Meet Your Neighbors: Joe Woelkers & Liza Patty

Meet Your Neighbors: Joe Woelkers & Liza Patty

According to the official records of the Southern Gables Neighborhood Association, Liza Patty is the first tuba player to have been elected to the Association Board. She joined us in May 2022, filling the much-needed role of Secretary. Joe Woelkers, although he does not play the tuba, is a personal injury attorney who advocates for people who are injured. Interview by Bruce McDonald

Bruce: Liza and Joe, as you know I always ask, how long have you lived in Southern Gables, and what brought you here?

Liza: We bought the house in April 2021. That was a very busy time for the housing market. A crazy time. Showings were tightly scheduled, like three every 15 minutes. We had looked at over a hundred houses and had put in 25 offers, every one over the asking price. The process left us feeling so hopeless. We immediately felt the love in this house when we saw it, and even after losing so many we were extra disappointed to lose the bid. Then it seemed surreal when the buyer decided to back out. Joe: As for how we got here, Liza grew up in Lakewood, not far from here, went to Wheat Ridge High School. Her parents still live nearby and it’s good being close to them.

And Joe, are you a Colorado native too?  No, I grew up in Baltimore. I went to law school at Florida State, and then came to Colorado after graduation to check out the music scene. Colorado is the place for all the best bands. Liza went to FSU also, but she was a music major and we didn’t know each other then. So did you two meet through music?  No, it was through work, sort of. We both worked at the Sawaya Law Firm… Liza: We didn’t work together though. I saw him through a window across the courtyard, dancing in his office when no one was around. I found out who he was and started texting him about football, thought that might get us together. Ha! He didn’t care about football. Joe: I do now.

Wait, Liza, did Sawaya have a position for a music major?  They did for this one, after I finished paralegal school at Emory. That was after finding out how few jobs there are for tuba players. Oh, I applied for so many jobs. I had several law firm jobs that I didn’t find very suitable. Then I found my way to working inside the court system, in the family law courts. We work with issues surrounding child custody and family disputes. It’s hard and frustrating and sad and it can be so, so rewarding when the right solutions are worked out. I like it because it’s always a matter of helping people with tough problems. It feels so worthwhile, like “giving back” to the society we live in. We help “the best people on the worst day of their lives,” and that makes it really satisfying.

What are a few things that you like the most about Southern Gables?  Liza: Even though I grew up so close by, I had never been in the Southern Gables neighborhood and didn’t know it was here. It’s a hidden gem. I feel like we live in a Leave it to Beaver neighborhood. I love being around things like kids with lemonade stands, neighbors helping each other with lawn care, snow shoveling, borrowing things… we have the best neighbors ever in living next to Doug and Judy. Omigosh, it’s like having an extra mom and dad looking out for us, helping with everything.

Do you have a favorite memory with your Southern Gables neighbors?  Well, like I just mentioned Doug and Judy: I wanted to give a bridal shower for my best friend and asked Judy where I might rent or buy things like chafing dishes, extra tableware, tables and chairs. They had all the things, and just brought them over! Joe: We have a lawn care competition too; Doug has the greenest grass around, but we’re going to get ours up to his standard and more. Kidding, sort of. Doug helped us deal with an invasion of ash tree saplings, and warned us about hemlock. I had no idea. Judy is our Japanese Beetle consultant.

How about your hobbies, things you do in your leisure time?  Liza: We love skiing, hiking, mountain climbing, camping. Joe has climbed 41 fourteeners. Joe: And Liza has done five. She’s getting into it. We are both taking German lessons and that’s kind of fun. Liza: And cooking and drinking wine. Joe is the cook, and the wine expert as well. We keep meticulous records on the wines we have tried, and we’re always learning. I do the baking.

Do you have a favorite quote or saying you can pass on to us?  Joe:  Work to live, don’t live to work. Liza: Being open to new things is a valuable trait. Approach things with a childlike wonder.

Bruce: Sounds like wisdom in a couple of small packages! Practical and aspirational. Thank you for letting us get to know you, and we’ll see you around the neighborhood!

Contact to nominate a candidate for the “Meet Your Neighbor” series.


Southern Gables Neighborhood Association: 2022 Recap

Southern Gables Neighborhood Association: 2022 Recap

Whew! Remember way back, when the end of 2020 was such a relief?  We thought that pandemic thing was almost finished. Then we thought the same thing again at the end of 2021. Going into 2022 we were aching for a full return to “normal.” (Remember normal? We don’t either.) All things considered, in 2022 the Neighborhood Association had a near-normal, busy and productive year. Let’s take a look at how that came about. 

In January the Association Board started working to revive our Local Business Supporters program, which was comatose in 2020 and barely breathing during 2021, with so many of our valued business supporters hurting, damaged, and some even closed. Local business supporters participate in our Tote Bag distribution, promotion on our website and social media, and can have booths at Neighborhood Night Out.

During the winter months we started contacting our local business partners, gathered information and prepared articles for the spring newsletter, and started planning for the Tote Bag program. Our Green Gables Girl Scout troop proposed a project to prepare and distribute a safety flyer, and we had it put together with the newsletter. The girls helped with the delivery, covering part of our 1,000 homes. Soon after the newsletters went out, our local Boy Scouts took on the job of assembling and delivering the Tote Bags to all those homes. It’s so great to have our young people involved in these projects, making for long-term growth of community spirit and cooperation.

