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Random Acts of Kindness | Love Your Hood

Pool with a Purpose

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.

Say what?

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.

Random Acts of Kindness | Love Your Hood

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.

Denver Rescue Mission Adopt-a-Family | Love Your Hood

Denver Rescue Mission Adopt-a-Family

Barnum, Denver

Love Your Hood had the privilege and honor of being chosen as a sponsor for Denver Rescue Mission’s Adopt-A-Family program. We are always looking for ways to love our community and neighbors, and this was a tangible way we were able to do just that this holiday season.

Denver Rescue Mission Adopt-a-Family | Love Your Hood

What is Adopt-A-Family?

Denver Rescue Mission’s Adopt-A-Family program allows trusted members of the community (like teachers, counselors, etc.) to nominate families in need to have Christmas brought directly to their door. Each family can only be nominated one time. DRM will then match these families to sponsors standing by, ready to purchase, wrap, and deliver the gifts to them. This year, the Mission had more sponsors than families, which is a great problem to have!

Why Adopt-A-Family?

Love Your Hood is about more than just real estate. To us, it’s a way of life. We are always looking for ways to participate in others’ stories, and this was one way we were able to love our neighbors by giving back to a hard working family who is down on their luck.

What kinds of things did the family ask for?

When we received the family’s list, it was all needs. Think: winter coat, shoes, toiletries, pants, and shirts. No wants or toys that are typically asked for on Christmas.

What did LYH do for them?

Love Your Hood and each person on the team gave money and resources to make sure that this family’s wildest Christmas dreams came true. We fulfilled everything on their list and then some! The only thing better than giving, is getting to do it together! We had a blast on our team shopping night to round up gifts.

Denver Rescue Mission Adopt-a-Family | Love Your Hood

Then we threw a wrapping party to put our Elf-like gift wrapping skills to good use.

Denver Rescue Mission Adopt-a-Family | Love Your Hood

One of the best parts about the program is getting to meet the family to deliver the gifts. We wish our adopt-a-family and you all a joyful holiday and new year!

Denver Rescue Mission Adopt-a-Family | Love Your Hood

San Rafael Alley Clean-up | Denver, CO | Love Your Hood

Alley Clean-Ups

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.

San Rafael Alley Clean-up | Denver, CO | Love Your Hood

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.

Five Points, Denver Alley Issues

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:

  1. We believe in starting where you are… using what you have, and doing what you can.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

San Rafael Alley Clean-up | Denver, CO | Love Your Hood

Pete + Celeste | Littleton

Pete + Celeste

Parkwood Estates, Littleton

A few years back, LYH broker Deb Albrandt helped Pete and Celeste buy their first home. Celeste actually loved the home buying process so much that she decided to make real estate her career (and is now a part of the Love Your Hood team!). This isn’t the first time Deb has wooed her clients to a career in real estate — if you’re one of her clients a big change may be on your horizon, in addition to a new home! This is the story of Pete and Celeste’s new digs in Littleton:

Pete + Celeste | Littleton

What made you fall in love with this house?

The view. Nuff said. We couldn’t take our eyes off the view. Fortunately, our first showing was at night so we actually looked at the house for that one….!

Pete + Celeste | Littleton

What prompted you to move here?

It was a perfect storm of events, actually. Just a couple weeks after a losing my grandpa back in Ohio, my husband and I were sitting on our Aunt and Uncle’s deck with my parents (they were visiting from OH on a previously planned trip). Without mentioning it, both of us felt… something. The following Saturday we were waking up and I asked Pete if he wanted to trash our plans to move to ocean-front somewhere and buy a house in Colorado. Clearly, the answer was a yes!

What do you love most about your neighborhood?

Getting to know our neighbors. Our first rental in Ohio had a great community feel – everyone talked, popped over, knew each other. Since then, we’ve been plagued by anonymity and craved that neighborly attitude. The fact a few neighbors stopped by to introduce themselves made us feel like home from day one.

