/ Providing Access To The Orchestra

Walk 10-28-2018

Dan Benavidez

This Sunday walk very good. However, after each walk I feel and know that every neighborhood walk is good, and so meaningful, and ever so pleasant Mike Butler meeting and sharing with our neighbors. This mobile home park that we walked through appeared to be mainly lived-in by senior citizens. And how my heart to some extent felt for the senior lady as Mike talked and shared with her  because when we talked to this  very nice senior Lady she shared with us amongst other things that she was I believe she said 89-years-old, but she still climbed a ladder to clean her homes gutter six (6) times a year and how difficult it was to meet her expenses as her basic income was Social Security.

However, we talked to more seniors many also having to count their pennies, but they were happy with their state of life and loved living in Longmont. And how I enjoyed so much talking to the 2 teenage sisters one had graduated from Longmont High School this past year and the other still going to Longmont high and was a senior and would graduate this school year. And how happy they were with their beautiful smiles and looking forward to their future. YES, thank God that it’s going to be okay even with all this crazy madness going on in our country today!

And thank you very much Ashley Denault and Guillermo Estrada- Rivera from Foot Hills United way for accompanying Chief Butler and me on our walk this warm and very nice day!

 Mike’s Perspective

 We moseyed through two mobile home parks on Sunday. Guillermo and Ashley from Foothills United Way graciously joined us. We encountered several people who had significant life experiences. Their wisdom was grounded in the practical aspects of their lives and a variety of concerns were expressed. “When your only income is social security, you cannot do as much as you used to” and “I can’t say nice things about your police department, chief.” and “You watch your pennies, not your dollars,” and “The best things in life are eatin’ and sleepin” and “I don’t like what this town has become.”

There was zero political correctness in the comments we received on our Sunday walk. There was a Nebraska man who absolutely reveled in the University of Colorado’s football team’s meltdown the previous day. And there was plenty of dissent and doubt about how things are these days in Longmont and our country.

On our walks over the years, we continuously confirm that creating a space for dissent and doubt is the way diversity gets valued in our community or anywhere. Inviting dissent into the conversation is how we show respect for a wide range of beliefs. It honors a maxim that for every great idea, the opposite idea is also true.

Those we spoke with on Sunday believe there is no way to be awake and vital in our world without having serious doubts and reservations about the status quo. In some ways our faith is measured by the extent of our doubts. Perhaps without the capacity to express our doubts, our faith has little meaning or substance.

In a patriarchal setting, dissent is considered disloyalty. Or negativism. Or not being a team player. Or not being a good citizen. America, love it or leave it. You are with us or against us. All phrases that reflect an underlying fear of dissent.

What we know from our walks is that it is important to protect the space for the expression of people’s doubts. Expressing our doubts does not mean there is not intention to create something better or new. 

What Dan and I do with doubt is to get interested in the doubts that are being expressed. We ask questions; we offer those we meet the opportunity to say what they’ve been wanting to say and now can- to the public safety chief and to a former Mayor pro tem. And we want them to know that their dissent is welcomed and worthy. 

I believe an important role of leadership is to get interested in people’s doubts and dissent and to find out why something matters so much to them. Dan and I have found that dissent can often become the first step towards commitment, accountability and action when we get interested in it without having to fix, explain or answer it. People say yes to our invitation and agree to make a personal investment in our community often after expressing their doubts to us.

One of the keys to any partnership is the right of each person to say “no.” Our ‘yes’ doesn’t mean much if we don’t have the right to say no. If people say no, it does not create their dissent; it only expresses it. And when we want to heal or build a restorative community, we must offer a place for anyone to know that their dissent and doubt will not cost them their sense of belonging in a relationship, a meeting, an organization, our community or our country.

And people are more likely to feel and believe they belong if they do believe it is safe to express their dissent and doubt. That has been one of the keys to our Belonging Revolution.  And on last Sunday’s walk, there was plenty of room for people to voice their doubts.

Ashley Denault - Foot Hills United Way

This past Sunday I had the opportunity to join Chief Butler and Dan Benavidez, along with my colleague Guillermo Estrada-Rivera for a neighborhood walk. We connected because of our work on the Resilience for All/Resiliencia para Todos initiative, which is working to formalize a network of Cultural Brokers who build bridges between under served Boulder County residents and nonprofit and government entities.

Although the chilly weather meant only a few people were outside, we had the opportunity to connect with a number of residents. At each encounter, Mike and Dan introduced themselves and us, and explained why they were out in the community doing these walks. They asked residents how long they had lived in the community and in Longmont, if they liked where they lived, what they liked about it, whether they felt safe and connected. One of the women we spoke with was 89 and still biked around the neighborhood and cleaner her gutters by herself a few times a year – she was definitely an inspiration!

Aside from learning that gutter-cleaning may be the secret to longevity, I was struck by how open and willing to engage people were – and by how something as simple as starting a conversation can be a pathway to greater empathy and openness, and connection, particularly after a week of hate-based violence across the country. Thank you so much, Mike and Dan, for the invitation and for the tremendous work you’re doing!

Ashley Denault

Guillermo Estrada-Rivera Foot Hills United way | Cross-Cultural Network Designer 

Thanks, Chief Butler for the invitation too. I think this was a great opportunity to remind us why we do this work. Initiatives like this demonstrate the lasting value of community connection and reaffirms the importance of our efforts to help the community thrive and become more resilient. We feel honored to have been invited to witness Chief Butler and Dan Benavides embodying the Belonging Revolution.

 Guillermo Estrada-Rivera


/ No, Starfish Are Not Saved One By One.

Walk 10-21-2013

Dan Benavidez

Last week Chief Mike Butler checked the weather for Sunday Oct 21st   and called me “Dan the weather going to be good and warm so let’s do our neighborhood walk. I will meet you at the corner of 6th and Lashley (which we had walk in before) Dan this is the neighborhood that had a tragic event occur not too long ago” And I met the chief and our walking companion Steve Johnson at the corner of 6th and Lashley. And was it ever so warm and so very calm and so nice.

