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Inaugural Issue

Denver’s Largest Neighborhood...5 Montbello Business Beat..7 Voices from the Neighborhood...10 Congrats to Montbello...12 Youth on the Move...13 Steps to Success..14 Tom’s Artistic Beauty...15


Montbello Turns

50 Page...2

...and Then

Community Celebrates 50 Years of Diversity ...8 & 9

Writing Happy Endings for Over 25 Years

When the time is right for that next big move in your life, trust the team that has been serving Coloradans for over 25 years.

FROM THE EDITOR’S TABLET Dear Friends and Neighbors,

We are so very excited about this first issue of the Montbello Urban Spectrum Edition (MUSE). A very special thank-you goes out to Bee Harris and her staff at Denver Urban Spectrum, for all their work (and handholding) in getting the inaugural issue out the door. Also, thanks to the MUSE Editorial Advisory Committee for their many ideas for stories and articles and for taking on specific writing tasks themselves. The purpose of the paper is to report on the good news about Montbello. The articles and stories are intended to “muse you,” inspire, inform, and educate. In a time when there is so much bad news and acts of terror in the world, the MUSE will focus on the positive in our community. Each issue will highlight the difference nonprofits make, the business being conducted in storefronts, youth on the move, and human-interest stories that reflect the perspective, opinions, and ideas of the people who make up this amazing neighborhood. As we begin planning for the November/December issue, please keep in mind that this paper is for and about you. We want to know what you are thinking and your ideas for shaping the future Montbello. To that end, send us your letters to the editor, or simply send us the names of people, businesses, and events that you want to know more about or that you think are important for the community to know more about. We have a few openings on the editorial committee if you are interested. You can reach us at Respectfully


A Case for ‘Slow, Hard Work’

percent) say it is “somewhat” or “very” important.” The other 51 percent say it is “not too” or “not at all” important. Please know your faith community benefits by your commitment to the slow, hard work of building and sharing who you are and what you believe with others. Beyond the practice of our faith, there is also the need for more civic engagement in our neighborhoods today. I was speaking with a beloved coach of one of our community football teams in one of Denver’s great neighborhoods, Montbello. He shared with me how much time it takes to mold the young ones he coaches, not just for skills to play the game but for life skills so many of the children in the league were not getting at home. He, too, made a case for working slowly and capably to help the children mature so they can face life with confidence and a will to give back when they get older. So many things in our lives are getting faster by the moment. My cell phone is a great example of that. But there is great evidence that all because something is faster, doesn’t mean it’s better. President Obama was right on point once again in his speech before the 2016 Democratic National Convention. Whether we like good results fast or not we’d all benefit by committing ourselves to more, slow, hard work in our lives. By God’s grace, the Interfaith Alliance of Colorado is a great partner in the long, hard work of building connections and relationships beyond the constraints or limits of our own faith tribes. Let’s do this work in our present age so that generations unborn will benefit.

Editor: There are times when political rhetoric strikes a common chord in our hearts and minds. It is my humble opinion that such a time was during President Barack Obama’s speech at the 2016 Democratic National Convention when he said, “America has never been about what one person says he’ll do for us. It’s always been about what can be achieved by us, together, through the hard, slow, sometimes frustrating, but ultimately enduring work of self-government.” Of course he was speaking of our democracy, specifically the slow, hard work of self-government. I would like to see this thought applied more widely. We simply cannot microwave our way to building a brighter, more inclusive, more loving and more morally engaged society without consistent doses of slow, hard work by our citizens. As a Christian pastor I have seen great fluctuations in the amount of time, devotion, and commitment members of faith communities have been offering to their churches, mosques and synagogues. I embraced my call to ministry partly because I believe it is in spiritual settings that we see our common humanity, and practice the principles of loving our neighbors as we love ourselves, reaching out to one another beyond divided lines and overcoming temptations towards hate-filled feelings, accusations and actions. Many times we believe we are on the path towards one conclusion but we find another outcome than we are expecting because we’re devoted to slow and sometimes hard work. But, as recently as 2014, in a report sponsored by the Barna (Research) Group, we find the centrality of practicing one’s faith declining in importance in America. The report began with this finding, “Although church involvement was once a cornerstone of American life, U.S. adults today are evenly divided on the importance of attending church. While half (49

PUBLISHER - Rosalind J. Harris MANAGING EDITOR - Donna Garnett

CONTRIBUTING WRITERS - James Ainsworth, Shelli Brown, Angelle Fouther, Khadija Haynes ART DIRECTOR - Bee Harris ADVERTISING SALES CONSULTANT - Melovy Melvin

Donna Garnett Managing Editor, MUSE

Rev. Dr. James Ellis Fouther, Jr. United Church of Montbello Denver The Montbello Urban Spectrum Edition (MUSE) is a bi-monthly publication produced and published by the Denver Urban Spectrum (DUS) and the Montbello Organizing Committee (MOC). Contents of MUSE are copyright 2016 by Denver Urban Spectrum and the Montbello Organizing Committee. No portion may be reproduced without written permission of the publishers. MUSE is circulated throughout Denver’s Far Northeast community. MUSE welcomes all letters, but reserves the right to edit for space, libelous material, grammar, and length. All letters must include name, address, and phone number. We will withhold author’s name on request. Unsolicited articles are accepted without guarantee of publication or payment and may be submitted to the editor at For advertising information, email or call 303292-6446.

MUSE - Montbello Urban Spectrum Edition - September/October 2016


Montbello Turns 50! Then and

By Donna Garnett, M.S.


exists, other resident-led organizations have formed to address contemporary issues as the times demanded. For many years Far Northeast Neighbors (FNN) has represented the community and more recently, Montbello 2020 and Montbello Organizing Committee (MOC) have taken up the fight for equitable services related to education, health, jobs, transportation, food security, affordable housing, and community enhancement.