Is there a project you’re dying to start?

YES! SO MANY PROJECTS! But, if I had to pick one it would be to finish the basement. I want to keep most of the 700+ sq ft open, but with a flex space for a spare bedroom. Pete insists on a full master bathroom and plenty of storage. I’m most excited about figuring out a wine and beer cellar (fingers crossed on that one) – perfection would be wine or whiskey barrel-lined walls with a stone floor and a barrel to stand around an sip, of course!

Any projects you’ve already tackled?

Just about every wall was white – definitely didn’t work with this house! We’ve painted just about the entire house – all the way up to the 22 ft ceiling! We completely redid the master bath, which I think best represents our “eclectic” style… the vanity is an entertainment center from this great furniture place downtown – Urban Hardwood! Around the year mark, Dad came out from to lay the hardwood floors upstairs in the bedroom, hall and loft. Power tools and sawdust everywhere?! Yes, Please!

What are things in your new neighborhood that remind you of your hometown?

Haha! The fact our next-door neighbor is from Cleveland doesn’t hurt! We also have a handful of mid-west transplants nearby so there’s never a shortage of those who sincerely appreciate more than 1 day of sun a month in the winter, but still LOVE a solid thunderstorm!

Who would you love to connect with in your neighborhood?

It seems simple, but we just want to be surrounded people who want to live in a community: that smile and wave as we pass by (if not stopping to catch up!) and are comfortable popping over for a beer or asking for a hand (or lending one)! Some will just be a wave and a smile, others will grow into close friendship, but we’ll be what neighbors should be regardless!

Pete + Celeste | Littleton

What are some of your neighborhood favorites?

Two words: Downtown Littleton. We love strolling through main street.

Littleton | Love Your Hood

There are so many cute shops and restaurants but these are the ones we frequent:

Coffee Shop: Hands down, our favorite is Ground Up. Ro is a fellow Midwesterner and is always brewing up something to make me happy!

Boutique: Angel Concept. A very cute boutique that helps underprivileged women gain job skills. Rooted Boutique is another AWESOME clothing boutique.

Littleton, Colorado | Love Your Hood®

Pizza: Saucy’s for their cheeseburger pizza (it has American cheese, mustard, and ketchup and it.is.delicious).

Brewery: Jake’s and Green Mountain Beer Company.

Littleton | Love Your Hood

Italian: Angelina’s.

Sushi: Smoking Fins or Iwayama.

Littleton | Love Your Hood

Specialty Store: Chocolate Therapist.

Littleton | Love Your Hood

Ice Cream: Inside Scoop.

Littleton | Love Your Hood

A mile from downtown Littleton is Farm House at Breckenridge Brewery and then of course, Lucile’s Creole Cafe.

Littleton | Love Your Hood

Park: Carbon Mountain is our go to – it’s walking distance from the house and has over 15 miles of trails throughout the park. We are less than 10 minutes from Mount Falcon and Green Mountain, too!

Jesse + Carolina | Love Your Hood Stories

Jesse + Carolina

Englewood, Colorado

Long before Jesse and Carolina were thinking of owning a home, they were dear friends of Mark and Jen McClung. What started as a great friendship, led to Mark helping them find their first home, and has even led to Carolina recently joining the Love Your Hood team. We couldn’t feel more privileged to know and do life with this amazing couple. This is the story of the life behind Jesse and Carolina’s home in Englewood.

Jesse + Carolina | Love Your Hood Stories

What made you fall in love with this house?

We have so many favorites. Jesse would say that it is structurally-sound home. He says, “this just makes sense.” But of course, he is an engineer. My (Carolina’s) favorite part would be our windows and how much light we receive in our bedroom and family room. But, I think we could both agree that our absolute favorite part is our backyard. It is spacious and we have five beautiful pine trees that provide a lot of shade — it makes you feel like you are in the mountains.

What prompted you to move here?

