Helping the Community

Helping the CommunitySouthern Gables Neighborhood Association

First, a refresher, from the bylaws of the Southern Gables Neighborhood Association: The Association has in its charter an objective of encouraging a cohesive community by providing opportunities for social activities and supporting worthy local civic organizations. 

The Association Board held its quarterly meeting last week (by Zoom, of course), and the big thing on everyone’s mind was the same as what’s been on everyone else’s mind these last few months. That thing about a virus; you’ve probably heard about it. What can we do to “serve the residents” in these difficult times? After all, our main event is our community-wide “Neighborhood Night Out” that brings neighbors together in a festival/picnic/party with a DJ and hotdogs and no social distancing. Can’t do that now. And the businesses that participated in the Neighborhood Night Out, the ones that largely paid for sponsorships to fund the hotdogs and the DJ and the big generous raffle prizes — some of them are out of business, or throttled down and holding at a bare level with grit and determination — we didn’t even ask for sponsorship money this year; how could we?  And the monthly neighborhood luncheons. Can’t do those now. And then there were the monthly evening get-togethers in driveways and front yards. Just didn’t seem right to try even those. Maybe in the spring…

Southern Gables CommunitySo what can we do? Well, part of our charter is to support “worthy local civic organizations” that benefit our neighborhood. We have a long history of doing that. (Here’s a recent recap, from last year: What Do the Dues Do?) Many of our members have paid their association dues through these hard times, and so we made some decisions in our recent Board meeting to do the best we can in supporting organizations that do the most good for our little part of Lakewood. Here’s what we decided:

    • Green Gables Elementary School. The Giving Tree program, to which we have donated in the past, is funded for this year because of, among other sources, the very successful 12/2/20 Chipotle fundraiser and donations that neighbors made on our annual Leaf Collection day. The next priority for using the funds is expected to be the installation of some tables outdoors to facilitate outdoor learning and to increase the use of the school grounds as a park by the community. 
    • Westwoods Community Church for community programs. The church on the corner of Wadsworth & Woodard has consistently (“Fifth  Sunday”) dispatched volunteer workers to assist seniors in need of cleanup, painting, or yardwork; sent a crew to refurbish the basketball courts at the school; and provides a safe meeting space to civic organizations such as the South Lakewood Business Association. 
    • Lakewood Police Toy Fund. This is a perennial favorite of ours, and the need this year is even greater with so many families in economic distress, including here in Southern Gables. 
    • Joy’s Kitchen, in recognition of increased demands on the food pantry because of you-know-what. They are located right here in Southern Gables. The mission of this organization is to “rescue” food that would otherwise go to waste and give it to anyone who wants it. 
    • We also previously gave a package of Magill’s Ice Cream gift certificate to Carmody Middle School for a planned silent auction fundraiser. 

You can read the full record of the Association Board meeting here. The Board, of course, is a volunteer activity. Speaking of volunteering, the need goes on even in these unusual times.

    • If you are inclined to look for the rewards of doing some volunteer work, to help make the neighborhood a better place, we can hook you up: start by looking here.
    • If you are involved in or can suggest other volunteer activities, let us know, and we will add these to the website.
    • If you want to participate as a member of the Association Board, let us know.

On behalf of the Southern Gables Neighborhood Association Board, let me say that last part again: If you want to participate as a member of the Association Board, let us know.

Kindness to the Land

Kindness to the LandSouthern Gables Neighborhood Association

By Paul Fleischer

We wrote about the Southern Gables annual leaf collection event a few weeks ago, mostly about how it was such a wonderful example of the neighborhood coming together to support one another and the planet.  The project kept  hundreds of bags of leaves out of landfills, and enhanced our sense of community by working together for good and having fun doing it.

United States Department of Agriculture

We didn’t say much, though, about the huge amount of good this project is doing for the land. As a small scale food producer, I can tell you that this event helps us incredibly.  The seasons to come will be more prolific and the crops more abundant because of all of this organic matter which will be worked into the soil to enrich fertility.  When we first purchased this property, the ground was really nothing more than dead dirt.  Over the years though, we have utilized cover cropping methods, added leaves through this event and multiple trucks of organic compost and manure, implemented a crop rotation schedule and focused on low till organic farming methods to improve the land.  Now the soil is just exploding with microbial activity and life, and this has led to an improvement in the overall ecosystem of our land.

We now have 3 families of red-tailed hawks that are constantly perched somewhere around the property.  They are so used to us now we can nearly get close enough to touch them.  When the sun hides behind the mountains for the evening the hawks end their shift, a beautiful barn owl takes over.  He is not quite as unintimidated by us, but equally important to our living system.  We have now seen foxes and deer, raccoons and skunks, snakes and  unlimited numbers of birds and insects come back to the land.  All of these creatures add to the diversity that we have been working to improve and are returning to this land because of what we are doing to the soil.  This really is where all life begins.  Good soil creates a ripple effect through the entire ecosystem and without it, there can be no ecological diversity, no life. Kindness to the land will always be rewarded with generous returns.

