Five Points, Denver
March is one of our favorite months of the year at Love Your Hood. Not only does it mark the beginning of Spring, it’s more importantly a month all about basketball. March Madness is a time when our team’s competitive side is unleashed and trash talk flows freely. It’s a time when the underdog can shine (or trash your bracket — thanks UMBC). Last year our office pool was solely for bragging rights. And oh, did that winner ever brag (a’hem Rebecca Cooper)!
But you know what gets people even more excited that bragging rights? Some cold. hard. cash. That’s right — this year we’re putting money on it. Gotta pay to play people.
Yeah, yeah. Everybody does this. Why do we care about your office pool?
Because in true Love Your Hood fashion, we put a twist on it. The winner cannot keep the money.
Rewind to a month or so ago and Mark and I (Jen) headed out to eat with our three small children to Benny’s, one of our favorite restaurants. As we were getting settled into our seats we said a little hello to the couple sitting next to us (in hopes of starting off on the right foot in case our kids decided to make dining in public particularly challenging that evening). When we were finishing up and getting ready to grab the bill, we found out that the couple we had greeted had paid our tab.
We were shocked.
We had the chance to stay and chat with them for over an hour to get to know them a bit. Jana and Blaine have raised five kids in Denver and are grandparents to nine. They were even on the news for helping a family in Aurora that needed a new sewer line. Blaine, the owner of Discount Rooter, replaced it for free. To say they are do-gooders is an understatement.
This is the video from Fox31 about the family they helped.
While the free meal was incredibly generous, what meant even more to Mark and I was the sense of community it gave us.
What’s crazier? We ran into them again at Benny’s a few weeks after that. We thought we could finally return the favor. But, alas, we were too late as they were already getting ready to leave. Lo and behold, they found a way to treat us AGAIN! Talk about being the poster couple of how to rock at random acts of kindness!
Jana and Blaine, you have inspired us.
Instead of using our office March Madness pool for ourselves, the winner gets to use all the winnings to do their own random act of kindness! (And of course they’ll still have their bragging rights for the whole next year: priceless!)
We at Love Your Hood want to be generous and have fun doing it!
We want to be in the habit of seeing a need around us and filling it whenever we can — even just finding a way to turn our everyday shenanigans into something bigger than ourselves.
Jana and Blaine have reminded us that there are generous, inspiring people all around us. And that no matter how much or how little we feel we have to give, it can always be turned into something great.
Five Points, Denver
We couldn’t call ourselves Love Your Hood if we didn’t actually love our hood. And doing that well calls us to roll up our sleeves and get our hands dirty. “Litter”-ally.
What’s the big deal about alleys?
In other parts of the world, alleys weren’t originally created for garages and garbage. They started out as public spaces. Many historic alleys even contained stores, restaurants, bars, and parks.
Needless to say, most of the alleys in Denver don’t currently have this high of a calling. They’re typically sources of frustration for residents in dealing with things from strewn trash and graffiti, to drug dealing and other non-welcome behavior. Keep up with the beat on neighborhood Facebook groups like Curtis Park Neighbors or Old San Rafael Neighborhood Organization and you’ll get a glimpse of the trouble with alleys.
Why do you all clean them?
Love Your Hood is all about connecting people to place and ultimately people to people. Helping to reclaim spaces in our neighborhoods that can be used to bring the community together, or at least not be a source of frustration, is a huge win. Quite frankly, cleaning up our alleys is the first step to creating spaces that people actually want to be in. (And typically places full of trash, just aren’t one of them… unless you’re a toddler living at our house — then you just might.)
The second (and more important) reason we clean alleys is to connect the people that share the space. Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for folks to have never met the people that live on their block or that share the same alley. So, we throw alley cleaning parties and invite all the residents to hopefully help them connect and take pride in their shared space.
Can’t you all do something bigger to help the neighborhood?
I suppose that depends on the definition of “bigger.” A few of the reasons why we do what we do:
- We believe in starting where you are… using what you have, and doing what you can.
- We’re okay getting our hands dirty. There are some insanely fun and glamorous ways to raise money for a good cause. We applaud them (and want to join in)! Cleaning alleys… never gonna be glam. And it’s okay, it’s just a job that needs to be done.
- We want to make it easy to involve other people. Our team is in all different seasons of life. Mark and I found that volunteering became difficult after having kids — especially with little ones. It wasn’t just not wanting to have to find a babysitter to volunteer, but also wanting to involve our kids so they could learn to serve others #startemyoung! We truly wanted a way to serve the community that would allow anyone to participate and invite others to join.
What alleys do you clean?
Where we work (and where some of our team lives!) is in the Five Points neighborhood, just north of downtown Denver. So, we start where we are. Until we can conquer the alleys in and around Five Points, this is where we will stay.
How can I get involved?
Wanna meet our swell faces and roll up your sleeves besides us? Send us your info (select “Volunteer Opportunities”) and we’ll keep you in the loop about upcoming events.