We started our journey as a married couple living in a two-bedroom apartment near Wash Park. We lived close to city amenities, but knew that we wanted to start a family and own a house not far from where we were. One that had access to parks and the mountains.


That’s when our friend Mark helped us find a new home! We fell in love with our 1950’s brick ranch. It is perfect for us! It’s only a 15 minute drive to downtown and not far from US-285, which is an easy way to get to the mountains. It’s also close to some great parks and local shops and restaurants, like South Pearl Street, which we visit most weekends.

Have any special life occasions happened while living here?

Last summer, we threw a big party with our family and friends to celebrate our son’s first birthday. We had a BBQ in the backyard and hung a Harley Davidson motorcycle piñata from one of our pine trees. The kids all had a blast with the piñata and we decided that it would become a family tradition!


What do you love most about your neighborhood?

We love that it is a family-oriented neighborhood. Every morning we see our neighbors jogging along the sidewalks with their pets or moms taking their kids for a stroll around the neighborhood. It is a beautiful area with lots of parks, mature trees, and nice homes. We love that we have made great connections with our neighbors.


Have you made any changes to your home since you bought it?

We like to say that this home is our second baby. It has been more of a life journey than just a project to us!

Our vision and end goal is to have a craftsman home with warm details such as copper fixtures and warm colors. The process has been long but rewarding. We have been building our home just the way we like it. We’re working from the inside out, one day at a time. It’s very rewarding to see what you can accomplish as a team.

Editor’s note: The changes to their home truly did start as a project (albeit a big one at that). Over dinner and margs at Benny’s Restaurant, Jesse and Carolina told us (Mark and Jen) they had decided to completely remodel their kitchen, which would be done “in a couple weeks.” <queue giggling> This kitchen renovation, quickly took on a life of it’s own and morphed into a complete gut of their home… down to studs. Needless to say, a few weeks turned into a few months, which has turned into a few years of beautifully piecing their home back together in a way they love.

Is there anything about your neighborhood that reminds you of your hometown?

Carolina: I am originally from Managua, Nicaragua so our current neighborhood is much different than where I grew up (and definitely less humid)! 

Jesse: I grew up in Denver, so this neighborhood reminds me a lot of my childhood. I can’t wait to take lil’ Jesse for bike rides to explore Harvard Gulch park. He already loves the parks, so we go pretty often. 

Who would you love to connect with in your neighborhood?

We have been getting to know young families in our neighborhood with similar interests. About a year ago, we joined a small bible study group through Denver United Church and have met other families with young kids. We are very happy and blessed that we have gotten to know them. 

What are some of your neighborhood favs?

One of the perks of where we live is that we’re only a few minutes away from Denver, which is where some of our favorite places are!

ParkHarvard Gulch Park, Bates-Logan Park, and Washington Park.

RestaurantWe love going out for brunch after church, and our usual places are Maddie’s or Lucile’s. We also went to the Copper Pot a lot during our kitchen remodel (thank you Jose for welcoming us and catering our moving-in party!). We are close to South Pearl Street and enjoy going there for date nights.

PizzaKaos Pizzeria! We’re patio people and this place is hard to beat.

Baked GoodsMaria Empanada! They have the best mushroom and spinach Argentinian empanadas around town.


Mark + Jen McClung

Five Points, Denver

Before Mark and Jen even thought about getting into real estate, Jen’s mom Deb Albrandt had been in the field for years. When the couple started looking for their first house nearly seven years ago, Deb helped them find it. The three of them eventually started Starbuck Realty Group, which has blossomed into Love Your Hood today. This is the story of the life behind Mark and Jen’s home in Five Points.

Mark + Jen McClung's Story in San Rafael, Denver

What made you fall in love with this house?

Mark: We lived in a loft across from Union Station before moving here. We loved the tall ceilings, boxy nature of the architecture, and original elements that were still preserved. This Italianate felt the most like our loft of any of the houses we saw.

