Markers in Time

Markers in Time

November 22 is coming up. The date will take me back as it always does. That’s the big one for my generation. Every age has its great shock, that moment when something happens that stops people in their tracks. The date is marked for a lifetime, the moment locked in stark detail. Yours may be September 11. It’s likely you remember where you were when news came that an airliner had struck one of the World Trade Center buildings… 

By Harry Puncec

Perhaps you received a phone call from someone watching the live broadcast of a burning tower. I did.  Whatever you were doing was forgotten as you urgently tried to learn more. You spend the rest of the day absorbing the immense reality.  On 9/11/2001 there were people on those planes and in those buildings, and they were dying.  It was almost incomprehensible.

A Sunday afternoon across America was like that for your great-grandparents on a December day long ago.  For them it was a somber voice over the radio announcing that a United States military base in the Pacific had been bombed!  It was seismic.  December 7, 1941, “a date which will live in infamy.” That sunny day suddenly became Day One, for us in World War Two. For those who heard the news, the moment when it was heard became a lifetime memory.

It happens.  We get comfortable with how things are and are looking away when “stuff” happens.  I was loading copy on a camera board at work when Johnny came in and said John F. Kennedy – our President – had been shot.  My first words were, “That’s not funny.” No, it was tragic. It was November 22, 1963 and for my generation that was the moment that we remember in stark clarity, exactly where we were.

The nation reeled!  For three days we all watched TV as all the channels were on the story.  No commercials and the reporters struggled to avoid breaking down in tears.  By the day of JFK’s funeral we thought we were emotionally drained. Then John Jr., the President’s son, saluted. We lost it.

Photo by UPI photographer Stan Stearns. JFK Jr. saluting as his father's funeral cortege passes by. Since then we’ve had other such moments. If you were living in 1986 you remember seeing the space shuttle Challenger blooming deadly orange and white against a dark blue sky, and the nation’s collective shock. Columbine, too close to home for us, with students and teachers murdered. Great leaders assassinated. Our Capitol attacked. Each time, we stagger.  We ask why, why???

It is helpful to remember that it is our history being written. Recorded history preserves these stark memories beyond the lives that felt them, turning vivid and indelible markers into recitations of facts. Fort Sumter bombarded in 1861, the Battleship Maine sunk in Havana’s harbor in 1898, on and on. There are so many such moments, lifelong memories for those who are now themselves gone, but still moments that determine our fate. What can we do?

Our job is to remember and be strong when it happens the next time.

Harry Puncec is a writer, a neighbor, and a founding member of not only the Southern Gables Neighborhood Association but the Southern Gables neighborhood itself. Story: Memories of Early Southern Gables.


Lost and Found

Lost and Found

This week our neighbor Harry Puncec tells another tale of almost-forgotten local history. Last year he told us about a long-ago orphanage in Denver, and now we learn about another bygone institution. Did you know there was an organization for young boys in Denver called the Highlander Boys? Although it was built on a military theme, its core principles were about building character. Its precepts were: Be Kind – Live Pure – Speak True – Right Wrong – Defend the Weak – Play the Game Square. It was started in 1912 by George W. Olinger. The Highlander Boys trained with rifles and learned military skills such as getting around up in the mountains. Thus begins our story… 

By Harry Puncec

Have you ever been lost, really lost and scared? Well, I have. The story requires some background that begins with the Highlander Boys, a pseudo military organization for boys that existed in Denver for a few decades in the mid-1900s. My involvement began around 1950 and lasted for a few years. The drill company I was assigned to would meet after school a couple evenings for an hour or so, practice the manual of arms with our replica World War I Springfield bolt-action rifles, and march around the then parking lot behind the old Colorado National Guard armory at Speer Blvd. and Logan St. That building, along with the Highlanders, is long gone and is now the home of Denver’s NBC Channel 9.

What really made the Highlanders fun was the summer encampment outside of Estes Park that lasted a week or two. The whole battalion would camp out in squad tents, eat in a community mess hall, and do military-like things like marching, polishing brass, and inspections. I can’t remember specifically but I’m guessing we also did crafts, took hikes, and stuff like that.

Highlander Boys Camp – Glacier Basin, Estes Park, June 1950

One thing I clearly recall doing was standing guard. First off what you need to know is that you don’t “stand” guard, you are assigned a guard post that you march back and forth over for an hour or two, and that’s where my story begins.