And oh, my how undeniably good I felt after our visit to the Spanish Speaking Vida Nueva Spanish Assembly of God Church on 6th avenue. The pastor invited Mike to speak to the 100 % Spanish speaking congregation and how cool it was when a lady in the congregation interpreted for Mike and I observed the smiles on their faces when Mike assured them that they “BELONGED” in Longmont that the Police and Fire Department was there to serve them.

And It was so very pleasant meeting sharing and talking with the retired Police officer, and how totally splendid it was talking to the 3 little girls about 6 to 9 years of age. And I pointed to them and said, “Stay in school and graduate as you are going to be the President of the United States”, and the youngest of them replied “I am going to be a Police woman, and her sister said I am going to be a Fire Department woman” Wow how cool yes totally cool that was. Ahh another great Sunday in a beautiful Longmont “Hood”!  

Chief Mike Butler you da Man going on 5 years practically every Sunday making these great Longmont Neighborhood visits!! You da Man for Starting a “Belonging Revolution”.

And thank you Steven Johnson for accompany us on our walk.


Mike’s Perspective

Dan and I have walked close to 190 neighborhoods and have spoken with close to 3,000 people. In each walk, we hear amazing stories of people’s lives, about the creation of an idea from one person that brought life to a neighborhood, and often about the source of goodness in our neighborhoods. We sometimes hear about divine powers that watch over neighborhoods, or stories of talents, generosity and gifts.

A neighborhood can be built by the stories we tell and what we choose to talk about - the narrative. Storytelling helps neighborhoods become strong when people link their stories to their gifts. You want to know our story? Let us tell you about how six of us came together to build that shelter in the park. Or about how a neighbor who seemed distant relented to the kindness of others and who softened as we got to know them. These stories are the beginnings of myths that memorialize and keep us reminded of the epic nature of our journey together.

Inviting stories into our midst is the single biggest community-building thing we can do, especially when the stories we tell are stories of our gifts, the goodness of others and what worked out.

The stories about our gifts, our kindness, our generosity, our trust, our forgiveness define us and give us meaning - this is where an authentic sense of the identity of our neighborhoods comes from.

The community we have discovered in our Belonging Revolution walks has at its very center two sources of power. The first is that EVERY person has gifts to offer. The second is that people are hungry to share their gifts with the rest of us. Dan and I have talked with thousands of people and we know that for every story told about the one thing that doesn’t go well, there are a thousand things that do go well.

As long as the story is about the one that doesn’t go well, our stories are really fictional in nature. The decisions to tell stories about the one over and over again as if they were defining truths limits our possibility of creating a desire future. Healthy communities, neighborhoods, and people  acknowledge the thousand things that go well rather than dwell on the one that doesn’t. The willingness to tell the stories of the thousand is where healing begins and where possibilities about a new future reside.

And while the media can seemingly control the narrative of a community by listing all of the reasons why we should be afraid or by exploiting our fears, we would encourage everyone to walk neighborhoods in your community and talk to those who reside there. What you will find is that there is a ‘WELCOME’ sign at the edge of every neighborhood and that stories you will hear will help you realize that we do live in communities and neighborhoods that are alive and good and safe!

Attached is an article regarding the possibilities of neighborhoods.

The Neighborhood Is the Unit of Change

No, starfish are not saved one by one.

By David Brooks

Thinking in neighborhood terms means radical transformation in how change is done.CreditCreditMartha Irvine/Associated Press

You’ve probably heard the starfish story. There’s a boy on the beach who finds thousands of starfish washed ashore, dying. He picks one up and throws it back into the ocean. A passer-by asks him what’s the point of that. All these thousands of other starfish are still going to die. “Well,” the boy responds, “I saved that one.”

Many of our social programs are based on that theory of social change. We try to save people one at a time. We pick a promising kid in a neighborhood and give her a scholarship. Social programs and philanthropic efforts cream skim in a thousand ways. Or they mentor one at a time, assuming that the individual is the most important unit of social change.

Obviously it’s possible to do good that way. But you’re not really changing the structures and systems that shape lives.Maybe the pool story is a better metaphor than the starfish story. As a friend of mine puts it, you can’t clean only the part of the pool you’re swimming in.

It could be that the neighborhood, not the individual, is the essential unit of social change. If you’re trying to improve lives, maybe you have to think about changing many elements of a single neighborhood, in a systematic way, at a steady pace.

One of the signature facts of the internet age is that distance is not dead. Place matters as much as ever, and much more than we ever knew.

The typical American adult lives 18 miles from his or her mother. The typical college student enrolls in a college 13 miles from home. A study of Facebook friends nationwide found that 63 percent of the people we friend live within 100 miles. Americans move less these days, not more.

Work by the economist Raj Chetty and others shows that children who grow up in one neighborhood can have drastically different life outcomes than people who grow up in demographically similar neighborhoods nearby. Just take two findings to illustrate a rash of them:

On April 1, 2010, 44 percent of low-income black men from the Watts neighborhood of central Los Angeles were incarcerated. But just 6.2 percent of the men who grew up with similar incomes in central Compton were incarcerated on that day.

Central Compton is 2.3 miles from Watts.

Low-income children who moved at birth from the low upward-mobility area of Seattle’s Central District to the high upward-mobility area of Shoreline earned, at age 35, $9,000 a year more than those who had made this move in their 20s.

Shoreline is 10 miles from the Central District.

In a classic study, the sociologist Eric Klinenberg showed just how important neighborhood is in determining who survives in a crisis. Klinenberg compared deaths in two Chicago neighborhoods during a heat wave in 1995. More than six times as many people died in North Lawndale as in South Lawndale, even though the two places are demographically comparable.

The fact is that human behavior happens in contagious, networked ways. Suicide, obesity and decreasing social mobility spread as contagions.

When you think in neighborhood terms rather than in individual terms you see things previously rendered invisible. For example, Klinenberg found that fewer people died in South Lawndale in great part because there was more social connection there. Klinenberg’s new book, “Palaces for the People,” emphasizes the importance of “social infrastructure,” physical places like libraries where people can gather. What do libraries have to do with deaths in a heat wave? It turns out quite a lot. Libraries nurture relationships among people who check in on one another when crises hit.

Some people say that we have to promote both kinds of change, individual and neighborhood. Of course that’s true, but it’s also what people say when they don’t know how to think in geographic terms and don’t know how to adjust their work to neighborhood realities.