Jen: We didn’t have kids at the time, but I envisioned making waffles on Saturday mornings at the island and a fort underneath the odd deck jut-outs as well. We now have two kids and have had a lot of waffles at that island and the fort has conceptualized into a market/ice cream shop.



What prompted you to move here?

Three things:

  1. Grass for our dog. Try finding grass for a dog in LoDo that won’t lift a leg to potty on a tree.
  2. Doors on our rooms. Studio living isn’t made for growing families… or couples that don’t want to hear everything the other half does.
  3. A little more space from our neighbors. Loft living is fun. You just have to be prepared for neighbors that also have very fun lives… which may or may not not coordinate well with your schedule. Think of people living above you coming home at 2 am wearing stilettos when you have to be up at 6 am for work. Or the joy of their toilet running endlessly and starting to drip through the ceiling onto your forehead in the middle of the night. But now we have a solid 11.25″ between our house and our neighbors. No joke.
Have any special life occasions happened while living here?

To say this is our forever home is an understatement. Less than a year after moving in, we got married in our backyard surrounded by our dearest friends and family. Our only “kid” at the time was our beloved dog Bentley, who was our ring bearer along with our nephew.

Mark + Jen McClung's Story in San Rafael, Denver

About a year after that we launched what has become Love Your Hood out of our home office. Our first two kids along with another two dogs have been brought home for the first time here. We sadly said goodbye to Bentley for the last time in our backyard and we’re now about to welcome our third child to this home.

What do you love most about your neighborhood?

San Rafael is a sweet spot between downtown and City Park. We’re still able to walk or bike to Rockies games, like we did while living in the loft. And we love the historical homes in this neighborhood and the diversity of people that live here. It’s great being a part of a community of people that truly loves where they live.

Is there anything about your neighborhood that reminds you of your hometown?

Jen: Our street on Halloween. I have some great memories of trick-or-treating as a kid. The few blocks around us knocks the socks off of that experience! Even the adults get into it here, everyone is outside on their porches, and it is a blast!

Have you made any changes to your home since you bought it?

When we bought our house, the only thing we thought we’d change was the paint colors and rip up the carpet on the 2nd floor to put down hardwood. Ha! We ended up doing a small renovation, including closing in the third bedroom right before our first was born. To continue the baby + renovation theme, when a chunk of the floor fell out from our bedroom, it turned into an gutting and renovating the entire second floor. We got to move back into our house five days before our daughter was born, even though the work continued. Since then, we’ve landscaped the front and back yards, including adding a front patio so we can sit outside and meet with neighbors. The next major project will be digging out our basement and adding an addition. So much for just changing the paint!


Who would you love to connect with in your neighborhood?

Jen: I would love to connect more with other women business owners, moms, and homeschooling families.

Mark: I’d like to connect with families in the same stage of life. It’s nice to go through this crazy season with other people!

What are some of your neighborhood favs?

Coffee: Coffee at the Point! It’s very short walk from out house, open late, and has awesome coffee.

Park: Within Five Points, the new playground at Curtis Park is so much fun for our kids! We also love frequenting Benedict Fountain Park since it’s closer and has stellar views of the city.  But, overall you just can’t beat City Park. It’s only a mile from our house and we do so much life there as a family… The Zoo, The Nature & Science Museum, City Park Jazz, bike rides to the playground, runs with our dogs…

City Park, Denver | Love Your Hood

Restaurant: Oh, there are so many to choose from… one of our current favorites has been Los Chingones on Larimer.

Brewery: (Jen) We have way too many amazing options in Five Points. But my favorite is actually a winery. Celeste introduced me to Infinite Monkey Theorem and it’s phenomenal…. looking forward to enjoying some Moscato after baby #3 arrives.

Baked Goods: We’ve had a few dietary restrictions surface in our family, so to accommodate those, Beet Box is a treat! But if I (Jen) fall off the wagon, a bagel from Rosenberg’s or croissant from Rolling Pin is what I’m going for.