Meet Your Neighbor: Helga Grunerud

Meet Your Neighbor: Helga Grunerud

Continuing our series of interviews with our Southern Gables neighbors, to help us get to know and appreciate each other.  When I showed up at Helga’s home I remarked, “I really didn’t need the address; Justina told me I could just go to the yard with the beautiful botanical garden.” Helga said, “Yes, I’m the Flower Lady of Flower Street.” And so she is. Before we sat down for a visit, Helga gave me a tour of her back yard too, with flowers and a vegetable garden: tomatoes, zucchini (of course), and five kinds of peppers. I noted we could skip the question about “hobbies and interests,” since that was pretty clear already.  Interviewed by Bruce McDonald.

Bruce:  Well, I always like to start by asking how long you’ve been here in the Southern Gables neighborhood.  

Helga: About 30 years. My husband and I both grew up in small communities in Washington State. Then after his service in the Air Force and college at Washington State University, before graduation we heard a speaker who was touting the tremendous economic boom out in Colorado. Lots of work, lots of opportunity. We figured we would stay for five years, get financially stable, then come back home to live and raise a family. When we first arrived I was having trouble with what I thought was altitude sickness. The doctor had a different explanation and she (the explanation) was born a few months later. And here we are.

How did you come to choose Southern Gables?  We started out not far from here, convenient to where we were working, in a small house over on the eastern edge of Lakewood. Then after a few years the time seemed right to look for a larger place. The attractiveness of the neighborhood was a plus, and the location was good, and the schools had good ratings.

What are some of the things you like most about our neighborhood?  I’m a walker. I like being close to the lake, the soccer fields where our daughter played, and lots of good places for my walks. I go about five miles a day. When our daughter was middle school age she could walk to school and sports, to go and play with her friends, and later to her lifeguarding job and we never had to worry.

How about any examples or favorite memories of neighborly experiences you’ve had here in Southern Gables?  When our daughter old enough to be home without a babysitter, our neighbors across the street would keep an eye on her comings and goings, without her necessarily knowing she had a layer of protection. So, I’d say “neighbors watching out for each other” is integral to living here. We help each other with clearing snow in the winter, and there are things like when people go on vacation the neighbors will water the plants and keep an eye on the house.

Have you seen changes over the years?  Oh yes, of course. When we came the neighborhood was already established, and we knew quite a few of the original owners. There were a lot of kids in the neighborhood, and then over the years into the 90s there were mostly empty-nesters and the older generation. Now we’ve seen more changes, bringing young families in and we’re starting to hear the sounds of kids playing again. It’s the same over in my part of the neighborhood. I like that. So do I. It’s “new energy” all around. A good thing, a natural cycle.

Helga in her lily garden

Now how about your interests — oh, we got that on the way in. Your work? Or are you retired? Yes, I retired a few years ago but I still do consulting. I run mentor-protégé programs for CDOT and the City of Denver. For most of my career I worked in association management, for an international mining association. That gave me a good background for what I do now, putting small companies in contact with larger more experienced companies to do construction work and deal with all the government paperwork. The process involves goalsetting and monitoring small businesses through the bureaucratic maze. It’s something they need, and it’s rewarding to see them be successful and grow. They sometimes call me “Mrs. Mom.”

Anything else you’d like us to know about you?  Well, I like to travel. I used to travel to South America for the mining association, and since retiring I have gone with my sisters on cruises and to visit distant family, from California to Minnesota.

How about leaving us with some words of wisdom… a favorite quote or saying?  There is one that comes to mind. “She who cannot change the very fabric of her thought will never be able to change reality, and will never, therefore, make any progress.” I really do believe that.

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


Throw a Block Party? Who, Me?

Throw a Block Party? Who, Me?

Yes, you! You can do it!  Invite your friends, invite neighbors you haven’t met yet and make new friends. And… the Southern Gables Neighborhood Association will pay you* to host your party.  This year, after COVID disrupted our plans for the big “Neighborhood Night Out” party, we are sponsoring individual outdoor parties throughout the Southern Gables neighborhood. 

* How much is the stipend for hosting? $100.

So… host a party with your neighbors? You bet you can. It’s easy and fun. Potluck, outside in your driveway, yard, or cul-de-sac. August 20 is the planned date but vary if you must. You set up and provide the basics. It’s all about strengthening community spirit, for mutual benefit.

Here’s how.


    1. Consider that with our curving streets going every which way, short ones and long ones, the word “block” doesn’t always work. Think in terms of an “area” centered on your home and as many as 50 homes. You can include parallel and adjacent streets. Just tell us what streets you will cover and we’ll check for overlaps with other hosts.
    2. If you give out 40 to 50 invitations, on average about 10 to 15 families will come. If you know your nearest neighbors well enough to have an idea of which ones will come, count them in as a baseline and then figure about 25% of the people you don’t know will come.
    3. Make flyers as invitations and deliver them, in person, door to door. (Sample available here.) If you have email contact with some of your neighbors, send invitations out that way in addition to delivering them.
    4. It’s probably best not to require RSVP’s. Let people feel free to just show up. With that in mind, you don’t have to get people to sign up or bring certain dishes. Just invite them to “bring something to share.”
    5. Decide what you will provide, such as soft drinks, hot dogs or hamburgers, paper goods. If you have a barbecue grill that can be used, that’s good too. In your invitations you will let people know what will be provided; that they can bring side dishes, snacks, or desserts; whether you want them to bring lawn chairs.
    6. Get some near neighbors to team up with you, for door-knocking, helping to promote, setting up tables, cleanup afterwards. Have nametag blanks and markers available. Think ahead of what you’ll do if someone wants to use the restroom.

Embed from Getty Images

Before the party

    1. As soon as you can, sign up! Let us know how many homes you will invite, and which ones they are. Contact We will keep a record so that if someone plans to overlap your invitation area, we can help you work it out.
    2. July 30 (Three weeks before the party) Design and print invitations. (You can download a sample here, or make your own however you like.) Be sure your email address is on the invitation for neighbors to respond if they want to, or ask questions. Print the number of flyers you plan to give out.
    3. August 6 (Two weeks before) Take the invitations with you and give them by hand to neighbors.
      • Whenever you can, try and get the neighbor’s email address to better facilitate your communications.
      • If no one answers the door, leave the invitation on the door. Fasten to the handle with a rubber band or stick it inside the edge. DO NOT leave anything in a mailbox and DO NOT knock or leave anything if there is a “No soliciting” sign.
    4. August 13 (a week before) If you need to borrow tables or maybe a few chairs from a near neighbor, or a portable grill, ice chest or whatever else, arrange that.
    5. A few days before. Buy the items you plan to provide.

Day of the party: August 20. Set up and enjoy your own party. Meet new neighbors.

Embed from Getty Images

After the party. Notify us at how many families you invited and how many people showed up. We will write you a check for $100. If you like to write and have some stories to tell, or some photos to share, send them to and we will include them in an article on the Southern Gables Neighborhood Association website.