Then. Fifty years ago, Montbello –

Denver’s “city within a city” was born when City Council annexed 2,932 acres of farmland and prairie grasslands from Adams County. The largest annexation by Denver ever at that time (and still Denver’s largest residential neighborhood) included an agreement that the City would install a water line and sanitary sewers. Further, the agreement included a requirement that the City construct and maintain paved, open channels in the medians of certain streets to accommodate storm drainage. Initially, Montbello was founded Dramatic view of Montbello from 5 miles up The City was to maintain the landscaping Swiftly assuming shape and dimension in the area east of Stapleton International with the intention that it serve as an affordalong those channels as well as construct and Airport and north of Interstate 70 is Denver’s unique new community of Montbello. able and safe community where middle class maintain a bike path and improve landscap- From five miles up, photo shows the rapid development of the industrial park, between families could own their own homes and raise Havana and Peoria Streets, I-70 and E. 52nd Avenue; shopping center (3); Office ing along 56th Avenue from Peoria to Campus (4), and residential areas (5 and 6) in relation to downtown Denver (1) and their families in an integrated neighborhood. Chambers. Stapleton (2), all in the scenic setting provided by the Front Range of the Rockies. The Montbello’s first US Census Report in 1970 listed new community already is home of 8,000 people, and its businesses and industries the population at just below 5,000. Of that The planning document divided the land into 1,770 acres for construction of homes and provide jobs for 7,500 more, even though it is less than five years old. Entire area of population, 90 percent were White, Latino nearly five square miles was annexed to Denver on Sept. 11, 1965, for total developapartments, 800 acres for commercial and ments to a population of 40,000 by the mid-seventies. Because it is within the Denver were 10 percent, 6 percent were Black, and 3 industrial usage, 158 acres for schools and city limits, its people already describe it as a “city within a city” (Rocky Mountain News, percent were Asian. More than 80 percent of parks, 40 acres for churches, and 10 acres for Sunday, July 26, 1970). the population was married and under the a civic center. Less than one year later, the first age of 34 years which is not uncommon for show homes opened and 100 single family any new community. dwellings were constructed south of Andrews Twenty years later, the 1990 U.S. Census and then extended north and east of there. report showed dramatic changes in the comCost of these new homes ranged from $14,950 munity. The population of 17,500 was comfor a two bedroom, no garage to $21,950 for a prised of Black 58 percent, White 25 percent, four-bedroom tri-level with a two car garage. Hispanic 13 percent and Asian 3 percent. By late 1969, many changes had taken Only 58 percent of residents were married place. The Denver Fire Station (#27) was and only 66 percent were under the age of opened, the first church – St. Andrews Lutheran 34 years. The homes in Montbello were still fair— had been built, and 1200 homes were ly priced and property values continued to occupied. Safeway opened a grocery store increase. at Albrook and Peoria and the first park – Mel Another 26 years have passed and even Silverman Park – opened. Montbello State ore striking changes have occurred. In 2014, Bank, now Citywide Bank of Montbello, demographics based on 2010 U.S. Census opened for business and fifty manufacturers data paint a picture of a rapidly changing and distributors, including Samsonite environment. Montbello continues to be Corporation were up and running and employing over 5,000 people. Denver’s largest neighborhood with a population of just over 33,000. The At the close of the 1960’s, the City declared Montbello “a tremendous racial and ethnic demographics have once again changed dramatisuccess.” cally with 62 percent of residents being Latino, 24 percent African Yet, all was not perfect. Residents were extremely concerned that American, 11 percent Caucasian, and two percent Asian. The commuDenver Public Schools had not built any schools in the community and, nity continues to be young with just over 61 percent being under the in fact, the first public schools would not exist in Montbello until the 1973age of 34 years. 74 schoolyear when John H. Amesse and Barney Ford elementary Montbello has a higher rate of owner-occupied homes than does schools were opened. Over the years, community discontent with DPS’ Denver overall – 62 percent versus 50 percent. The average value of attention and response to student needs has been a source of conowner-occupied homes is approximately $202,000. Despite economic tention. Many view the dismantling of Montbello High School starting in downturns, home values in Montbello have always continued to go up. 2010 as the destruction of one of the most important unifying institutions So, the population demographics have changed. How has the in the community. neighborhood changed? Throughout Montbello’s fifty years, community involvement has In many ways, Montbello has been isolated due to limited automoalways been the key to getting needed services within the community. bile access into the community. For instance, in the early 1970s In the late 1960’s the first community organization formed. Montbello Montbello became more isolated by the closing of East 56th Avenue Citizen’s Committee (MCC) worked to obtain transportation, recreation between Havana St. on the east to Quebec St. on the west. The closure facilities, schools, and police protection. While the MCC no longer


MUSE - Montbello Urban Spectrum Edition - September/October 2016


was as a result of the expansion of Stapleton airport runways into the Rocky Mountain Arsenal. It wasn’t until a few years after the opening of Denver International Airport in February, 1995, that 56th Avenue was once again opened giving access to Montbello on the north. Despite many improvements between Highway 85 and Havana Street and between Pena Blvd. and Tower Road, 56th Avenue still doesn’t adequately address Montbello’s access into the neighborhood. The section of the road that enables residents to get in and out of the neighborhood is two lanes making it a frustrating bottleneck during morning and evening rush hours. The 2016 opening of RTD’s A-Line is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, residents who travel to DIA or downtown for work, school, or some other reason are delighted to have access to the train. On the other hand, the nearest rail stations are all placed in other communities: two in Aurora at I-70 and Peoria and at Pena Boulevard and 40th Avenue, and one in Green Valley Ranch at 61st and Pena once again routing traffic and neighborhood access away from Montbello. The closing of Montbello’s Park and Ride means that Montbello transit users have to find alternative transportation to get to the rail station to take advantage of the train. Simultaneously, RTD made significant changes to bus routes making it more difficult for those residents who aren’t going to DIA or downtown and far more costly and time consuming for students who need to go out of their neighborhood to school. Inevitably, change helps some and hinders others. Another big development in the community was the opening of the 30,000 square foot Montbello Recreation Center in 2003. The Recreation Center complements the park system and provides recreation, sports, and other amenities for the community, yet it, too, is not in Montbello, but in the Gateway/Parkfield community. Undoubtedly, as the community grows, more recreation centers and parks will be needed. Some may argue that DPS still doesn’t act in a timely way to meet the educational needs of students, but things have progressed considerably from 40 to 50 years ago when most children were bussed out of the neighborhood. Today, Montbello students have access to many public educational options with twenty-one Pre K – 12 schools in the neighborhood. Choice is important for parents and students, but the fact remains that too many of the community’s middle and high school

students do not have choices close to home. Early in Montbello’s history, industry within the community was primarily manufacturing and distribution. Over time with economic fluctuation and the advent of new technologies, the nature of business has changed. Currently, Denver’s Office of Economic Development reports that 1,276 businesses including large and small businesses, nonprofits, and churches are doing business in Montbello. A major gap exists in the food system, however. With the closing of Safeway in 2014, Montbello no longer has a full service grocery store. That fact has earned Montbello the federal designation as a “food desert” meaning that a substantial part of the population doesn’t have access to a grocery store in less than a mile. The Piton Foundation reports in its Community Facts website that 26 percent of low income people in Montbello don’t have access to healthy food within a mile and 48 percent of all of the community’s children don’t have access to healthy food within a mile. City planners and crystal ball readers predict that Montbello is on the precipice of many changes. The economic future is bright for this “city within a city” because of the following: •There are thousands of acres of undeveloped land in surrounding areas that can accommodate growth and development; •Over 1,200 additional housing units will be built in surrounding areas in the next year alone; •Denver’s Aerotropolis will create an estimated $26 billion in regional economic impacts and will create thousands of middle- and high-wage jobs over the next few years. Mayor Hancock, Denver Office of Economic Development, developers, national and local foundations have targeted Montbello as a community of focus. Undoubtedly, these opportunities herald changes. With opportunity comes the possibility that Montbello residents will be displaced as a new group of people with more resources and a desire to enjoy the amenities of this special place move in. Only time will tell how the next 50 years of history will be written.

Editor’s note: Donna Garnett, MS is Managing Editor of Montbello Urban Spectrum and is the founder of DMG Consulting – a woman-owned firm that helps “nonprofits think outside the box.”Reference materials reviewed for this article included, in part, a historic review of Montbello that was compiled for Montbello’s 30th anniversary in 1996.

¡Montbello Cumple 50 Años! Antes y Ahora Donna Garnett, M.S

: Hace cincuenta años, Montbello – “la ciudad dentro de una ciudad” en Denver – nació cuando el Ayuntamiento Municipio anexó 2,932 acres de tierras de cultivo y pastizales de las praderas del Condado de Adams. La anexión más grande por Denver durante ese tiempo (y todavía la vecindad residencial más grande de Denver) incluyó un acuerdo que la Ciudad instalaría una línea acuática y alcantarillas sanitarias. Además, el acuerdo incluyó un requisito que la Ciudad construyera y mantuviera canales pavimentados y abiertos en las medianas de ciertas calles para acomodar al drenaje de tormentas. La Ciudad debía de mantener el ajardinamiento a lo largo de aquellos canales así como construir y mantener un carril de bicicleta y mejorar el ajardinamiento a lo largo de la Avenida 56 desde Peoria a Chambers. El documento de planificación dividió la tierra en 1,770 acres para la construcción de casas y apartamentos, 800 acres para el uso comercial e industrial, 158 acres para escuelas y parques, 40 acres para iglesias y 10 acres para un centro cívico. Menos de un año más tarde, las primeras casas del espectáculo se abrieron y 100 viviendas de familias individuales fueron construidas al sur de Andrews y luego se extendió al norte y al este de allí. El costo de estos nuevos hogares varió de $14,950 para