Thinking in neighborhood terms requires a radical realignment in how you see power structures. Does the neighborhood control its own networks of care, or are there service providers coming down from above? Do the local norms of interaction need to be changed? For example, do people feel it’s normal to knock on a neighbor’s door and visit, or would that be considered a dangerous invasion of privacy? Are there forums where the neighborhood can tell its collective story?

Thinking in neighborhood terms means radical transformation in how change is done. It means escaping the tyranny of randomized controlled experiments in which one donor funds one program that tries to isolate one leverage point to have “impact.”

It means adjusting the structures of the state so that the neighborhood is an important structure of self-government, rather than imposing blanket programs willy-nilly across neighborhood lines.

Steve Johnson, Retired Teacher, Community Volunteer

My introduction to walking the Longmont neighborhoods began at our local farmers’ market. I saw Chief Mike Butler and walked over to say hello. He introduced me to Dan Benavidez who immediately invited me to join them on a Sunday walk. I have been volunteering for the Police and Fire Divisions for over a year. I moved to Longmont three years ago and wanted to connect with my new hometown. I have spent many hours driving in volunteer police vehicles being part of an eyes and ears program. In the Fire Division, I have been at open houses and participated in smoke alarm projects. I thought I had a pretty good feel for the city. I was wrong. There is nothing that matches the experience of being on the sidewalk talking face to face.

 If I had been by myself or with a different type of group I don’t think we would have had the level of access to people that we experience with the Chief. Our first contact was at Vida Nueva Spanish Assembly of God. The service had begun at 10:00 we walked in at 10:08 and watched from the back of the church. About five minutes in, Dan quietly asked if the chief might talk with the group. We did not have an appointment. I was way out of my comfort zone. The word “jefe” was repeated on both sides of a conversation that my very limited Spanish would not allow me to take part in. That in itself is a humbling experience. When you put yourself in the position of being the outsider, trying to understand what is going on, it is a powerful lesson.

This group was very gracious and listened to the messages that Mike would deliver throughout our walk. He expressed that we are all part of this community. That they are encouraged to seek help from the police, fire, and any of the city services they might need. He wants them to feel safe in their community. At the close we had a group picture and I found myself wanting to stay and listen to the music, so different from the church of my youth.

We sauntered across the street to a park and talked with dog walkers and bicyclists. The questions were the same the listening focused. Business cards were passed, and emails exchanged. Then up and down streets stopping to speak to a father and son having a beer in the warm sun. Three children shared their Nerf Gun game and brought their mom out for a visit. We talked with a couple fixing a SUV and the introduction of the Chief opened the door to each conversation. We were not met with fear or concern. We experienced warmth and openness.

 I look forward to my next walk. Being with the Chief and Dan opens the door to the type of interconnected community that I want Longmont to become.

/ Not Given Wings Merely To See The World From The Ground

Walk 9-9-2018

Dan Benavidez

What a difference just a couple of neighborhood blocks make! On Sunday August 26th we walked in the meth infested not nice neighborhood just about 3 blocks from our walk this Sunday. This Sunday all we met on this walk were very, very happy campers so to speak. They loved their neighborhood, loved their neighbors they felt safe did not even lock their cars and had no issues with our City. They loved living in Longmont. And how great it is that the Longmont Chief Public Safety Mike Butler and Deputy Chief of Public Safety Jeff Satur, and Jakob Satur right down there with them in their door steps being invited into their homes and telling and sharing with them that they belong!

And the Latino neighbor we met who speaks very, very, little English and who has lived in Longmont for 20 years has never felt discriminated against and loves living here in Longmont. And Mike, Jeff and Jakob assured him that he and his other Latino neighbors and friends BELONG in Longmont!

And I am so contented in that I really feel I can converse with our Latino neighbors not only because I speak the Spanish language, but I am blessed in that I know the Latino culture being Latino, however, I also have for decades been and spent much time with the people in all the States of Mexico, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Puerto Rico, Costa Rica and other Spanish speaking countries including Spain.

One can learn the Spanish Language but knowing the culture one may not get a true feeling of what they are saying and sharing with you, so speaking and sharing with them culture wise if you will is ever so important. And I do get back that our Latino neighbors LOVE LONGMONT!!

Mike’s Perspective

Two walks ago, we visited a neighborhood in which the concerns about methamphetamine were apparent. We chose to walk an adjoining neighborhood this Sunday to determine if the drug issues flowed into this neighborhood. Indeed, it had not. Thanks to Jeff and his lovely son, Jakob, for joining us. 

My comments will try to capture my impressions of our neighborhood Sunday walks and the talks with those we met over the last four plus years...

Many of those we met were good for our complexion; we would often break out into smiles.

We can remember so many people we met in which we did not want the conversations to end until they could teach us the music that flowed beneath their skin.

We encountered people who painted pictures in our own minds with colors we didn’t know were there.

We were able to occasionally offer people some of our own sageness in letting them know they were not given wings merely to see the world from the ground.

Dan was so wonderful in giving people, especially children, the sun knowing that they would grow tall.

Sometimes we would find people who were mad at the pace of the world but as we talked, we could see how the world would slow its spin for them. 

We chronicled the stories (including photographs) of thousands of people we met hoping our prose would let them live forever.  

We would meet people occasionally who thought they did not matter but, before we would part, they were encouraged to believe they had a brush in their hand, a heart full of colors, and a lifetime of canvases.

When we asked people to believe their voices counted, we could see the magic in which people became brave enough to ask questions in which they had the right to know the answers.

We had many conversations with so many special people in our community that created indescribable moments perhaps not meant to be fully understood; so for now it’s best that we just call them miracles.

AND... with every moment spent in our neighborhoods, we became a little more sure that anything wonderful, including a BELONGING REVOLUTION, is possible.

Jeff Satur:

Today, Sunday Sept 9th, we walked the Grandview Meadows Apartment Complex, which is west of Peck Dr., and south of Nelson Rd.  This was a follow up walk for Mike and Dan, as they had walked the apartment complex east of Peck Rd., a couple of weeks prior.  I enjoyed my walk and talking with the residents.  What a I found was a sense of belonging and a sense of responsibility for their neighborhood and apartment complex.  Each, almost as if they had a script, talked about how everyone in the complex watched out for each other, for the property and for the kids.  They spoke kindly of their neighbors, the cleanliness of the complex and highly of their maintenance workers and the complex managers.  I too found the complex to be clean and well maintained.   

