Winter Wonderland

Community, Joy, Gratitude.

This has definitely been an interesting school year at Green Gables Elementary. None of us have ever experienced anything like this pandemic, where a third of our students have been learning remotely all year and from November we all began learning, teaching, and working remotely continuing until January 19th. However, our little school felt the joy, community, and more importantly counted all the reasons to be grateful as we headed off to winter break.

The “Winter Wonderland” reverse parade was planted as an idea from a teacher at our school, Mrs. Bishop, and blossomed from there. Supporters among our dedicated families came one by one to help set up decorations. There were inflatable decorations and lots of lights strung along the way. School staff made signs, PTA members made goodie bags for teachers to give students, and staff dressed in winter spirit gear. The school community came together beautifully with full-fledged effort to bring joy, hope, and love, to our students before heading off to winter break. The parade began, lights gleaming, music ringing, and socially distanced staff members holding signs filled with warm winter wishes. Santa stood waving on the corner of Woodard and Estes as families drove by. The parade was bringing apparent joy, obvious through students’ smiles, laughter, and waves, along with words of appreciation and love between families, students and Green Gables staff.

Suddenly to no surprise, the parade appeared to move beyond just the school community. Although likely part of the residents’ daily routines of walking, jogging, and even biking past the school, the atypical holiday parade appeared to be filling the neighborhood people with happiness as well. Neighbors were waving and smiling, wishing us all a happy holiday season. Others drove past and waved, honked and yelled words of appreciation from their windows. A sight so touching to behold, that in the midst of a pandemic, the school community could come together in a socially distant way to bring some much needed joy. A winter parade sparked as an idea by a teacher, made possible by the collaboration of a community that is at the heart of Green Gables Elementary, gave warmth and gratitude to everyone, during a time when there is so much uncertainty. What a wonderful constant for our children to know they attend school in a community that cares so deeply about them.

Finally, as we look forward to a new year, regardless of what it may bring, may we all be reminded that we are also truly blessed by the amazing Green Gables’ students we will continue to serve.

With Warm Winter Wishes,

Suanne Hawley, Green Gables Elementary School Principal

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.