una casa con dos dormitorios, sin garaje, a $21,950 para un trio-nivel de cuatro dormitorios con un garaje para dos coches. A finales de 1969, muchos cambios habían ocurrido. La Estación de Bomberos de Denver (#27) fue abierto; la primera iglesia – St. Andrews Luterana - había sido construida, y 1200 hogares fueron ocupados. Safeway abrió una tienda de comestibles en Albrook y Peoria y el primer parque – Parque Mel Silverman – abrió. El banco de Montbello State Bank, ahora llamado Citywide Bank of Montbello, se abrió para negocios y cincuenta fabricantes y distribuidores, incluyendo a Samsonite Corporation, estaban funcionando y empleando a más de 5,000 personas. A finales de la década de 1960, la Ciudad declaró a Montbello “un éxito tremendo”. Sin embargo, todo no era perfecto. Los residentes estaban extremadamente preocupados que las Escuelas Públicas de Denver (DPS) no habían construido ningunas escuelas en la comunidad y, de hecho, las primeras escuelas públicas no existirían en Montbello hasta el año escolar de 1973-74 cuando las escuelas de John H. Amesse y Barney Ford Elementary se abrieron. Durante los años, el descontento de la Continúa en la página 4


MUSE - Montbello Urban Spectrum Edition - September/October 2016


Continuado de la página 3 comunidad con DPS sobre la atención y respuesta a las necesidades de los estudiantes ha sido una fuente de controversia. Muchos ven el desmontaje de la Escuela Secundaria de Montbello, comenzando en 2010, como la destrucción de una de las instituciones de unificación más importantes en la comunidad. A lo largo de los cincuenta años de Montbello, la participación de la comunidad siempre ha sido la clave a y adquisición de servicios necesarios dentro de la comunidad. A finales de los años del 1960, la primera organización de la comunidad se formó. El Comité de Ciudadanos de Montbello (MCC) trabajó para obtener transporte, instalaciones recreativas, escuelas y protección de policía. Mientras el MCC ya no existe, otras organizaciones conducidas por los residentes se han formado para abordar los problemas contemporáneos como los tiempos exigían. Durante muchos años, los Vecinos del Extremo Noreste (FNN) han representado a la comunidad y más recientemente, Montbello 2020 y el Comité Organizadora de Montbello (MOC) han representado la comunidad y han asumido la lucha por servicios equitativos relacionados a la educación, salud, empleos, transporte, seguridad alimentaria, vivienda asequible y la mejora comunitaria. : Inicialmente, Montbello fue fundado con la intención de que serviría como una comunidad asequible y segura donde las familias de la clase media podrían poseer sus propios hogares y criar a sus familias en una vecindad integrada. El primer Informe de Censo de EE.UU. en 1970 puso a la población de Montbello debajo de 5,000. De esa población, 90 por ciento eran Blancos, Latinos fueron 10 por ciento, 6 por ciento eran Afroamericano, y 3 por ciento eran Asiáticos. Más del 80 por ciento de la población estaba casado y menor de edad de 34 años que no es raro para cualquier nueva comunidad. Veinte años más tarde, en 1990, el Informe de Censo de EE.UU. mostró cambios dramáticos en la comunidad. La población de 17,500 estaba compuesta de 58 por ciento Afroamericano, 25 por ciento Blancos, 13 por ciento de Hispanos, y 3 por ciento se Asiáticos. Sólo 58 por ciento de los residentes estaban casados y sólo 66 por ciento eran menores de 34 años. Los hogares en Montbello todavía estaban bastante razonables de precio y el valor de las propiedades continuaron a aumentar. Más de 26 años han pasado y los cambios aún más asombrosos han ocurrido. En 2014, los datos demográficos basados en el Censo de EE.UU. de 2010 pintan un cuadro de un ambiente que cambia rápidamente. Montbello sigue siendo la vecindad más grande de Denver con una población de más de 33,000. Los datos demográficos raciales y étnicos han cambiado otra vez dramáticamente con 62 por ciento de residentes siendo Latino, 24 por ciento es Afroamericano, 11 por ciento es Caucásico, y dos por ciento es Asiático. La comunidad sigue siendo joven con sólo más del 61 por ciento que son menores de 34 años. Montbello tiene una tasa mayor de viviendas ocupadas por sus propietarios que Denver en general - 62 por ciento contra 50 por ciento. El valor promedio de las viviendas ocupadas por sus propietarios es de aproximadamente $202,000. A pesar de la recesión económica, los valores de las viviendas en Montbello siempre han seguido subiendo. Por lo tanto, las características demográficas de la población han cambiado. ¿Cómo ha cambiado el barrio? En muchos modos, Montbello ha sido aislada, debido al acceso del coche limitado en la comunidad. Por ejemplo, a principios de los años 1970, Montbello se hizo más aislado por el cierre de la Avenida 56 Este, entre la calle Havana en el este hasta la calle Quebec en el oeste. El cerrado era a consecuencia de la extensión de pistas de aterrizaje del aeropuerto de Stapleton en el Rocky Mountain Arsenal. No era hasta unos años después de la apertura del Denver International Airport (DIA) en el febrero de 1995, que la Avenida 56 fue otra vez abierta, dando el acceso a Montbello en el norte. A pesar de las muchas mejoras entre la Carretera 85 y a calle Havana, y entre Peña Blvd. y Tower Road, la Avenida 56 todavía no dirige adecuadamente al acceso de Montbello en la vecindad. La parte del camino que permite a los residentes a salir y entrar del barrio es dos carriles haciendo un cuello de botella dentro y fuera de la comunidad. La apertura en 2016 de la Linea-A de RTD es una espada de doble filo. Por una parte, los residentes que viajan a DIA o centro de la cuidad para trabajo, escuela, o alguna otra razón están encantados de tener el acceso al tren. Por otra parte, las estaciones ferroviarias más cercas