As a police department, when neighbors feel responsible for the people who live near them, watch out for each other, keep their buildings, homes and apartments in repair that it can have positive effect on crime and safety.  We heard this message today and it appears to be holding true in Grandview Meadows.

I’d also like to make a shout out to John.  I enjoyed our tour of your home, and was amazed by your art work and wood work.  Go Browns - Go Broncos.

Longmont Deputy Chief of Public Safety

Jakob Satur:

I thought this walk through the Grandview Meadow Apartments was great. All the people we contacted were very friendly.  Everybody said great things about the Grandview Meadow Apartments and their neighbors. They said people watch out for each other, keep an eye on the kids, and they had low crime. Somebody said that a car may occasionally get broken into, but he leaves his car unlocked in this community and has never had it broken into.

They all have had great experiences with Longmont PD., and thought they were treated well.  People liked the maintenance workers and thought they did a great job.  They kept the areas clean, they were quick to fix things and thought if something is broken it gets fixed very quick.  They also liked that they watched the parking lots and if a vehicle did not belong, workers had it towed.

My overall impression of the Grandview Meadow Apartments is that it is an overall great neighborhood.

Jakob (Jeff’s son)

/ Changing the Conversations

Walk 8-26-2018

Dan Benavidez

Once again, we visited this neighborhood which we had visited about 2 years ago. And Oh my! After this walk as with other walks in neighborhoods we have revisited I came to fully realize once again how great and needed these neighborhood walks are! Chief Mike Butler was and is so very right on with our neighborhood walks!  That it is for sure that most people in these neighborhoods or for that matter most of Longmont neighborhoods do not go to public meetings or gatherings. So here is the Chief of Public Safety Mike Butler, right down in their predominately Latino Barrio (neighborhood) meeting with them, sharing with them with them asking how is it going? Have you been discriminated against? Have you had an encounter with the Police? Do you like l living in Longmont! And Oh, my ALL that is ALL love living here in Longmont! Speak about Diversity and a caring city LONGMONT is that in spades.

And I felt so good interpreting for Chief Butler to many whom we met who spoke little English and have lived here in Longmont for decades. And How cool it was when we met the young man with tattoos all over his Bod and who admittedly was a gangbanger in Los Angeles and who moved to Longmont and loves it here and who is now a straight arrow and volunteered to meet (as did many others) and help Chief Butler in the many Angel like programs in the city. And how sad yet I felt we gave if nothing else a morale booster to the 4 young ones we met sitting on the curb and the young lady sitting with them who is homeless and says she has been homeless for most of the past 15 years. Here again Mike said let me see if I can help you. BTW Mike gives his personal business card to all we meet!

Thank you so very much Macie May Editor in Chief of the Longmont Observer who walked with us let’s do it again!

Mike’s Perspective

Follow up from last week. There is a comprehensive and coordinated effort by public safety to address the concerns expressed to us from our previous Sunday’s walk. We remember another large apartment complex where similar issues were occurring. At one point in that complex, police were receiving 100 calls for service per month and we would not send less than two police officers when we did receive a call. Long story short, we were able to partner with the residents and management to reduce the call load to about five per month. So, we expect similar results after our work is completed in last weeks neighborhood.

This last Sunday, Longmont Observer Editor, Macie May walked with us. The Longmont Observer is an on-line local community news media outlet. They have agreed to publish the weekly report that Dan distributes - Thank you Longmont Observer. We are grateful, Macie, that you took time out of your Sunday morning to walk with us.

We walked a previously visited neighborhood on the East side of Longmont. This particular neighborhood, for a while, received extra attention by our police services division. And that extra attention seems to have paid off as almost everyone told us they felt safe, their kids were safe and one person said she does not lock her car at night because she believes her car is safe. That is in contrast to what we heard two years ago from this neighborhood. At that time we heard of hypodermic needles, drug activity, car break-ins, numerous disturbances and rowdy neighbors. This time, the biggest issue we heard was about too many cars parked on the street.

To repeat what I have mentioned in previous reports, when Dan and I visit a neighborhood that is in “distress”, that information is leveraged to allocate temporary public safety or other specific resources for that neighborhood. Out of the 170 plus walks, we believe that has happened less than five times.

Macie May Editor in Chief of the Longmont Observer

On Sunday morning I had the opportunity and the honor of joining Chief Butler and Dan Benavidez on their Belonging Revolution walk. I have been reading and publishing the weekly Belonging Revolution updates for a few weeks now and thought I had a good grasp of what I had signed up for, I was wrong. I had no idea the impact something so simple as a walk could have on a few strangers going about their business on a Sunday morning, let alone how it impacted me. 

Last Sunday, we walked down one street and met several people. Among them were Nathan, Jake, and Melissa. These three were simply enjoying the shade when we approached. Melissa talked about the effects homelessness has had on her life. When Chief Butler asked her if she would be willing to work if he could help, she jumped at the chance. Nathan seemed inspired to participate in more community conversations on the topic of homelessness to the point that he approached us again shortly after with suggestions. 

As we walked down the street we met with Alejandro and Maria. They were out trying to fix their car. Chief Bulter offered some suggestions but Alejandro had tried several of them already. He and Maria then spoke of an incident with the police in the past that left them with a negative view. After some time speaking with Chief Butler, Alejandro and Maria continued to share about their family. We parted ways with smiles and waves.

Down the street, Ebelia was having a yard sale and Dahlia and Cesar were shopping. Ebelia is taking English classes so that she can better understand the people she meets. By the end of our conversation, she was willing to allow Chief Butler to call upon her to speak on the behalf of or to the Latino community in community conversations. 