We are thankful for this community and for what we can all do together for our planet.  We will keep doing our part here at the farm, and look forward to producing healthful food here for years to come. As we feel the changing of the seasons and shift over to the farm tasks of winter, we think of the coming holidays and wish our neighbors the best. Stay safe.

Paul Fleischer is the co-owner and farmer of Fleischer Family Farms. He is also a high school agricultural education teacher. He cultivates the land on his Southern Gables property alongside his wife and co-owner, Chelsie. 

Southern Gables Leaf Day

Southern Gables Leaf DaySouthern Gables Neighborhood Association

The morning started off a little chilly in the Southern Gables neighborhood, with a warming trend promised for later in the day. Doug and Judy Whitten arrived early at the Fleischer Family Farm, and set up some tables with coffee and doughnuts, and a jug of cool lemonade in anticipation of working in the warm afternoon. Signs were set up on the nearby street corners, with arrows pointing toward the farm, “Leaf Drop.” Paul Fleischer, the farmer, and Christy Cerrone of Sustainable Southern Gables went about setting up some traffic cones and more signs, and making last-minute arrangements. Some of the trees around the farm released a few of their remaining leaves to the early morning breeze, and leaves rustled around on the ground. They would be joined by more leaves during the day — bags and more bags, boxes and truckloads of leaves. All the leaves would be put to use as mulch and compost on the neighborhood’s own “urban farm,” rather than ending up as useless trash in a landfill. Leaf Day!

Photo by Paul Fleischer

Leaf Day in Southern Gables is a special event, bringing community members together and doing a good turn for the environment. In the seven years that the leaf collection day has been held, 35 tons of leaves have been saved from going to landfill.

It wasn’t long before Doug and Judy were joined by volunteers (all wearing masks of course), a few at first and then more, until during the course of the day there were 64 people working together. A car or truck would come up and be met on the street by Judy and her friend Monica Abelein, and logged in with a count of how many bags were being brought. Judy and Monica also tended a registration table with community information and a “donations” jar to benefit Green Gables Elementary, the school that holds our little neighborhood together. A good number of neighbors noticed it without mention, and offered donations. After being counted in, the vehicle would be sent ahead to be marshaled into place by Bruce Loftis. When it stopped it would get swarmed by volunteers — mostly teenagers — unloading the bags of leaves and using a fleet of wheelbarrows to take them to be dispersed. Students from Carmody Middle School, Lakewood High School, D’Evelyn High School, Alameda High School, and Westwoods Community Church all worked together while doing a pretty good job of social distancing. Christy Cerrone was the liaison for the student volunteers, and Tyler Amedon, the principal of Denver Christian Academy, came and helped as well.

Photo by Paul Fleischer

A big part of the leaf project took place the day before; students from Denver Christian Academy were dispatched to rake leaves for disabled and seniors who could not do their own. Then on Leaf Day the bags were collected by volunteer drivers, headed up by Ken Fischer with his two-ton dump truck. Greg Abelein made the pickup rounds too, bringing load after load. Helping to unload the trucks, and going out to disperse the leaves along with the students were Drew Cole of Westwoods Community Church, Bruce Loftis, Monica Norvall, Kim Ryburn, and me.

Photo by Bruce McDonald

There were two areas where the leaves went: first, the Pumpkin Patch near the entrance. That plot will be expanded and used in the coming year for pumpkins again, and there will be squash and other gourd crops too. Paul said that part of the plot might be used for a trial run of corn, provided the squirrel community can be convinced to let him grow some for us. After that area was covered with leaves, packed down, and covered with a tarp (visible in the top picture), all the rest of the leaves were sent to a far corner of the two-acre farm to form a new mountain. “Leaf Mountain” will eventually turn into rich compost and be spread over other plots and rows, but for the near future it will be a mountain for Paul’s two children and their playmates to conquer.

Photos by Christy Cerrone

This year’s haul added almost 800 bags of leaves to the Fleischer fields, to turn into compost and enrich the soil for years to come. This is the second year that the neighborhood has put the leaves to use at the farm, after five previous years sending them in 30-cubic-yard dumpsters to a commercial composting facility. Dale Trone was the neighbor who proposed the idea of using them at the farm rather than sending them to the composting facility for other people to buy. Having them benefit the local environment directly is a great feeling. As Paul Fleischer told us in summarizing the results of all that work, keeping this leaf mulch out of landfills and amending it into the soil provides nutrients for the farm that provides food for our community.

And that’s all good.

If you like numbers, here are some for you.

2020 2019
792 804 All Leaves Brought to Farm
280 Bags Picked Up at Senior Neighbors
30 30 Lawns Raked for Senior Neighbors
82 85 Neighbors who brought leaves
64 Total Volunteers  –  Students and Others