son todas colocadas en otras comunidades: dos en Aurora en I-70 y Peoria, en Peña Boulevard y Avenida 40, y una en Green Valley Ranch, en la Avenida 61 y Peña Boulevard, otra vez vuelve a enrutar el tráfico y acceso al barrio lejos de Montbello. La cerrada del Park and Ride en Montbello significan que los usuarios de tránsito de Montbello tienen que encontrar un transporte alternativo poniéndose a la estación ferroviaria para aprovechar el tren. Simultáneamente, RTD hizo cambios significativos/perjudiciales en rutas del autobús que lo hacen más difícil para aquellos residentes que no van a DIA o centro de la cuidad, y mucho más costosos y toma demasiado tiempo para estudiantes que tienen que salir de su barrio a la escuela. Inevitablemente, el cambio ayuda a unos e impide a otros. Otro desarrollo grande en la comunidad era la apertura del Centro de Recreación de Montbello en 2003 con 30,000 pies cuadrado. El Centro de Recreación congratula el sistema de parques y proporciona recreación, deportes y otros servicios para la comunidad, aún, también, no está en Montbello, pero en la comunidad de Gateway/Parkfield. Indudablemente, a medida en que la comunidad crece, más centros de recreación y parques serán necesarios. Algunos pueden argumentar que DPS todavía no actúa en una manera oportuna para satisfacer las necesidades educativas de los estudiantes, pero las cosas han progresado considerablemente desde hace 40 a 50 años, cuando la mayoría de los niños fueron trasladados en autobuses fuera del barrio. Hoy, los estudiantes de Montbello tienen acceso a muchas opciones educativas públicas con veintiuna escuelas preescolares al 12 grado en la vecindad. La opción es importante para los padres y estudiantes, pero el hecho permanece que demasiados de los estudiantes de la escuela secundaria y preparatoria en la comunidad no tienen opciones cerca de la casa. Temprano en la historia de Montbello, la industria dentro de la comunidad era principalmente industrial y distribución. En el transcurso del tiempo, con la fluctuación económica y el advenimiento de nuevas tecnologías, la naturaleza de negocio ha cambiado. Actualmente, la Oficina de Denver del Desarrollo Económico informa que 1,276 negocios incluso pequeños y grandes negocios, organizaciones sin fines de lucro, e iglesias están haciendo sus negocios en Montbello. Un hueco principal existe en el sistema de la comida, sin embargo. Con el cierre de Safeway en 2014, Montbello ya no tiene una tienda de servicio completo de comestibles. Ese hecho le ha ganado a Montbello la designación federal como un “desierto de la comida” significando que una parte sustancial de la población no tiene el acceso a una tienda de comestibles en menos de una milla. La Fundación de Pitón reporta en su sitio de web, bajo de Hechos de la Comunidad, que 26 por ciento de la gente de bajos ingresos en Montbello no tiene el acceso a la comida sana dentro de una milla y 48 por ciento de todos los niños de la comunidad no tiene el acceso a la comida sana dentro de una milla. Planificadores de la ciudad y los lectores de la bola de cristal predicen que Montbello está en el precipicio de muchos cambios. El futuro económico es brillante para esta “ciudad dentro de una ciudad” debido a lo siguiente: •Hay miles de acres de la tierra subdesarrollada en áreas circundantes que pueden acomodar el crecimiento y el desarrollo; Más de 1,200 unidades de vivienda adicionales serán construidas en áreas circundantes solamente en el próximo año; •El Aerotropolis de Denver creará aproximadamente $26 billones en impactos económicos regionales y creará miles de empleos de salarios medianos y altos durante los próximos años. •El Alcalde Hancock, la Oficina del Desarrollo Económico de Denver, reveladores, las fundaciones nacionales y locales han apuntado a Montbello como una comunidad de foco. Indudablemente, estas oportunidades anuncian cambios. Con la oportunidad viene la posibilidad que los residentes de Montbello sean desplazados ya que un nuevo grupo de gente con más recursos y un deseo de disfrutar de las comodidades de este lugar especial se mudan aquí. Sólo el tiempo dirá cómo los próximos 20 años de la historia serán escritos.


Nota del Editor: Donna Garnett, MS, es el Gerente Editorial del Montbello Urban Spectrum y es la fundadora de DMG Consulting – una firma poseída por una mujer que ayuda a “las organizaciones sin fines de lucro a pensar fuera de la caja”. Es respetada por su trabajo en la ayuda de comunidades a procurar fondos para apoyar esfuerzos de autorizar a familias ya que se esfuerzan por criar a sus niños para ser individuos sanos, cultos, y confidentes.

MUSE - Montbello Urban Spectrum Edition - September/October 2016



In its 50 years of existence, residents, and a growing regional Montbello has provided a stable, economy all point towards a bright comfortable existence for individuals future for Montbello. With the right and families of all cultures and sociocombination of long-term planning, economic levels. Talk to residents organized community efforts, and dediabout the community and you will cated capital investment, Montbello hear words such as pride, diversity, can be revitalized to ensure that its and dignity—words that have been future is as proud as its past. displayed on the signs that mark the neighborhood boundaries for five A Snapshot of decades. Montbello Residents But if you were to trust only what you hear on the news, you would Montbello is in a time of transition receive a completely different view of as its housing stock ages and its Montbello, which at close to 34,000 demographics shift. Even as it swells in residents is Denver’s largest neighborpopulation and becomes more conhood. Aldus Huxley said, “There are nected to the metropolitan fabric things known and there are things than ever before, Montbello is unknown, and in between are the encountering a crisis of disinvestment, doors of perception.” Those perceplacking the commercial and cultural tions are powerful and often hold hubs necessary for a complete comwithin the power to define and sway munity. Continued negative percepin matters that often influence the tions of Montbello as well as its autoMembers of the Montbello Organizing Committee's resident-led Retail and Economic well-being of neighbors. mobile-oriented geography further One example of the impact of per- Development Task Team are pursuing grocers and diverse models of full service grocery stores compound these challenges. ception is Montbello’s food desert sta- including multi-storied stores and more familiar single floor stores. Nevertheless, Montbello’s current tus: there are currently no full service situation offers many opportunities for grocery stores in Montbello. Several equitable and sustainable prosperity. recent attempts to encourage develThe community’s prime location opment of grocers in the neighborbetween downtown and DIA, its hood have been met with statements abundance of young and diverse resiof disinterest from a few chains. dents, and a growing regional econoRepresentatives of those chains my all point towards a bright future for specifically noted the fear of high Montbello. With the right combination crime rates and residents’ low levels of long-term planning, organized of education. community efforts, and dedicated The Montbello Organizing capital investment, Montbello can be Committee (MOC) recognized this as revitalized to ensure that its future is as an urgent issue and began meeting proud as its past. with residents and community organiAs of 2014, Montbello was estimatzations to address the issue. The work has grown to encompass a parted to house 33,282 individuals living in 11,725 households. Average nership with the Denver Office of Economic Development and the household sizes in Montbello are just under four people per houseMayor. To that end, MOC contracted with JVA and Associates to conhold–significantly larger than the Denver average of 2.6. This high houseduct a market scan of Montbello—a quantitative and qualitative analyhold size means that despite its large, suburban-style lots, Montbello is sis which details spending patterns, establishes a snapshot of the neighamong the most densely populated of Denver’s edge communities. borhood, and provides best-practice recommendations for success. Owner-occupied housing in Montbello is estimated at 62 percent, a Following are a few highlights from the report. The full report is available higher figure than Denver County as a whole, which stands at 50 perat cent. The median home value in Montbello is $185,757 and the average value of owner occupied houses is $202,139. Compared to Denver as whole, Montbello is younger and more Overview diverse, with nearly half the population under 25 years of age and large Montbello is in a time of transition as its housing stock ages and its populations of White, Black, and Latino residents (see figures 6 and 7). It demographics shift. Even as it swells in population and becomes more is also significantly less educated: while 49 percent of Denver residents connected to the metropolitan fabric than ever before, Montbello is have a college degree, nearly two-thirds of Montbello’s adult populaencountering a crisis of disinvestment, lacking the commercial and cultion has no college experience. This employment mix translates into a tural hubs necessary for a complete community. Continued negative healthy balance of working- and middle-class income levels in the comperceptions of Montbello as well as its automobile-oriented geography munity, with a median household income of $46,793. further compound these challenges. Montbello’s large lots, extensive park system, and access to open Nevertheless, Montbello’s current situation offers many opportunities space were repeatedly cited as community assets. Despite the afore for equitable and sustainable prosperity. The community’s prime locaContinued on next page tion between downtown and DIA, its abundance of young and diverse MUSE - Montbello Urban Spectrum Edition - September/October 2016


Montbello: Denver’s Largest Neighborhood

Continued from previous page mentioned challenges with cross-cultural integration, many interviewees mentioned Montbello’s diversity as one of its biggest assets. Though many acknowledged Montbello’s reputation for crime, most interviewees reported feeling completely safe in their community. This sense of safety is backed up by Denver’s crime statistics: Montbello’s most recent crime rate is 8.9 per 1000 residents, lower than crime rates in more affluent communities such as Cherry Creek, Highland, and Stapleton.

Future Trends

Looking forward to the next ten years, Montbello is well positioned to benefit from Denver’s continued growth. The neighborhood sits squarely in the middle of Denver’s so-called “corridor of opportunity” from Brighton Boulevard to DIA, which is a primary focus of Mayor Hancock’s administration. According to the Mayor’s Office, the next three decades are expected to bring 40,000 new jobs to the corridor, with a cumulative economic impact of $2.6 billion. Despite the cuts to bus service due to the recent opening of the A-line commuter train, the longterm effect of this mass-transit line is likely to be positive, integrating Denver’s Far Northeast more closely with the rest of the city.