The thing that moved me the most was the way people noticeably changed during the course of our conversations. As we approached, many seemed uneasy. However, Dan's friendly smile and joyful hola draws people in right away. The first thing Chief Butler wanted everyone to know was that Longmont Public Safety (LPS) is here to serve the community and that if any individual needs the assistance of LPS, he personally wants to invite them to contact LPS without fear. This is the moment when everyone changed from being nervous that the Public Safety Chief had approached them to being willing to share their stories. It was incredible to see these people go from being guarded to being open to sharing. This was just the first step in Dan and Chief Butler's plan to make sure the people of Longmont feel as though they belong and are welcomed in our community. By the end, Chief Butler walked away from with a list of community members willing contribute and to help promote the idea of belonging in Longmont.

I would like to thank Dan and Chief Butler inviting me to share in this wonderful opportunity. I plan on joining them again in the future. I would also like to thank each of the people we met on Sunday for sharing their stories with us. I learned so much about this small portion of our community and the challenges they face simply by walking down one street in Longmont and listening. And to think that all of this started with a simple hello, or in Dan's case, a friendly hola. 

/ So Sad A Neighborhood Walk

Walk 8-19-2018

Dan Benavidez

It was a cloudy, cool and somewhat breezy Sunday morning when we began our walk and I thought to me self brrr I am a little bit cold. But after we started our walk it was not that bad at all.  

Of all the neighborhood walks that Chief Mike Butler and I have walked in over the past 4 years, this one was so sad a neighborhood walk. We had walked in this neighborhood over two (2) years ago and at that time it was a pleasant, nice neighborhood but oh my what a change has taken place over the 2 years since we walked this neighborhood and not for the good!

Never, and I mean never had we experienced a walk where nearly all we talked to were having to deal with a neighbor or neighbors who were into methamphetamine its use and those dealing with it! NOT NICE! And oh how sad when the senior citizen lady who told us she was about ready to go to her church and who was walking her dog came down the sidewalk and seen us talking to a neighbor about meth  and she literally burst into tears as she could finally talk to someone of importance such as Mike and Longmont City Council member at Large Aren Rodriguez about her terrible experience she had and was going through in regards to meth users and dealers even in the unit she had just occupied was covered in mold!

And all the neighbors that we met you could see it in their smiles  that they felt so good after talking with Chief Mike Butler and City Council Member Aren Rodriguez two persons of power and authority in our Longmont Community in that they did  not have to go to a community meeting (which they probably would not go to) take a number and wait to be introduced before they can talk to persons of authority because Mike and Aren were down with them in their neighborhood to listen to them and to help them!

And thank you ever so much Longmont City Council Member at large Aren Rodriguez for walking with us this past Sunday and I do look forward to you joining us again.

 It is ever so good that persons of authority Like Chief Butler and City Council member Aren Rodriguez go right down in the neighborhood to meet and talk to the people in our great Longmont City! Yes, taking the power to the people!

Thank you

Dan Benavidez

Mike’s Perspective

As rare as it might be, there are neighborhoods in Longmont that need TLC. The neighborhood we walked Sunday is one of those.  Often in my narratives, I recount the resilience, social capital and wherewithal of neighborhoods. This particular neighborhood will need assistance from public safety(police and fire), as well as other government and non-profit agencies to achieve more equilibrium within their neighborhood. While those we met were very appreciative of our presence and the opportunity to have a Sunday morning conversation with the finest citizen activist in our community, the public safety chief and a City Council person, they also expressed how concerned they were with what was happening in their neighborhood.

Apparently, there is significant and ongoing use of methamphetamine in this very large apartment complex. Specifically, the most concerning issue was that the apartment complex management is renting apartments to people that are allegedly still meth contaminated. I want to state that this information has not been verified - very important! Those we met were also concerned with antagonisms amongst renters and between renters and the “landlord.” We also saw photos of significant mold in an apartment.

Public safety will begin addressing the issues identified by the residents asap. We will develop a series of strategies in concert with the landlord and the residents to more specifically identity and pinpoint the problem and rethink what possibilities we can bring to life. As I write this, several people are already working on next steps.

We did meet Michelle, Shannon, Brittney, Jerrod, Katie, Lynn, Matt, Jeff and Cheramie. Everyone we met was delightful, wanted to be a part of making their neighborhood safer and agreed to be part of necessary conversations to “get the ball rolling.”

We see this as an opportunity to help the residents of this neighborhood enhance their quality of life in terms of safety for all, neighborliness, and creating a future for themselves that is different than the present or past. There is plenty of generosity, perseverance, and kindness to bring about the flow of belonging into their midst. Transformation can happen when people feel and believe they belong.

Our service towards assisting this particular neighborhood’s desire to turn “lead into gold,” as with the original alchemists, is part embracing new possibilities, part working with certain properties(those in the neighborhood), and part an act of faith and spirit.

Our thanks to Council Person Aren Rodriguez for embracing a new opportunity to walk our neighborhoods and to learn and see first-hand what the Bodhisattva belief professes - that none of us can enter Nirvana until all others have gone before us!

 Aren Rodriguez – Longmont City Council Member, At-Large

The following is my summary of our walk.

First of all, I would like to thank Dan Benavidez and Chief Butler for inviting me to walk with them this past Sunday. The weather was a bit gloomy, but the cool weather was pleasant for walking. There weren't as many people out and about due to the weather, but we still spoke with a good number of folks. It was truly a mixture of people who are pretty happy with Longmont and some who are worried about some of the residual effects of our population growth.

The first ladies, Michelle and Marge, that we encountered were generally happy with what is going on in Longmont. Marge was visiting from Texas, and is considering moving to Longmont after she finishes her nursing degree at University of Texas, El Paso. Michelle works with mother doing cleaning. She has lived in Longmont since she was 5-years-old and said she enjoys living here.

We then walked a young gentleman named Bobby to the bus stop, as he was on his way to work. He has lived in Longmont for about 12 years, and was also generally pretty happy with how things are going. He seemed to generally be a fairly happy-go-lucky kind of guy.

The bus was running a little ahead of schedule, so we were able to chat with the bus driver for a little bit. Cliff is a Lafayette resident, but as regular driver on Longmont routes, he told us that he gets quite a few homeless riders to primarily get a reprieve the elements. Cliff is a housing first advocate and spoke about the initiative in Utah that has been making headlines.

A woman named Shannon was tending to her plants after the previous night's hail storm. She was pleased with where she lives and plans on moving to Brighton or Thornton. Part of that is related to the expensive housing costs in Longmont and also displeasure with some of her neighbors. She mentioned that there is too much methamphetamine usage in this particular apartment complex.