The project of getting a walking track built on the campus of Green Gables Elementary, for which the Association had proposed and received a grant in early 2021, stalled out due to huge increases in building materials. The benefit of getting it done would be to make up for the fact that we don’t have a park in the neighborhood. The delay was frustrating, but Doug Whitten kept quietly working in the background to find solutions. In another improvement project, the residents along a stretch of Evans Avenue had petitioned the City for speed bumps to be installed. The way it works is that if a certain percentage of the affected residents sign the petition and Traffic Management concurs, the City pays half of the cost and the residents pay the other half. They asked for the Association to chip in half of the residents’ half. The request was voted on and approved, carrying out the wishes of our neighbors.

In the spring we started planning for our two summer programs: encouraging and sponsoring individual block parties, and then our big annual Neighborhood Night Out. The block party sponsorship idea started in 2021 when it looked like COVID would prevent us from having the Night Out, then at the last minute we got the go-ahead to use the school property. We went ahead with both ideas, and the block parties proved popular and successful, bringing neighbors together and making new people feel welcome. We like to do that.

In May at the annual business meeting of the Association, Mayor Paul and City Council Representatives Mary Janssen and Wendi Strom spoke on current City issues and status of ongoing programs, and fielded questions. The fiscal year Treasurer’s Report and a summary audit report were presented. The new Board officer and director nominees were announced and voted in. A notable change was with outgoing president Doug Whitten, who was recognized for having served in that position for eight years. Although he declined a petition to accept the position of President for Life 😉 he did agree to stay on the Board as a consulting Director. We met the new Green Gables Elementary Principal, Jennifer Withee, and she told of having lived down the block as a child, and starting kindergarten in the room next to where we were meeting.

The June Board meeting covered details for block party stipends, raffle prize budget for monthly luncheons, and extensive Neighborhood Night Out details and assignments. The shopping lists, volunteer recruitment, and other behind-the-scene coordinating tasks are huge. With over 700 neighbors attending, it is so gratifying when it all works out and we all have a good time.

The block parties took place in July and early August, and then our big Night Out was on August 26. We chose that date, as we have each year, because it is soon after the school year starts so families are back from vacation. It makes a fine “end-of-summer” social occasion for the neighborhood. With 700 people in attendance, the businesses and organizations that had booths and concessions had lively traffic, the DJ kept things going with music and fun interviews, and six lucky winners turned in their free raffle tickets for a $50 gift card win. The free hot dogs and lemonade were popular as always, paired up perfectly with Magill’s Ice Cream for a nutritional win-win. (Well, many of the kids and former kids thought so.)

In September we supported the Carmody Middle School Chili Cook-Off, did a critique and lessons-learned session on the Night Out, and made assignments for getting out the fall newsletter. We nominated Joy’s Kitchen, the food pantry located in Southern Gables, for the Lakewood Mayor’s Inspiration Award, and attended the award ceremony on behalf of the neighborhood. Planning for Leaf Collection Day in November started last year with discussion of how to keep it from getting out of hand again, with people drawn by word-of-mouth publicity and coming from far away. It was addressed at just about every Board meeting and we gradually came to the solution of making it neighborhood-only, others pay a fee. Even with a snow day throwing things off this year, neighbors pitched in to get it all done. Community spirit!

At the December Board meeting we discussed resuming the practice of having a neighborhood garage sale weekend. We used to do that but interest died off even before the pandemic; still, several neighbors have asked if we would do it again. We will try it, on a Friday-Saturday in April or May. We also saw a big step forward in the Walking Track project, with the construction actually getting started a few weeks ago. Completion will have to wait until the weather warms, but the foundation is literally set in.  We also accepted nominations and awarded our year-end donations. It is a central aspect of our charter to support local organizations that benefit our community. Recipients were as follows (amounts are recorded in the meeting minutes). Westwoods Community Church for community support programs, Lakewood Police Toy Fund, Green Gables Elementary School Community Support, Cub Scout Pack 419, Denver Christian School and Botanic Gardens Chatfield Farms both for Leaf Day support, and Joy’s Kitchen. Earlier in the year we donated to Carmody Middle School for their Chili Cook-off fundraiser, and we conducted a Chipotle fundraiser for Green Gables Elementary.

It was a good year for Southern Gables. We love our neighborhood, and look forward to fostering an even higher level of community spirit in 2023.

For full detail and transparency, the meeting minutes and reports of the Association can be found here: SGNA Records. We encourage neighbors to get involved and join us, actively working for a better community. If you are not a member of the Association, you can join by paying dues of $20 a year. That step is a step toward supporting a better community for all of us.


Festive Lights in Southern Gables

Festive Lights in Southern Gables

The “Festival of Lights” is underway on the Jewish calendar, and it often coincides with the Christian celebration of Christmas. In Southern Gables, as in many communities all around the world this time of year, we mark the darkest time of the year with festive lights. We anticipate the lengthening of daylight hours that will bring more light each day, leading to the renewal that comes with spring. 

Click a pic and browse through to see some of the holiday displays around the neighborhood. It’s cold out, so we’re bringing the lights in for you to see. If it warms up in the next few days you can go out and enjoy the night air and the lights, and catch the excitement for yourself.