September 2016 September 10

10 a.m. to Noon Office Hours with Councilwoman Stacie Gilmore Green Valley Ranch Library For more information (720) 337-7711

Montbello: A Food Desert

September 23

Since the Safeway on Chambers Road closed several years ago, the community has lacked a full-service grocery store. While the Walmart Neighborhood Market on Chambers and 48th is nearly the size of a fullservice market and offers many basic staples, multiple interviewees expressed displeasure for shopping there, citing issues with inventory, adequate staffing, security, and store cleanliness. As a result, most of the residents interviewed perform their food shopping outside the neighborhood, driving to full-service outlets in Green Valley Ranch, Northfield, Commerce City or even farther to purchase their groceries. For individuals who are transit-dependent, it is not so easy to access healthy food options.

50 Years of Diversity: Recognizing Montbello's Past, Present and Future Leaders Steps To Success Community Awards For more information call (303) 735-3655

September 24

9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Montbello 50 Celebration Montbello Recreation Center For more information contact Chris Martinez at (720) 251-6525

September 29

10 a.m. to Noon Office Hours with Councilwoman Stacie Gilmore Arie P. Taylor Building Council District 11 Office For more information call (720) 337-7711

The Demand Exists

The King Soopers on Green Valley Ranch Boulevard and Tower Road, which, according to Denver’s Office of Economic Development, is the busiest King Soopers in the state of Colorado, serves as the only full-service grocer for both the Montbello and Green Valley Ranch communities (more than 60,000 residents combined). Why have other grocery stores neglected what appears to be a clear business opportunity? It may be because the Montbello/Green Valley Ranch community currently lacks several of the demographic characteristics that retailers assume are necessary for a successful operation. JVA staff calculated that Montbello and Green Valley Ranch residents are spending nearly $115 million in groceries annually. With approximately $66 million of that demand met within the neighborhood — primarily through the existing King Soopers and Walmart Neighborhood Market — there remains a “leakage” of over $47 million in grocery spending that occurs outside the community. At standard annual grocery sales of $512 per square foot, this leakage represents approximately 93,000 square feet of unmet retail demand¬¬ — significantly larger than most new grocery stores. Once 5-year projections for future growth are taken into account, the potential demand becomes even more pronounced — total grocery demand is anticipated to grow by over $30,000,000, representing an additional 61,345 feet of grocery demand. In May 2016, Denver’s Office of Economic Development committed $750,000 in financing in addition to its own commitment of a $250,000 grant to attract a full service grocer to alleviate the crisis. The report details several recommendations to address increase access to health food options in the interim. The food desert issue is but one of the ways that residents are working together to find solutions to improve the quality of life for all who live in Montbello.

October 2016 October 1

11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Annual Fall Festival – Veg Out Montbello! United Church of Montbello For more information contact Mary Davis at

October 8

9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Montbello Economic Summit and Resource Fair. For more information call John Hill (720) 913-1611

October 22

10 a.m. to - Noon Office Hours with Councilwoman Stacie Gilmore Green Valley Ranch Library For more information call (720) 337-7711

October 27

10 a.m. to Noon Office Hours with Councilwoman Stacie Gilmore Arie P. Taylor Building Council District 11 Office. For more information call (720) 337-7711

If you have a Save The Date activity to be listed in the November/October issue of MUSE, send details to

Editor’s note: If you want to get involved, call MOC Chair Angelle Fouther at 303868-1796 or email

MUSE - Montbello Urban Spectrum Edition - September/October 2016



Doing Business In Montbello: Spotlight On Mailbox Express C

By Donna Garnett

ustomer Service – many businesses use the term, but at Montbello’s Mailbox Express, owner Deborah Sanders epitomizes the term. On a busy Saturday morning, Deborah gives her undivided attention to customers one at a time while assuring the waiting customer that she will be right with them in a minute or two. It isn’t unusual for customers to be greeted by their first name and many have been coming here over the years since 1995 when Deborah and her husband, Oliver, opened their first store in the community. The couple selected Montbello because there was not a comparable mailing or shipping business in the community at the time. Eventually opening three stores, one in Montbello, one in Green Valley Ranch, and one on Colfax Avenue, Deborah says that she and her husband wanted to do more than just open a store. They wanted to provide a service that was needed in the community. To that end, she and Oliver quickly expanded their business to include more than mailing and shipping by including pagers and cell phones as part of their product menu and later added truck rentals. As times changed and pagers gave way to smart phones, they dropped those services. After ten years of renting moving trucks to residents, a newer, bigger corporate U-Haul rental store located at I-70, Chambers usurped the market, and they eventually dropped the truck rental business for a few years. Over the years, Deborah has seen many changes in the community. The demographics have transformed significantly and the recession of 2008 and subsequent foreclosures was catastrophic to many families. “As many people lost their jobs and their homes, we lost some of our long-time customers.” Ultimately, the Sanders closed two of their stores and adjusted the services they provided. However, overall, they have continued to do the work they love. Today, customers can still get their business and personal mail, ship to their customers and family members, rent a Budget moving truck, get keys made, have documents notarized, print business cards, or buy tickets to concerts and other cultural events. And if you get to the store early enough, you might even be able to pick up a dozen fresh eggs laid by Deborah’s chickens that she keeps at her home. “We love our customers, they are like our family. We want to be good neighbors and to make this community even better,” Deborah says. As if on cue, a regular customer comes in to talk to Deborah about sponsoring a community event in September. The customer offers unsolicited comments to this reporter, noting that Deborah and Oliver have good hearts and they not only provide support to the community through the business, but they give of their own personal resources to help a child or family in need. These are the kind of businesses we need more of in Montbello – service-oriented, civic-minded, and a real commitment to customer service.


Empowering families with resources to Aid in restoration with a fresh new perspective on life

•A Support Group •Open Forum •Resource Referrals •Fellowship with other families

For more information and support group time, call:

Dianne Cooks or Michael Hope at (720) 767–5901 or email: Francella Baker at f.a.v.a57@hotmail .com

4840 N. Chambers Road, Unit A Denver, 80239

“Aggressively seeks to mend the hurting hearts of families affected by a violent act”

Editor’s note: Mailbox Express is located at 4860 Chambers Road. Hours are Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. For more information, call 303-375-1683. MUSE - Montbello Urban Spectrum Edition - September/October 2016




Montbello Celebrate

By Donna

hris Martinez, long-time resident of Montbello and chair of the Montbello 50th Celebration, is downright exuberant as he talks about the “big event” planned for Sept. 23 and 24. “Planning for Montbello’s 50th started over a year ago,” said Chris as he sips iced tea at the local Starbucks in his favorite community. “An amazing group of people started meeting once a month, then twice month, and now every week to finalize the plans and work out all the logistics,” he proudly states. “We are all passionate about this celebration and Montbello.” The two-day celebration will kick off Friday, Sept. 23 at a community awards night to recognize past, present and future leaders in the Montbello neighborhood. The awards event is sponsored by Steps to Success , a youth violence prevention program based in Montbello, and the Montbello Organizing Committee. Nominations of an adult or youth that lives, works or positively influences life in Montbello were received from the community in August. Festival events on Saturday, Sept. 24 will begin with a parade that starts at 9 a.m. at the Montbello Campus at Crown Boulevard and 51st Ave. and proceeds through the neighborhood to the Montbello Recreation Center at Chambers and 53rd Ave. The Montbello Warrior Cheerleaders and the Montbello Drumline will be featured in the parade along with participants from other neighborhood schools, local service organizations, and clubs. Once the parade reaches the recreation center, the real fun begins. Starting at 10:30 a.m. and continuing until 8 p.m., fairgoers can enjoy food, fun, education, and physical activity. The Montbello Boys and Girls Club will offer carnival games for kids of all ages. Local chefs will be barbequing hot dogs and hamburgers that will be free until they run out and healthy living demonstrations will include preparing fresh vegetables and cooking with kids. The whole family can participate in Zumba and other physical activities. There will be a Kids Zone, vendors selling their wares, and probably a few political candidates hoping to roundup a few votes before the November election. Nonprofits will have tables with educational materials designed to emphasize their mission. Colorado Black Arts Movement will be signing up photographers, young and old, to participate in a community-wide initiative to capture “My Montbello/SHOTS” through the eyes of Monbelloans. Children’s Farms of America and other local food growers will be there with fresh produce to sell. And if that is not enough, there will be two stages of entertainment – a youth stage and the main stage. The young festival attendees will enjoy a magic show with Ronald McDonald; a puppet show with Joe Gandelman; Island, praise, African and hip hop dancers, and a Christian rapper. The main stage featuring some of Denver’s best local entertainment will include Denver’s First Lady, Mary Louise Lee and her very talented band, kicks off with the JLT Praise dancers and

50 Years of Diversity:

Recognizing Montbello’s Past, Present, and Future Leaders

Join Steps to Success and the Montbello Organizing Committee as we celebrate those who have positively impacted life in the Montbello community in honor of Montbello’s 50th Anniversary!