We spoke with a mother of five next. She is worried about the increase in crime in Longmont, but still feels that it is relatively safe. Safe enough that she allows her teenage daughter to be out on the town. 5-year-old Damian was a cute little boy. She said that her interactions with the fire department were good when they resuscitated Damian during a bad seizure a few years ago.

Jared and Katie are volunteers with the Longmont Emergency Unit. They generally like Longmont, but it is hard for them to maintain there residence here due to housing costs. They also spoke about some meth problems at the apartment complex. They were also worried about some mold from a broken water pipe. The management company hasn't done a great job with the repairs and they are having problems with excessive spiders as well. Katie helped a woman named Lynn tell us her problems with the management company. Lynn has been trying to work with Officer Arne on some other issues that seem to be retributive actions against her from other residents as well as the management company. Lynn was very emotional and very happy to be able to speak with Chief Butler. Chief Butler said he would speak with Officer Arne and try to get some answers for her.

Our final stop was with a very calm and collected lady by the name of Cheramie. Cheramie generally likes where she lives but did speak about a couple of incidents that are the result of some of the meth issues related to the apartment complex. She had a neighbor that used and people were constantly in and out of the apartment at all hours. Apparently one of these people molested a young girl, and the girl was removed from the situation. On another occasion a young man knocked on her door requesting help due to a gun shot wound. Cheramie was very understanding and calm about the issues, and would most likely be a very helpful person when having conversations surrounding some of these issues.

The consensus was that this apartment complex has some concerning issues surrounding methamphetamine, and the hope is that they are adequately cleaning the affected units when necessary. There is some anecdotal evidence that this might not be the case. Overall, it was nice to be able to speak with folks about their concerns as well as their general view of living in Longmont. Hopefully I will be able to do another walk with Chief Butler and Dan Benavidez sooner than later.

Aren Rodriguez

City Council Member, At-Large

/ Over 170 Neighborhoods and Over 3,000 Residents

Walk 8-12-2018


Dan Benavidez

It was nice warm day this last Sunday morning and we revisited a neighborhood we had walked in about 2 years ago. And wow! As I drove to the neighborhood we were going to walk in I realized than since we started our neighborhood walks that we have walked in over 170 neighborhoods and have met approximately 3,000 people!  And how very nice it was  as walked down the neighborhood street  and I see that a breakfast type gathering was taking place with much good food, in the backyard of a home on the block and I asked the lady walking into the back yard where the gathering was taking place if I could Introduce Mike Butler the Longmont Chief of Police and Fire department to them as he would like to meet them and she said ”Claro que si “ (of course) and we had such a  pleasing time sharing and talking with the people there all who spoke mainly Spanish who were having a memorial type breakfast for the sister of one of them who had died a week ago.

And how totally enjoyable it was when we entered the little church on Lashley Street (where all spoke Spanish) and I apologized to the pastor and the church gathering  for our interrupting their church service that  was taking place and asked the pastor if he  would allow Mike Butler the chief of Police and Fire Department to address the congregation and he said “Si” And Mike addressed the congregation telling them about belonging and our walking the neighborhoods on Sundays and he was so well received.

And how nice talking to the senior citizen Lady and the others on our walk.

Yes, it’s all about belonging and acceptance on all treks of life. Thank you, Chief Mike Butler, for making this happen since July 2014!

It was a very, very good Sunday walk!

And thank you! Kathleen Thurmes East County Zero Waste Coordinator Eco-Cycle, Inc. for accompanying Chief Butler and me on our Sunday walk it was a pleasure having you with us on our walk and hope you will join us again on a future Sunday walk.


Mike’s Perspective

I can remember staying at my grandparent’s house on occasional weekends when I was a young boy. They lived near a railroad track. It was not uncommon for someone, not known to my grandparents, to knock at their door and to say they just hopped off the train and they were hungry. Without hesitation, my grandparents invited the men (never saw a woman) into their home and given something to eat. Sometimes, they spent the night before they continued on their journey especially during the bone-chilling cold of Ohio winters. What I remember the most is how my grandparents encouraged them to feel as if they belonged and were cared for. Stories of lives were exchanged and these men often revealed their pain and their hopes. I was fascinated by their stories and often wondered what would become of them. Never once did I feel fear. And as long as they were in my grandparents’ home, they were safe from any harm! There were no strangers in my grandparent’s lives. Their love for others was without bounds. These experiences helped shape how I lived my life and is perhaps one of the reasons why I love to walk Longmont neighborhoods every Sunday.

During our walk this last Sunday, Dan, Kathleen and I were treated similarly - and not as strangers. The first occasion was when we visited Luis and his family at his home. Luis, a cook at Janie’s Cafe, was in his backyard making burritos and hash browns for his family when we arrived. We learned their purpose for gathering this Sunday morning was to celebrate the life of a sister who died nine days ago at the age of 43. So, as entered their backyard, we felt welcomed,; we were offered food(which I accepted); we shared stories(Luis and Dan were the only bilingual people) as if we have known each other for years and everyone gathered for a family(including us) photo. We were treated like la familia. As we left Luis’ backyard, everyone wished us well. Our worlds were made smaller, safer and more satisfying. I had a spring in my step as I left.

The next occasion was when we visited a small neighborhood church. Dan, Kathleen and I entered the church during their services. Pastor Jose graciously acknowledged our presence and warmly invited us to participate. The people in the congregation turned to see us and greeted us with welcoming smiles. We asked if we could have a few minutes to explain our presence and Pastor Jose momentarily stopped his sermon and invited us to talk to the congregation. Some might think we interrupted their time; Pastor Jose and those present made us feel as if we belonged and as if our choice to be in their midst was what they had hoped for. It was amazing! I remember walking up to the altar for a photo everyone agreed to be in and, as I was making my way, an older woman touched my arm. When I looked to see who it was, I saw the eyes of my grandmother looking at me. I felt I belonged and I felt cared for.

We met others during our walk as well and, again on this Sunday, we  were affirmed for the choice we made to be in this neighborhood.

