BY MATT SALIS
We slather sunscreen on our kids and make them wear helmets when they ride their bikes. We limit their screen time, make sure they get exercise and feed them a balanced diet. We monitor what they read and watch, and we try to set good examples for them to follow. Children are very impressionable. The things they see and do when they are young will leave lasting impressions and help set the course for their futures.
What if your children witnessed a murder on your own block? What if violence that led to homicide was pervasive in your neighborhood? What if you feared for your children’s lives? You would do something about it, wouldn’t you? You would flee to a safer place to live no matter the expense or upheaval, wouldn’t you?
Jim and Lisa fled their St. Louis neighborhood this past summer in search of a safer place to live after their four kids witnessed a murder on their street. It was not a random act of violence – the danger was ever present and they feared for the lives of their children. Jim and Lisa brought their young family to Denver. Despite duel incomes (they both found jobs quickly upon arrival in Denver), the tight and expensive Denver housing market made it impossible for them to find a home for their family. They fluctuated between sleeping in the family car and motels that cost as much as $475 per week.
Jim and Lisa are in search of safety for their family. They aren’t drug addicts or criminals. They haven’t been reduced to begging on the side of the road. They have jobs and work hard. Still, they are homeless. They can’t go back to the St. Louis neighborhood they fled in search of safety. They won’t go back. Jim, Lisa and their impressionable young children need our help. Their very survival depends on it.
Thankfully for Jim, Lisa and their four kids, there is a little known and under-funded program within Denver Public School called the Homeless Education Network that exists for the sole purpose of helping families like theirs. Longtime HEN program manager Anna Theisen and her team of wonderful, loving and caring professionals are on a mission to help families with kids enrolled in the school district end the cycle of homelessness and find a stable life, work and education environment.
For the twelfth consecutive year, the DPS Homeless Education Network is teaming-up with the Great Harvest Bread Co. of Denver for the Whole Grains for Growing Brains fundraiser to support Jim & Lisa and the many other DPS families dealing with homelessness. Here’s how it works:
• Now through November 18th, you and your neighbors buy bread for the Whole Grains for Growing Brains fundraiser.
• 100% of sales dollars (not just profit – every penny taken in) is donated to the DPS Homeless Education Network.
• On Saturday, November 18th, the Denver South High School Boy’s Soccer Team will bake the bread you purchased.
• Anna and The Homeless Education Network team will deliver the donated bread to Denver homeless shelters where DPS students reside.
• Make your Whole Grains for Growing Brains fundraiser donations at the Great Harvest Bread Co. of Denver at 765 South Colorado Boulevard, Denver, 80246, Monday – Friday 6am-3pm, Saturday 8am-3pm.
• You can call-in your donation at 303-778-8877.
Your support of this cause is a double donation. The bread you purchase is donated to homeless Denver Public Schools students. The money you spend to buy that bread is donated – every bit of it – to the DPS Homeless Education Network. Here is the cool part. There is no upper limit on the bread or dollars donated. If the fundraiser is so successful that more bread is sold than the Denver South High School Boy’s Soccer Team can bake on one day – or more bread is sold than the Denver area homeless shelters can use at one time – the Great Harvest Bread Co. of Denver will continue to bake the donation bread for the weeks and month following the event and send it home from school with homeless students and those in financial need. All of the bread purchased through Whole Grains for Growing Brains will be baked to feed the kids in our school district who need it the most.
This is the twelfth year of this partnership and this fundraiser. There are a lot moving parts, and the details can be overwhelming for someone new to Whole Grains for Growing Brains. There is generous involvement from an under-funded DPS program, a soccer team and a neighborhood bakery. Promotional support comes from a bunch of area schools, churches, businesses and a really cool neighborhood magazine. You don’t need to get in the weeds with us and understand all the details that took over a decade to develop. If you want to help, here’s all you need to do.
The folks at Great Harvest and DPS HEN will take care of the rest. The bread you buy AND the money you use to buy it will all – 100%, no administrative fees or expenses deducted, every penny – support homeless kids in DPS.
My heart aches for the victims of tragedy in recent weeks and months. The hurricanes have been relentless in their violence and destruction. The shooting in Las Vegas is so senseless and tragic that it tears at the very fabric of what it means to be an American and live in the land of the free. There are simply no words to describe the pain that our country has endured. The victims of these national tragedies need and deserve our financial support. I am proud to see the overwhelming generosity of our citizens in the face of such relentless misery. When we rally together to help one another, it makes me proud to be an American.
I am proud to be a resident of Denver, too. While the problem of homelessness in our city in not in the headlines, it is equally tragic. This past school year, over two thousand DPS students lived through homelessness or housing insecurity, and that number is expected to grow in this new school year. In Denver Public Schools, over 67% of students qualify for free or reduced cost lunch. Over 23% of DPS student live below the poverty line.
The housing market boom is a blessing for those of us fortunate enough to own a home in Denver. But a hot housing market trickles down and leaves victims at the bottom of the economic ladder. Our city is 21,000 units short of the needed affordable housing for families who qualify for assistance. Homeless students are 87% more likely to drop out of school. We are not in danger from hurricanes here in Denver, but devastation to the education of our young people is right here at our doorsteps.
The tragedies we face are overwhelming, and the grief and sadness can feel paralyzing. Still, we have to take action in whatever ways we can. I urge you to continue to support relief efforts in the disaster zones across our country. Please remember that there is pain and suffering and work to be done here at home, too.
The details of Whole Grains for Growing Brains are complicated. Your part is easy. Just buy a few loaves of bread, and the food and your money will feed, clothe, transport and educate your neighbors in need.
Catastrophe and misery surround us from Puerto Rico to Las Vegas to Texas to Florida to right here in Denver. The need is so great that it is hard to know where to start. But we have to start somewhere. With the Whole Grains for Growing Brains fundraiser, we are starting with wheat, honey, water, yeast and salt. We are fighting the massive battle against homelessness one loaf of bread at a time.