Friday, September 23 from 6 to 8 pm Crowne Plaza Denver 15500 E. 40th Avenue, Denver 80239 Awards Descriptions:

•Past Leader: This award acknowledges the Montbello foremothers and forefathers who blazed trails to create the foundation of this diverse and strong community and on whose shoulders we stand as we strive towards increased community empowerment.

•Present Leader: This award acknowledges those that are currently rooted in the work of uplifting and influencing Montbello community change.

•Future Leader: This award acknowledges young or emerging leaders who are beginning to sow the seeds of change in the Montbello community.

Interested in more information about Steps to Success or the Montbello Organizing Committee? Please visit our websites: or Have a question about the event? Please email

MUSE - Montbello Urban Spectrum Edition - September/October 2016


es 50th Anniversary

a Garnett

Semblanzas de Mexico. Smooth jazz guitarist Gregory Goodloe who assisted the entertainment committee, will perform with his Light Years Ahead Band. Other performers include rock and roll band Of Sound Mynd, reggae singer Jah Goatfish and Friends with a tribute to Bob Marley, jazz vocalist Linda Theus-Lee and Heartstrings who will do a tribute to Billy Holliday and Nina Simone. And the renowned Freddie Rodriguez Band will be performing popular jazz and Latino tunes. Shane Franklin of SFI and the Crew will be performing, in between acts several times on the main stage, his newest hip-hop hit and tap dancing. Veteran journalist and documentary filmmaker Tamara Banks will emcee the day’s events. Also, a 50th Year Anniversary souvenir booklet, highlighting Montbello’s history, as well as, honoring some of the people who have played and who continue to play a role in shaping the Montbello Community, will be available for purchase. There is still more time if you want to know more or to get involved in the planning and execution of the 50th Anniversary Celebration. Contact Chris Martinez, his excitement is contagious.

Editor’s note: For more information or to become a sponsor, contact Chris Martinez at 720-251-6525 or email

Entertainment Schedule (Times Subject to change)

10:30 AM Main Stage – Welcome Remarks JLThompson Praise Dancers 11:00 – 11:30 Semblanzas de Mexico Flamenco Dancers 11:30 – 11:45 Ronald McDonald – Magic Show 11:45 – 12:00 Dare to Believe – Praise Dancers 12:00 – 12:45 Of Sound Mynd – Rock and Roll 12:45 – 1:00 H.E.A.T Dancers 1:00 – 1:15 EVQ Bomb Squad 1:15 – 2:00 Freddie Rodriguez Jr. and Sr. Jazz, Salsa, Mamba, Merengue 2:00 – 2:30 Mile High Dolls & B Boys African & Hip Hop Dance 2:30 – 3:15 Linda and Heartstrings – Jazz/Standards (Nina Simone/Billy Holiday Tribute) 3:15 – 3:30 No Mo’ Violence Latin Dance & Hip Hop Dance 3:30 – 3:45 J Baby – Christian Rapper 3:45 – 4:30 Goatfish & Friends – Reggae (Tribute to Bob Marley) 4:30 – 5:00 Pacific Islands Hula Dance 5:30 – 6:00 Dare to Believe - Praise Dancers 4:45 – 6:15 Mary Louise Lee Band – R&B and Blues 6:30 – 7:30 Gregory Goodloe and the Light Years Ahead Band MUSE - Montbello Urban Spectrum Edition - September/October 2016



Family, Safety and School, Important to These MontbelloResidents T

Julia Burciaga

By Donna Garnett

Photos by Khadija Haynes

he MUSE is intended to be a newspaper for and by the people of Montbello. To that end, each issue will share the perspectives of neighbors from all walks of life. This first issue is focused on Montbello turning 50 and the voices heard in this column reflect the memories, opinions, and views of people who have lived here for decades as well as those of “newcomers” to the neighborhood. The interviews took place at coffee shops, a church, a business, and in individual’s homes. Each person responded to virtually the same questions. In many regards, respondents were united in what they had to say. Jean and Larry Noah

observations reflect a story confirmed by statistics. “Montbello started out as mostly White, then mostly Black, and now mostly Latino,” he noted. Chris Martinez has lived in Montbello for 40 years. He shared that the diversity of the community is one of the things he values the most about living here. It is the racial and ethnic diversity, but it is also the economic diversity that he appreciates. “You have millionaires, those in the middle, and those living on assistance.” The challenge he said, “Is how we rise to the occasion – knowing your neighbor rather than ignoring them, incorporating newcomers into the community.” Catalina Alaniz has lived in Montbello for seven years. She admits that when she first moved to the neighborhood, she had deep concerns about safety but those disappeared as she got to know people. She was nervous about sending her daughter (now a graduate and class valedictorian of P.U.S.H Academy) to the high school. “My daughter Chris and Terry Martinez

For instance, all moved to the community here for the same reason – homes were affordable at the time they purchased their house. Jean and Larry Noah bought their first house in Montbello in 1970 right after they married. They moved here to be closer to family and because they were able to get in on a government housing program that allowed them to make a small down payment. The monthly mortgage payments started small and grew as their incomes increased. Husband and wife are both retired but do not have plans to move anytime soon. After all, they remarked, “we can’t afford to live anywhere else.” Besides, they really like their neighborhood – a sentiment shared by all who were interviewed. To a person, all agreed that Montbello has a small town feeling where people actually know your name and neighbors have each other’s backs. Folks do not agree with the outsider’s view that Montbello is a ghetto and is riddled with crime. “I am offended by the negative euphemisms about Montbello,” said Deborah Sanders (business owner in Montbello for 21 years). “We are not a ghetto!” In that same vein, Julia Burciaga, a 25 year resident of the community said, “The neighborhood is peaceful. I can walk to the park with my dogs and I feel safe. I moved here from another community in Denver where there was so much traffic congestion and noise. I like it here much better.” Longtime residents have seen many changes over the years. Most notable among those changes is the racial makeup. Larry Noah’s

MUSE - Montbello Urban Spectrum Edition - September/October 2016



started to middle school and made friends. I learned that they were great kids and those were the kids she transitioned to high school with.” Catalina’s two younger children now attend Academy 360 where their educational and social needs are being met in healthy and accepting ways. Certainly, people expressed concerns about things that need to happen. Every single person interviewed expressed the desperate need for a “real grocery store.” All travel out of the neighborhood to shop for food both to have better and healthier choices for fresh produce and meat and to accommodate their special dietary needs. The list is long in terms of concerns that should be addressed and the ideas for how to make Montbello better. For example, to be a better community, Montbello needs: •improvements to the schools, start with reinstating Montbello High School as a unifying institution in the community, •outreach mental health services and other health care services, •more retail, especially grocery stores and clothing stores, Catalina Alaniz •resources for senior citizens in the community, especially for those who only speak Spanish, •wholesome entertainment (think movie theater) and job opportunities for youth, •bike lanes and bike/pedestrian paths that are safe and connect Montbello to other nearby communities, •beautiful and inviting entrances and signs to the community (i.e. do something about the entrance from I-70 and Peoria), •repairs to sidewalks and bus stops,