Every Sunday, our Belonging Revolution walks reveal the kindness, generosity and gifts of so many people in our community. Without fail, we feel the hospitality of people in each neighborhood we walk. Our community is filled with loving hospitality. As Henri Nouwen said,

 “The paradox of hospitality is that it wants to create emptiness — not a fearful emptiness, but a friendly emptiness where strangers can enter and discover themselves as created free; free to sing their own songs; speak their own languages; dance their own dances; free also to leave and follow their own vocations.

Kathleen Thurmes East County Zero Waste Coordinator Eco-Cycle, Inc.

I had been hearing about the Belonging Revolution walks since the day I started working for Eco-Cycle, a local non-profit dedicated to Zero Waste advocacy in Boulder County, over a year and a half ago. Dan Benavidez, being a long-time champion of recycling and composting issues in Longmont and a member of Eco-Cycle’s board of directors, invited me to join him on one of his walks when I met with him to introduce myself as a new Eco-Cycle employee.

It was a gorgeous Sunday morning. Not too hot, not too cool, and a characteristically sunny Longmont day. The neighborhood that Dan and Chief Butler chose to walk in was an apartment complex near to downtown. Our walk ended up spilling out into the primarily Spanish-speaking neighborhood after we took a lap around the whole complex and encountered very few people.

What struck me most about the experience was the dedication and passion that Dan and Chief Butler bring to their work. Every person they saw on the street was someone they wanted to talk to. There were no exceptions. There were definitely some people who gave off “don’t talk to me” vibes, but even they got at least a friendly “good morning!” if not the whole Belonging Revolution experience.

Chief Butler and Mr. Benavidez have created a unique program for reaching out to the residents of Longmont. They’ve been walking the streets almost every Sunday morning for the past five years, occasionally repeating a neighborhood so that they can catch new people as they go about their daily lives. They introduce themselves, hand out business cards, and stick around talking with folks about their experiences in Longmont. The Belonging Revolution truly is a heart-forward effort to build up social capital in the neighborhoods of Longmont and to spread the message: “You belong here.”



/ Conversations Our Community Chooses To Have With Itself

Walk 8-5-2018

Dan Benavidez

It was very cloudy and overcast this last Sunday morning and I sent a message to Chief Butler “Mike it is cloudy and breezy and may drizzle so should we still do our neighborhood walk?”  Mike replied I think we will be okay meet you at the Snowmass place and Martin Road neighborhood. And indeed, the weather no problem and we had a nice neighborhood walk. We had walked in this neighborhood about two years ago.  We met two gentleman who are now retired and who served our country in the Military one in the Army and one in the Navy, and I am always so thankful to be able to meet and share with these veterans right in their neighborhood. And what a pleasure meeting and talking to the young people who run their own business and love living in Longmont. And again, all we met loved living in Longmont and I always feel good after our Sunday neighborhood walk.

And thank you, thank! you Marijike Unger, City of Longmont City Wide Communications manager you are one great peoples type person and communicator and all we met felt so comfortable with you. And I mean wow! Marijike fluent in 4 languages Spanish being one of them how cool!


Mike’s Perspective

Often, the uniqueness of a community or its identity is defined by its parks, its schools, landscaping, its leaders or the local economy. Our Belonging Revolution believes that new possibilities in our city and our town’s future identity will be brought about by the conversations our community chooses to have with itself. Conversations that make a difference start with powerful questions, include quality invitations, and in which people (not just leaders) speak to their own accountability, commitment, and action.

We walked a neighborhood in which there was a recent devastating event for a family. As we’ve mentioned prior, we often pick neighborhoods that have experienced harm or tragedy and to whatever level we can, try to bring equilibrium or healing through our conversations with those we meet in that neighborhood. Marijke Unger, our City’s relatively new Communications Director accompanied us.


We met Robin, a delightful young woman walking her two pooches. Robin is quite gregarious and talked of her volunteer work in our community. Robin quickly accepted our invitation to help out more in our community. Robin blessed us with her charm and her energy and has amazing gifts to offer the rest of us.

We met Jim. What a hoot! Jim initially described himself as not a community oriented person and “just wanted to be left alone” but then went on to describe a few circumstances in which he reached outside of himself and helped others. Jim told us of an incident in which he, in the moment, went the extra mile (my words) to help a person experiencing homelessness. We could see Jim soften a little when he related his story. Jim could potentially come off as “grumpy” but the more we talked, the more he opened up and allowed us to see his sense of humor, his love for our community, and his inner, compassionate spirit.

Then there was Veronica, Mike and Nick. Oh my! Engaging, fun, loving, all of the above. Mike does hardwood floors and Marijke and I both obtained his business card. Nick is a visiting relative and spoke of his newly found barbecue business in San Diego. Veronica was a spirited personality and she also accepted our invitation to be of help in our community. We had a robust conversation with them

NOTE: On three occasions, we heard about our Longmont public safety volunteers in action. Two people told us of family members involved with our victim advocate program and Jim let us know of citizen volunteers who were operating radar enforcement on the street in front of him. FYI - our invitations over time on our walks or over time our fruitful. People in our community have gifts to offer and want opportunities to offer them. We are all grateful.

Our Belonging Revolution believes the future is created one conversation, one person, one opportunity, one room at a time. This is where real transformation occurs! During our Sunday walks and vis a vis the conversations that occur, we hope our residents experience intimate and authentic relatedness with us and with each other - this is a gift to us as well.  Our conversations focus on their generosity, their kindness as well as their talents. What we hope for is a shift in thinking in which they BELIEVE they “own” our community - even though others still might be “in charge.” We structure our conversations so that diversity of thought and dissent are given space, commitments are made without barter, and the gifts of each person are acknowledged and recognized.

And so it was this last Sunday! Thank You Marijke for taking time on your Sunday morning to walk with us and to learn a little more about the people in our community. 

Marijke Unger |
City-wide Communications Manager

It was a pleasure joining you yesterday for the weekly neighborhood walk, thank you both so much for taking time out of your Sundays to connect directly with our community, and for including me in this inspiring endeavor.

What struck me about what you do, in addition to creating a human connection with city residents, is that you also give them the gift of connecting with their own sense of community and belonging in a more conscious way, and open the door for them to become more engaged. It was a lovely day for a walk, starting out overcast, but warm, with the sun breaking through the clouds as we covered some ground. I was grateful for the quiet streets in the shade of imposing, mature trees, and enjoyed taking in the beautiful gardens along our route.

