists sponsor a Junior Optimist’s club at Everitt Middle School. Two Thursday mornings a month, the Optimists meet at Stevens Elementary School from 8:40 to 9:10 to pack backpacks for students and welcome volunteers to lend a hand.

The Blue Santa Toy Collection will take place at the Lakeside Walmart at 5957 W. 44th Ave. on Nov. 25. From 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Optimist members, and Wheat Ridge and Edgewater police, will be collecting toys from shoppers.

Volunteers are welcome to help wrap gifts at Wheat Ridge City Hall, 7500 W. 29th Ave., on Dec. 15 from 4 to 6:30 p.m. Optimists and police will deliver gifts the next day.  There is more information about dates, times and activities at

Sponsor a Family Holiday Gift Drive

The Jefferson County Human Services Department encourages the public to help give a hand up to families during the holiday season. Nov. 1, they began a Sponsor a Family Holiday Gift Drive. This program supports children and families who otherwise might have no gifts this season. Many of the children have experienced abuse or neglect, but all those children still have Christmas dreams. Visit and enter “sponsor a family holiday gift drive” in the search box on the site to find out more about the program.

Toy Drive at Prospect Valley Elementary

Prospect Valley Elementary in Wheat Ridge is holding a toy drive until Dec. 8. This is the second year for the drive, which provides gifts for children who might otherwise have no new Christmas toy. School professionals identify children within the school who might benefit from the toy drive and the Optimist Club identifies children outside the Prospect Valley community. The community is invited to bring donations of new toys to the school at 3400 Pierson St., Wheat Ridge, during school hours.

Lakewood Needs Volunteers

Lakewood has a bounty of volunteer opportunities listed on the website. Check them out if you’re looking for a one-time volunteer opportunity or more regular volunteer activity.

If you enjoy an old-fashioned holiday, Lakewood Lights is Friday, Dec. 1, and Saturday, Dec. 2, from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the Heritage Center might be a perfect event for you to volunteer. Volunteers will print photos with Santa, help children make ornaments, and serve hot chocolate and cookies. There are limited volunteer positions so check them out soon.

“We are currently looking to fill our Municipal Court Bailiff positions during the week,” said Karla Garland, Lakewood’s volunteer coordinator. “Also, we are recruiting for museum tour guides and museum gift shop volunteers.”

Garland can be reached at or at 303-987-7868.

Family Tree, Treasure Trunk Thrift Store

The Family Tree at 3805 Marshall St., Wheat Ridge, provides services designed to change the picture of domestic abuse and to combat homelessness. They provide a Domestic Violence outreach Program, Homeless Emergency Services, Family Stabilization Services, and many others. Among their services, they provide a place for supervised visitation with children.

Family Tree uses volunteers in a wide range of positions. If you are interested, check out the “Volunteer Opportunities” link on the website for more information.

Treasure Trunk Thrift Store at 5892 W. 44th Ave. in Wheat Ridge also belongs to Family Tree. The store is open Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., and Sunday from noon to 4:30 p.m. Donations for Treasure Trunk can be brought during those hours, but check their website, first, for items they accept.

Kullerstrand Elementary Miracle Shop

Kullerstrand Elementary at 12225 W. 38th Ave. in Wheat Ridge is accepting donations of toys or cash for their Miracle Shop for Christmas.  Donations make a wonderful difference for a struggling family. The Miracle Shop enables parents to shop for their children for Christmas.

Tim Weaver, Kullerstrand Family Liaison, explained parents with very limited funds are able to purchase brand new toys and gifts for a very minimal amount. Parents feel good, because they paid for the gifts. Children feel good, because they have new toys.

Lakewood Police Department Gift Drive

Just before Christmas, the Lakewood Police Department delivers gifts to children in Lakewood whose families would not be able to buy presents. Organizing a new toy drive in your neighborhood, donating, or sponsoring a family are some ways Lakewood citizens can help with this effort. New toys, new clothing, or new books will certainly brighten someone’s Christmas. Toys, books, hair accessories, school supplies, board games, skateboards, or cash donations can help with the program. Donations can be mailed or left at the Lakewood Police Department at 445 S. Allison Parkway. For more information, contact or call 303-987-7105

Knitting for Collier Hospice

If you are looking for a volunteer opportunity and you enjoy knitting or crocheting, Knitting for Collier Hospice might be a group you’d enjoy. The group began when Jacqueline Whittaker, a nurse at Collier Hospice, asked a friend if her knitting and crocheting friends might be willing to make a few blankets or shawls for hospice patients.