•nice, reasonably priced restaurants that reflect the diversity of the people who live here, •affordable housing – rentals, senior housing, single family homes, •active and involved citizens who work to make the community better, •clean up and maintain the “ditches” that run down the median of several streets, •widen and maintain 56th Avenue. The people who were interviewed had strong opinions about the role that the City and the Mayor should play in Montbello’s immediate future. There is genuine fear that the changes they hear about may push them out of this community they so love. Only a few interviewees were knowledgeable about current efforts and most did not know how to be involved in making changes happen. They did not know that Mayor Hancock and members of his Cabinet have participated in three community meetings in Montbello in the last year. They did not know that Councilwoman Stacie Gilmore has an open door policy and that she holds meetings regularly for residents to dialogue about their concerns about and wishes for Montbello. They did not know that organizations like Montbello Organizing Committee are comprised of residents actively engaged in ensuring that Montbello is not left behind as big decisions and big money directed at this “city within a city” are being made. In other words, most did not know how to make their voice heard. Hopefully, they and their neighbors will find a conduit where their voices are heard, at least in part, through this small community newspaper.

MUSE - Montbello Urban Spectrum Edition - September/October 2016


Montbello Gets National Attention

The Kresge Foundation, located in Detroit, Michigan, recently announced that the Montbello Organizing Committee (MOC) – on behalf of the Montbello community – has been selected as one of 26 communities across the country to receive a community development planning grant. MOC’s proposal was one of 26 selected from over 500 proposals submitted to the Foundation. Montbello Organizing Committee is dedicated to improving key issues within the community through resident leadership and action. Among the challenges MOC has been working to improve is Montbello’s status as a “food desert.” Dubbed “FreshLo” – for “Fresh, Local & Equitable: Food as a Creative Platform for Neighborhood Revitalization” – this national initiative is an unprecedented approach to strengthening neighborhood economic vitality, cultural expression and health in underserved communities. “Throughout history, food has been inextricably tied to cultural expression, social cohesion, entrepreneurship, and health,” said Stacey Barbas, senior program officer with Kresge’s Health Program. Our nation is now experiencing a transformation of how we eat, produce, and distribute our food that reinvigorates these themes and revitalizes neighborhoods. The value of local and regional food sales nationally is estimated now at nearly $12 billion, a 134 percent increase since 2008. More consumers are moving away from processed and packaged foods to fresh and local. This change is being driven by

multiple factors, from health, to environment and conservation, economics, and in many ways, a desire to rediscover a sense of place. The rapid growth of farmers’ markets and community-supported agriculture across the country is evidence of this shift. The FreshLo planning grant has enabled MOC and its community partners to conduct a market scan to have a better understanding of the food spending habits and preferences of residents and identify incentives that might motivate retail grocers to locate a full-scale grocery store in Montbello. The planning grant will also make it possible for The Urban Farm at the United Church of Montbello (4879 Crown Boulevard) to expand production of fresh vegetables to be distributed throughout more of the neighborhood. Over the planning year, The Farm will pilot intergenerational gardening, cooking classes and school-based food programs. MOC will work with partners, Colorado Black Arts Movement, Denver Office of Economic Development, Academy 360, Steps to Success, local schools and youth groups, and others to explore the feasibility of establishing a “cultural hub” where community artisans, food purveyors, and entrepreneurs can gather.  Photo by Khadija Haynes

Editor’s note: MOC will host a FreshLo symposium in late fall where residents and others can participate in the learning and planning. For more information contact Donna Garnett at

My Montbello/SHOTS – As Seen Through The Eyes Of…

As part of the Kresge Foundation’s 2016 FreshLo grant to the Montbello Organizing Committee, and in celebration of Montbello’s 50th Anniversary, Colorado Black Arts Movement (CBAM) will unfold “My Montbello,” a series of artistic and cultural projects that highlight the best of the Montbello neighborhood. The grant was awarded to use creativity to promote cultural heritage, animate public and private spaces, rejuvenate structures and streetscapes, improve local business viability and public safety, and bring diverse people together. CBAM’s initial project will be “My Montbello/SHOTS,” a photographic essay of Montbello as seen through the eyes of Montbelloans. During the Montbello 50th celebration, Montbello residents of all ages will have an opportunity to enter a drawing to be selected to participate in a nine-month photography project. Participants don’t need any prior experience – just a whopping dose of enthusiasm! During this time, ‘shooters’ will be partnered with a professional photographer and will photographically record their day-to-day life in the Montbello neighborhood. The first phase of “My Montbello/Shots” will culminate in a gallery showing of pieces produced by the neighborhood photographers. Throughout the year, the Colorado Black Arts Movement will work with residents, business owners, students, and workers in Montbello to produce other art and cultural projects as part of the “My Montbello” project. Please look for Colorado Black Arts Movement volunteers at the Montbello 50 Celebration on September 24. For more information, contact CBAM via our Facebook page at Colorado Black Arts Movement - Facebook. MUSE - Montbello Urban Spectrum Edition - September/October 2016



Teen Advises to Clean Up After Your Mess

Meet Breanna “Bre” Ray, a 19 year old graduate from Denver School of Science and Technology (DSST) in Green Valley Ranch. She is the daughter of Kim and Louis Ray of Montbello. Currently, Bre is a sophomore at Johnson and Wales University where she dreams of finishing her culinary arts degree and opening her own restaurant. No doubt that this young woman will accomplish her dream and more. She is motivated, smart, and good-hearted. During high school she served on Montbello Boys and Girls Club Youth Advisory Board. The youth board had the responsibility for making small grants to groups applying for financial support for a project. Bre said, “It was really fun giving away money. The hardest part was having to say no to a group.” Bre was also a member of the Keystone Club in Boys and Girls Club. This club is service oriented and as such, she helped build houses for Habitat for Humanity and helped with Boys and Girls Club annual chili cook-off. Last year, Breanna and her younger brother, Louis, were recognized for their leadership and service and were treated to a once in a lifetime experience. They got to go to California to see the Broncos play (and win) in the Superbowl. Bre was also involved in Steps to Success during high school and still helps out. Steps to Success honored her last year for her efforts at school, home, and community. This summer, she has been volunteering at a garden camp at United Church of Montbello with kids five to 13 years of age. Clearly, this young lady has been on the move making a positive difference in her community. When asked what advice she would give to other youth about being a good citizen, she remarked, “Remember, this is your home, so don’t leave a mess for someone else to cleanup.” Good advice for all of us.

with Goatfish & Friends Saturday, September 24 Doors open at 8 P.M. Show at 9 P.M.


New Climax Lounge • 2217 Welton St. Denver To RSVP: 303-292-5483

Tickets $12 advance, $15 at the door For Tix: 720-849-4197

MUSE - Montbello Urban Spectrum Edition - September/October 2016


Nonprofits Making a Difference in Montbello



teps to Success is a collaborative youth violence prevention initiative focused on youth in Denver’s Montbello neighborhood. The program kicked off in February 2012 with numerous community, city, and state leaders along with Montbello residents and others passionate about preventing youth violence. The partners were optimistic about creating a community-driven plan that would reduce youth violence while promoting healthy youth development. Fortunately, those initial hopes and dreams have been met and exceeded, and now Steps to Success initiative is aiming even higher.