I was assigned to walk a path from a well-marked tree to the camp latrine and back. I remember that end of the path because it really, really stunk. While I was walking my post my orders were something like “don’t let anyone run away.” How I was to prevent that was vague, but I was a kid in a uniform carrying a fake rifle and by golly I was going to do my duty. So I’m walking my post when suddenly an older boy in an officer’s uniform ran across the trail I was on and vanished into the woods. Whoa, we can’t have that, so I took off to follow and catch him. The problem was that he had quickly disappeared and I was confronted by forest with a very limited range of view. There were trees everywhere.

I walked where I thought he might have gone but after a while, a couple minutes or hours I don’t know, two things began to happen. I needed to go back to my post as I was suddenly hungry. The other thing was that I had no idea where I was. Every landmark was gone and all there was were a million identical looking trees. That’s right, I was lost!

The first rule when you are lost in the woods is to stay where you are. Don’t wander off and get yourself even further lost by making the area you’re lost within even larger. I, it should go without saying, wandered off.

I became aware that I seemed to be climbing up a hill and I knew that was bad because the encampment was on flat ground. Then I got my brain storm, of course I should keep on climbing!!! At some point I would see our camp down below and know which direction to go. The problem was the trees. I could see maybe twenty yards no matter how high I climbed. Then I realized I could go on for miles. Now I was truly scared.

God looks after the hopelessly foolish sometimes and this was my time. I suddenly came upon a well-defined heavily trotted path. It was clearly purposeful and would take me back to civilization… eventually. With that I began walking the path toward or away from salvation.

And then lightning hit again. A group of horseback riders appeared on the trail. The rest of the story can be quickly told. The guide knew where we were and where the camp was, and he walked me through the woods in a different direction than I expected. Soon we entered the camp area and he wished his tearful charge – yes, me – good luck as he turned to rejoin his party.

The end was a thundering anticlimax. I quickly learned that nobody had noticed I was gone.

In case you missed it, Harry’s story about the Orphanage is here. You can also find his other stories by clicking on his name at the top of the page.


Joy’s Kitchen

Joy’s Kitchen

Southern Gables is in Lakewood City Council Ward 5. Our Council Representatives Mary Janssen and Wendi Strom conduct an open meeting for residents monthly to help us all share ideas and learn more about our community. I attended the Ward 5 meeting last Saturday, at the Westwoods Community Church. The main topic was a presentation by Kathy Stanley, the founder of Joy’s Kitchen. The motto of Joy’s is, “Save Food. Love People.”  

Food that goes to waste is killing us.

We use labor, water, chemicals, fuel, and all kinds of economic resources to produce food for one good purpose. It is supposed to nourish us, providing the basis for health and happiness. Way too much of it gets thrown out. Where does it go? It goes to landfills. What does it do there? It rots. It takes up space. It produces methane and contributes to the strangulation of our atmosphere. In the United States today, how much food goes to waste?

Forty-two percent. FORTY-TWO PERCENT!

And people are going hungry.

Kathy Stanley founded Joy’s Kitchen eleven years ago, in a moment of brilliant insight following a personal tragedy. What if the food that was committed to this horrific waste stream could be used to solve the problem of food shortages, constantly-increasing prices, spot shortages, and food insecurity?

Joy’s Kitchen provides food to anyone who wants it. No qualifications, no questions. People help solve the problem of food waste and ruin, by coming in for free food. They shop, they choose. Lots of food… good food. No cash register.

Save Food. Love People. To understand this slogan, you first have to appreciate the concept of “rescuing” food. Saving it from waste is a serious mission in itself, but what follows from the rescue effort is fantastic! Joy’s Kitchen serves 2500 families a month who come in to shop for free. In addition, in partnership with Colorado Coalition for the Homeless, Rocky Mountain Mutual Aid, and Lyft, another 2500 households a month are provided with fresh, nutritious food boxes. The reach extends beyond Lakewood, into areas that could well be called “food deserts” – urban areas with only fast-food and convenience stores, lacking real grocery stores. Five thousand families: 15,000 to 20,000 people. This many people benefit from Kathy’s idea – every month! A day’s work moves on average 6000 pounds of food, rescuing it from the waste stream and providing nutrition and enjoyment.

Beautiful Food.