The first batch of blankets and comfort shawls given to the Hospice was everything that Whittaker had hoped they would be. Patients loved the soft coziness and their families loved the homey touch to warm up the hospital atmosphere.

The group meets in Wheat Ridge at Ipie on Saturdays and Mighty Joe’s Kitchen on Wednesdays to knit and enjoy good conversation. Events are posted on Facebook and NextDoor. You can, also, send your name and email to for more information.

Jacob LaBrue Wins Lakewood Ward 2 Seat

By Mike McKibbin

Afirst-generation college graduate in his family may soon be the first family member to assume elected office in Lakewood's Ward 2.

Jacob LaBrue defeated Charles Davis by a 2,230-1,560 tally in the Nov. 7 general election to succeed Scott Koop on the City Council and serve a four-year term.

“I just wanted to find a way to be a positive force for Lakewood,” LaBrue said.

Current Ward 2 council members are Koop and Sharon Vincent. Koop, first elected in 2011, is term-limited, while Vincent’s term ends in 2019.

Protecting parks and open space and finding the right balance of growth are among the issues LaBrue hopes to see the city tackle.

Davis said he heard a lot of sentiment that “Lakewood should just shut down and take things backward” in terms of growth.

“That’s a very isolationist point of view and would not have a positive effect on Lakewood,” he said. “I’m very concerned that the current council will be taking a few steps backward.”

Davis said he was proud his campaign did not rely on consultants or a political party and had no regrets.

“I think municipal races should be non-partisan and when you have politicking in these races it creates a paralyzed council,” he added.

In other Lakewood City Council races, Ramey Johnson defeated Kyra deGruy in Ward 1, Mike Bieda got more votes than Michael Gifford in Ward 3, David Skilling won a three-way race over Bill Furman and LaDawn Sperling in Ward 4 and Karen Harrison won the Ward 5 seat over Nancy Palozzi.

Less Stress, More Cheer This Holiday Season

By Jennifer LeDuc

It’s the most wonderful time of the year, right? Holiday sights and sounds are e-v-e-r-y-w-h-e-r-e: the perfect turkey, the perfect tree, the perfect kids, the perfect bank account, the perfect in-laws, the perfect time. It seems like from the moment the last kid rings the doorbell on Halloween to the second or third day of the new year, every store, every magazine, every commercial reminds us, oh so constantly, how wonderful and perfect this time of year is for everyone – but you, and maybe the president.

But in truth, the holidays are a challenging season for many people across all ages, walks of faith and stages of life.

Families are messy, bank accounts are tight, decorating the tree becomes a fiasco when kids bicker or couples disagree about little things – like where to put the penguin-on-the-sled ornament that his mother gave him and you can’t stand. Or carving the turkey on Thanksgiving – the denouement of the most indulgent day – becomes a bloody butchering because someone drank too much and got sloppy with a carving knife and they need stitches. Or it’s your first holiday season alone after the divorce and you aren’t sure what you’re feeling. Or there’s going to be an empty seat, or the feeling that someone is missing, because they are, and the holidays can bring up some raw feelings after the passing of a loved one.

“How do I make it through when everyone seems joyful,” is a question Dr. Patty Luckenbach, associate minister at Mile Hi Church in Lakewood, hears often this time of year.

“The holidays in our culture represent family, love, joy, abundance. Those are qualities a lot of people aren’t experiencing, or from their experiences have deep rooted resistance to allow themselves to just be joyful,” she explained. As each of us is different, so to are the triggers and situations that give rise to inner stress, sadness and anxiety. While a chaotic shopping trip or a disastrous dinner can certainly shake us up, Luckenbach said for some, “It could be as subtle as falling leaves or snow, or hearing Christmas carols – anything in our humanness” that reminds us of a loss or sadness when we’re being asked to “rekindle navigating the holidays.”

So do we cancel Christmas? Humbug. Luckily, the first, and most crucial step in navigating the holidays is the remember that you are not alone. What comes next? Well, you have options, and lots of them. And if along the way, one of them isn’t working, always go back to step one.