University researchers worked with a committee of stakeholders to understand the data and identify the top risk and protective factors impacting the community. A Community Action Plan was developed and evidence-based programs matching the community needs were chosen for implementation. Some of the programming was funded by Steps to Success while additional funding was leveraged from partners and other stakeholders. Since the Community Action Plan was established in the spring of 2013, Steps to Success has impacted thousands of youth and hundreds of families through funded Louis Ray; Breanna Ray; Shelli Brown, Site Manager for Steps To Success; and Josiahiya Tolson programs such as Promoting Alternative Steps to Success — Past Thinking Strategies, Strengthening Families Steps to Success began as a community/university partnership 10-14 Program, and Positive Family Support. Hosted in a variety of school between Montbello, the Center for the Study and Prevention of and church settings in Montbello, these programs have provided both Violence at the University of Colorado Boulder and the University Of prevention and intervention supports. Programs that have been estabColorado School Of Medicine with funding from the Centers for Disease lished by other community partners include the Incredible Years and Control and Prevention (CDC). The vision statement “A self-empowered Multisystemic Family Therapy. Steps to Success has also offered the use community that we are proud of” set a solid foundation for community of the Violence, Injury, Protection, and Risk Screening Tool (VIPRS) in engagement and decision making that has been the driving force of local health clinics. Additionally, a positive recognition campaign was this work. launched and has led to multiple events to honor hundreds of The first step involved collecting baseline data through an extensive Montbello’s youth and adult community members. community survey with youth ages 10 to 17 and their parents. This information was paired with school climate surveys completed in local Steps to Success’ Present schools and official crime statistics to provide a community profile. Although, the initial CDC funding is coming to an end this fall, partners are excited about sustaining and growing Steps to Success programs and infrastructure. Steps to Success has recently submitted an application for incorporation as a 501 c 3 in order to sustain its infrastructure and specific programs after the 5-year CDC award is completed. Additionally, Steps to Success is finishing up its follow-up data collection in several schools and in the community. This data will help to demonstrate the impact of Steps to Success programming and community engagement on youth violence, problem behaviors and positive youth development. Steps to Success is also awaiting notification from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention about additional funding during their next grant cycle. Steps to Success’ Future The future of Steps to Success depends, in part, on you! Steps to Success is always looking to engage new partners and there are plenty of ways community members can learn about our work and next steps. Consider attending one of the monthly Community Board meetings, held the 4th Tuesday of the month in Montbello or participating in one of many community events throughout the year, including the upcoming Montbello 50th Anniversary celebration where we will be cohosting an awards night with the Montbello Organizing Committee on Friday, Sept. 23. Finally, Steps to Success encourages all who are reading this to commit to support healthy youth development in their own way and take a moment out of their day to positively encourage a young person.

Editor’s note: For additional information, visit or contact Shelli Brown, Community Site Manager at 303-735-3655. Shelli Brown has been working with and for youth in a variety of settings for twenty years. She serves as the Community Site Manager for Montbello’s Steps to Success and is a Licensed Professional Counselor. She volunteers with several organizations to improve the community and the lives of those who live in the neighborhood.

MUSE - Montbello Urban Spectrum Edition - September/October 2016


JOHN TOMS: Art, Change and Creativity in Montbello

By James Ainsworth

Montbello resident John Toms is highly creative and a prolific artist. His artwork has been sold in many art galleries and festivals across the country and in cities including New York, Chicago, Atlanta, Los Angeles and of course, Denver. Toms has lived in Montebello for more than 40 years when his parents moved there in 1974, from Five Points where he grew up, when he was a junior in high school. But Montbello was quite different in the 70s. “Our house was the last house on the block for years,” Toms said of his family home on Blackhawk St. “You could see Crown Blvd. and Tower Road. from our balcony. I watched Montbello get built.” In the decades since he first came to Montbello, the community has rapidly grown in continuous phases of construction and expansion, with new houses and developments continually springing up around the Toms family’s beautiful home. And with the regional development of communities like Green Valley Ranch and the Denver International Airport, Montbello lost its quiet pastoral identity of being a township on the northeastern frontier of Denver.

Create and Sip Classes

he’s my son. We take pride in our creativity, and it’s personal.” September of 2015 also brought new changes, as the Toms began hosting their new “Create and Sip” painting classes. In class sizes ranging from 3 or 4 to 30 or more, they have been on a mission to bring the joy and beauty of artistic self-expression to people of all ages and backgrounds. The father and son duo have been offering regular classes on Saturday afternoons at the Kasbah nightclub in Centennial, and occasionally at private homes, restaurants and other locations. Toms says that his Paint and Sip is the only class being offered by people of color in the Denver metropolitan area. The Toms 3-D Art Paint and Sip also provides students with the opportunity to personalize their paintings by putting them on coffee cups and T-shirts. In a recent class, one woman came with her mother and daughter, and after she finished her painting of a sunflower, she put the image on a coffee mug and gave it to her grandmother. Toms would love to see more people discover his Paint and Sip classes, especially when parents can bring both children and grandparents to the event. “It’s basically a place where your dreams are respected and they’re chased. The average individual wants to be creative on some level,” Toms explains. “At some point in time in their life, when they were younger or older – they want to paint or draw or do something artistic. So it’s a release. It’s something different. “Through our classes a lot of people realize they have creativity within them when they didn’t think they had it in them at all. That can be a life-changing experience.” Toms feels very strongly about bringing his painting classes to children. He says that art is disappearing from public school classrooms due to budget constraints, and there is a huge societal tradeoff that is being lost in the bureaucratic shuffle. “They don’t have art in the schools anymore. By being creative, that’s actually a springboard for the kids and a brick of knowledge for the grown folks because it gives you another avenue to read where the children are, because they can be expressive,” Toms says, as his voice becomes more emotional and animated. “Children can show you where they are through their art. If you pay attention, you can see a lot of things that are on their minds and what they’re going through in their head, by what they’re creating.” “Art has great possibility of changing an individual’s spirit and selfesteem. When your self-esteem and your spirit are at a comfortable level you can accomplish a whole lot of things.” Montbello may have changed over the years, but one thing for sure is, Toms’ love for the arts and his committment to bring ‘the beauty of art” to Montbello has not.

But despite these changes, Toms says he wouldn’t want to live anywhere else. “I love Montbello – I think it’s great, even with the new changes,” Toms said, with genuine satisfaction and contentment. “I don’t have any problem with it all.” Toms’ comfortable two story home is an artist’s sanctuary overflowing with paintings, sculptures, wall-hangings and fascinating structures of all kinds of designs and shapes. His backyard is an intricate maze of pathways, circular stone fixtures, flower pots and garden boxes, interspersed with grass and an amazing array of cacti and desert plants. “My garden is a collaboration between me, God and nature,” he says with a smile. While Toms is essentially a fine artist by nature and temperament, his self-expression is naturally complemented by his son, Dante Toms, who is often in his father’s home, working with silk screens and co-creating with his father’s work. Dante has helped his father move his art into new dimensions by transferring some of his imagery into digital computer files that he uses to make T-shirts, coffee mugs, hoodies, sweatshirts and artistic cards and prints. His oldest son Brian also helps with the merchandising production and marketing. “They’re taking my sundial mindset into the digital world!” says Toms, adding that his son Dante is a superb artist in his own right. “It’s funny because we’re doing a lot of logos and book covers, children’s books. Dante is pretty amazing by himself, and I’m not just saying this because

Editor’s note: For more information on John Toms Art visit or to book a Create and Sip event, call 720-263-0491. James Ainsworth is a freelance writer in Denver, and he can be reached through his web site at

MUSE - Montbello Urban Spectrum Edition - September/October 2016


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MUSE - Montbello Urban Spectrum Edition - September/October 2016


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MUSE September/October 2016 Issue  

The Montbello Urban Spectrum Edition (MUSE) is proud to announce its first bi-monthly publication produced and published by the Denver Urban...

MUSE September/October 2016 Issue  

The Montbello Urban Spectrum Edition (MUSE) is proud to announce its first bi-monthly publication produced and published by the Denver Urban...