Six days a week, early in the morning, Joy’s workers in two trucks and two trailers go out and make the rounds of cooperating food retailers. They drive up to the docks in the back for their “rescue” mission. They go to King Soopers, Safeway, Sprouts, Natural Grocers, Target, Walmart… each day has its own specified route, contracted in cooperation with Feeding America and Food Bank of the Rockies. Fully 90% of the food they gather is not compromised or expired; it is in beautiful condition.  When “the rescue” arrives back at Joy’s the morning shift volunteers unload it, sort and separate it by type and condition. Food that is not suitable for distribution is separated out for animal feed or compost. Less than 1% goes to this final disposition. None of it goes to landfill. Each day, the operating model is zero start, zero finish. All the food that comes in goes out. There is a room full of commercial refrigerators and freezers for short-term holdovers, but ideally as Kathy said, “We are not a warehouse. All the food is for people, no delays and no holding back. It’s a beautiful balance of trust”

Every bit of the food in that balanced flow helps the earth by avoiding waste, and helps families maintain healthy diets while allowing that portion of their budgeted resources to be used for other needs.


Kathy put it this way: “What we do is empowering. Empowering a community that thinks they are in need and letting them know they are part of a solution to a big problem. It is a legacy of love.”

After the Ward 5 meeting was adjourned, Kathy led a tour of the Joy’s Kitchen facility in the lower level of the building. The Saturday morning volunteers were waiting for “the rescue” to come in. We were shown the layout of tables around the room, where the food would be dropped off at one end to be sorted and culled, and where it would be placed on tables arranged in a “U” shape for shoppers in the afternoon. In the door, shop from a single aisle around the “U” and leave by the other door. Shopping carts are available and it is an unhurried experience; no more than five shoppers at a time.

As Kathy was speaking, a Rescue trailer arrived up at the parking lot and the volunteers hustled out to start work unloading. The discussion continued as our tour group migrated outside to observe as we finished up the visit.

Questions? Answers.

Q: Why is there so much waste? A: Marketing. Mostly it’s over-buying that the stores are pushed into by the desire to keep growing profits, and the buying public’s expectation of limitless quantity and perfection. The advertising industry has gotten us to expect that each piece of produce will be absolutely blemish-free. If an apple has a dent from bumping against a crate, out it goes. It’s a beautiful apple. If a brand of something is not selling as fast as it was supposed to, and the shelf space can be used for something that might bring more profit, out it goes.

Q: You said 90% of the food is “beautiful” and 1% goes to compost. What about…?  A: The in-between is food you would use in the next few days. It’s still good food.

Q: Do you take donations of food? A: Yes, but not leftover party food or food that has been in a buffet. If you bought too much and have extra food, fresh or in unopened packaging, Joy’s is glad to have it. Donations of garden produce are welcome too. Very welcome.

Q: I see a clothing rack out in front. Do you take donations of clothing?  A: Yes, but not too much at one time. It’s a useful thing for many of our customers but we just have a rack or two and there’s a balance with not too much stored here. Q: Sleeping bags, things like that?  A: Sure.

Q: What is your financial situation? A: We operate on donations. We don’t have any grants or government funding. We are a 501(c)(3) entity so donations are tax deductible. We only have three employees, with most of the work being done by volunteers. Our budget is about $10,000 a month. That includes transportation, and fuel is starting to hurt us like everyone else. We put 120 miles a day on each of our vehicles. We have fundraisers, community events, dance parties. We have a brand of coffee that we sell to raise money also. You can find it on, along with all the other information about volunteering, getting food and donating.

The food distribution center is in the Southern Gables neighborhood at the Westwoods Community Church, 7700 W. Woodard Drive. There are no requirements to get food. You don’t have to be “in need” of food. By taking, using, and appreciating the food, you are part of a big solution to a big problem.

Food distribution hours are 1:00 to 3:00 PM on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. On those days the volunteers spend the morning receiving the Rescue and preparing it for customers to come in and shop. On Monday, Wednesday, and Friday the work is mornings only, receiving the day’s Rescue and putting the food in boxes for distribution to our partner agencies.

The work of Joy’s Kitchen is accomplished almost entirely by volunteers. Shifts are 2 1/2 to 3 hours, 6 days a week. To find out about volunteering, go to You will be helping neighbors, and just as importantly in the mission of Joy’s Kitchen, preventing waste of surplus food. And loving people.