Among the many resources that Mile Hi Church offers to everyone, regardless of faith, is support. Every early November Luckenbach leads a bereavement workshop for those navigating loss and sadness during the holidays, and many places of worship offer support services to connect the community with spiritual guides and, as Luckenbach emphasized, with one another. Connecting with others and allowing yourself to share your story helps with that first step in realizing you’re not alone.

Colorado-based author and director of the Center for Love and Life Transitions Dr. Alan Wofelt offers some tips in his brochure “Helping Yourself Heal During the Holidays” that are valuable whether you have experienced loss or not, like planning ahead for holiday gatherings and deciding what traditions may not have a place anymore and creating new rituals and traditions.

Creating a “holiday stress audit” is one of several suggestions that Jenna Glover, Ph.D., and director of Psychology Training who specialize in traumatic stress, parenting and other childhood behaviors at Children’s Hospital Colorado, which offers several holiday stress guides on their website.

By auditing – or reviewing – expectations, commitments and traditions if it causes you stress and anxiety every year, why are you doing it? Glover encourages us to ask ourselves, “Does this bring me joy?”

And by taking empowered steps to eliminate those stress-generating elements, even if that’s something that breaks with tradition – like not sending holiday cards, or over the river and through the woods to grandmother’s house you don’t – forgoing a frenzied feast for stopping over for a relaxing dessert – you will be better for it and enjoy what the holidays are about.

  And kids feel it, too. Glover emphasizes commitment to routines like meals and bedtime and being more selective about what activities you and your child commit to. In children, Glover explained, stress shows up differently than in adults, who may more easily observe their own feelings. Changes in a child’s sleep and eating habits are two signs that parents can be cognizant of throughout the holiday season.

Mindful indulging in addition to exercise is also important for both children and adults, stressed Glover.

“Exercise is one of the most effective ways to handle mood and depression and for a variety of reasons I encourage people to make it a habit,” Glover said. Making it “fun and doable” with even just 15 minutes a day not only supports our response to stress, but offers valuable quality time to reconnect and unwind with your child or your own thoughts – be it with a game of tag, playing catch, or just a walk around the neighborhood.

Lastly, make gratitude a ritual. Both Luckenbach and Glover encourage practicing gratitude with yourself and with your family. By creating a daily ritual with your family, Glover explained, you can find joy and appreciation for the season by looking at “gifts of the day that aren’t materially based.”

Vegan Dinners Pop Up Around Town

By Gwen Clayton

It’s a busy Friday night at the Pure Colorado Event Center on West Colfax with patrons bellying up to the bar for specialty cocktails based with a funky probiotic concoction called kombucha. It’s a fizzy, tart drink, but once mixed with some mint, cucumber muddle and rum, it ends up pairing quite well with the elegantly dressed cauliflower taco and grilled pineapple pico.

The menu was part of Nourish – an event organized by Soltribe Cuisine to promote organic, vegan, gluten-free dining in a fun, collaborative atmosphere. The inaugural feast was held Oct. 13 and a second one took place Nov. 2.

These events are known as pop-up dinners – temporary restaurants setup at private locations for special occasions.

The Nourish meals were the brainchild of Keshava Rossi, executive director of Soltribe Cuisine and son of the former owners of Govinda’s Garden Café, where he cut his teeth on the gastronomy of his parents’ Hare Krishna vegetarian lifestyle.

“My first goal was getting vegan food to people,” Rossi said. “Then, I wanted to link different circles of people who are influencers in the community, to get them networking together. Eating together breaks down barriers.”

The Nourish dinners are all six-course vegan dinners paired with alcohol and served at various locations throughout the Denver metro area. Events include live music from local bands and displays by local artists. One of the artists at the Nourish kickoff dinner was Chris Long of Gold Hill, who was proud to participate in the event.

“I eat a plant-based diet,” Long said. “The places where my art is seen is important to me. I want to connect with people on the same frequency that the art was made.”

The crowd seemed to enjoy the evening’s festivities as well as the menu.

“I think organic foods taste better,” said Libby Goines of Evergreen, one of the attendees of the October event. “Once you know the difference, there’s no going back.”

Goines chooses a mostly vegan diet to avoid animal cruelty and factory farming.

“Knowing what I know,” she said, “I don't want to eat that [factory-farmed foods].”

For more information on Soltribe Cuisine, visit or Like their page on Facebook at @SoltribeCuisine.