I started my journey using community engagement back in 1980 when I was a twenty-year-old young man who had an idea to better my community. Along with a friend, who was a volunteer fireman, I started the Huerfano County Ambulance Service. I was the sole EMT and my partner drove the unit. We got the unit and supplies by asking the community for help. Then the county asked us to run the service for them and they put us on the payroll a few years later. It is still doing a great service in my hometown and has been in service now for 37 years.
I worked for the YMCA of Metro Denver for 20 years, from 1987-2007. I have worked in a variety of capacities -- Before and After school programs, Teen Center, summer day camp, front desk, Fitness Coordinator and Personal Trainer, and have spent my last seven years as the Early Childhood Director. I left this job to pursue my job with the city of Aurora, Colorado.
For the past ten years I have worked for the city of Aurora as a supervisor of recreation centers. We were able to use the ABCD principles to get the community engaged and push the city to build a new recreation center in North Aurora. The area had a bad reputation of poverty, low-income residents, huge immigrant population, gangs, crime and youth in trouble. We started many partnerships in the community, tackled many issues around poverty, jobs, gangs, police issues, etc. The center became the hub in the community. One of our most successful projects was to get the Moorhead Community Center remodeled. The facility was only 5K square feet. In 2007 when I arrived about 30 youth and community members per day were using the facility. By 2015 we were seeing 250-300 youth and community members per day. We were outgrowing our facility. As a result of using ABCD principles and engaging the community, we were able to leverage the city to build a new center that just opened on June 12, 2017. It now is 32K square feet.
I was grateful for the Denver Foundation who discovered the work I was doing and introduced me to Mike Green. He has been a great mentor, teacher and friend. I have learned so much from him and he has inspired me to pursue my dream of doing ABCD work across the country and around the world.
More recently, I have done consulting on community engagement for the Denver Foundation’ work in Africa. I have left the city just a few months ago to pursue community engagement work full time. I sit as a trustee of the Denver Foundation, and on 25 different committees from Basic Human Needs, Education, Inclusion, Strengthening Neighborhoods, Stapleton Foundation, etc.