It was a treat meeting Robin and her pups Aspen and Kaya, and hearing about her love of the area and enjoyment of the parks and neighborhood. But I was also saddened to learn that housing costs are so high she is considering moving out of the City, a problem many must be facing or have faced in recent years as property values soar.

John, a Navy veteran, spoke highly of life-saving services he received from the City’s emergency responders, when he suffered a heart attack, and shared that his wife has volunteered for many years as a victim advocate with the City –doing good and difficult work, giving back to the community they call home.

Another veteran, Jim, came out of his curmudgeonly shell to crack some jokes and the occasional smile that betrayed a caring heart and concern for people going through a hard time.

Our last encounter, with Veronica and Mike, and Mike’s cousin Nick, delayed their departure to the fair and rodeo –but only by a few minutes—and they entertained us with a good story of police responding to a neighbor’s midnight call that turned out to be about Veronica’s daughter’s screaming tantrum when Veronica took her cell phone away.

I was amazed at how warmly people responded to our invitation to chat, even if caught off guard or cautious at first. And gratified to hear only positive responses to encounters or interactions with City public safety staff. As an 18-year Longmont resident myself, I am grateful for the opportunity to connect with my town in a new way, and with people walking the same streets I do that I would otherwise never have met. Thank you both for making me part of your belonging revolution!




/ Ah!! Que Suerte La Mia

Walk 7-22-2018

Dan Benavidez

We had over a year ago walked in this this mobile home neighborhood off 9th avenue and Mike said to me we must go back in these low income neighborhoods to continue to listen to the neighbors and tell them that they BELONG! This neighborhood is one of Longmont’s poorest neighborhoods and oh my how I felt so deeply saddened going there again to personally witness once again the tough living conditions there even though most living there are doing okay. I did however feel so good after we talked to the young couple who have recently and within the past years went through a world of hell much because of their own doing however not totally because of their own doing and are basically sleeping in their car at least for now but never the less are and have been recovering and from all they said will be doing okay with the very little they have. I also felt oh so good talking to the Latino man who has been in Longmont for 40 years sitting on his porch who spoke no English does not drive a car but is so happy with his life, his mobile home and is a happy camper. And all the Latinos when asked by Chief Butler had they ever been discriminated against said empathetically said NO!

And when asked had they ever had contact with the Police many said no but one who said yes, that he had contact with the police over a minor license issue and he said he was treated very nicely, and with respect and since he only spoke Spanish that the Police officer even had an interpreter to help him.

Ah!! que suerte la mia (What luck mine) to still be able to accompany our great Chief of Public safety Mike Butler on his Sunday neighborhood walks he indeed has started a “Belonging Revolution”  

And thank you so very much Rosie Briggs Eco Cycle - Zero Waste Out Reach for accompanying Chief Butler and me on our walk and thank you again ever so much for joining and helping me in the Spanish/ English/English Spanish Interpretations. 

Mike’s Perspective

We walked a neighborhood this last Sunday that has experienced significant police activity over the last few weeks including someone struggling with homelessness who overdosed and died from methamphetamine. There was a significant effort on the part of public safety staff to revive the man to no avail.

The neighborhood is great need of many resources. Several of the mobile homes are barely livable; there is a significant amount of trash within the mobile home park and the social tenor has considerable tension. And while the stories we have are indicative of relative ok-ness, there are several underlying concerns.

We met Lopez, who lives by himself and has resided in Longmont for forty years. An amicable man, Lopez was quite friendly and came with a big smile.

We met a couple who let us know they were being evicted from their mobile home and, for the time being, were going to live in their car. The woman has a self-admitted history with drug use. The man self-admitted he served time in prison. The compelling aspect of this visit for me was their positive perspective towards new possibilities for both of them. After we left them, the woman re-approached us and let us know of how the man had, on three separate occasions, saved the lives of others. She followed that up with an email to me identifying the circumstances of one of those life-saving efforts. She also said she would be willing to organize an effort in this particular mobile home park to make it a “drug free neighborhood.” Alas, they were being evicted, at least temporarily.

We met a group of four men living in the same mobile home. They shared stories of their lives with us including a time when one was stopped by local police.

There are certain neighborhoods in Longmont, and Dan and I can identify each of them, that seem to need more connection to the rest of the community and necessary additional assistance. Often, these neighborhoods can be marginalized by others in the community and either labeled a dangerous neighborhood or merely forgotten about. It is important that we somehow pay more attention for their sake and for the sake of our community. Dan and I will be following up on some ideas we have.

Occasionally, our Belonging Revolution brings us face to face with significant social issues. This was one of those occasions.

Rosie Briggs Eco Cycle - Zero Waste Out Reach - Walk 7/22/18

I walked with Dan and Chief Butler through Evergreen Mobile Home Park on Sunday, and although it was one of the poorest areas of Longmont I felt uplifted and safe the whole time. The first man that we spoke to described his life as “tranquilo”—and he truly seemed at peace with his lifestyle. He was very open to talking to us, and shared that he had been here 40 years and felt at ease in Longmont. He seemed excited to meet Dan and Chief Butler and went inside to put on a nice shirt and hat before taking a picture with us. We also talked to a couple who had encountered some trouble but were also very open with us about their story. Although the man had been in prison and the woman had used drugs in the past, they trusted the Chief and told him all about what they were dealing with. They were white but seemed to know their Latino neighbors well. The last group that we talked to were four men from Mexico, who were all enthusiastic and happy to talk to us. Like the first man we spoke to, they didn’t feel as though they were discriminated against, and although one of them had been pulled over recently for having expired plates he reported having a positive experience with the police and their translator. All of the Spanish-speakers were very receptive and kind, even when I’m sure my translations were less than perfect. Dan and Chief Butler both certainly have a sense of authority about them, but no one seemed intimidated at all, and were eager to talk to them. The woman that we spoke to about 20 minutes earlier even ran to catch up with us as we were leaving, to tell us more about her story and get more information about the programs offered nearby. Seeing these interactions inspired me, and I left with a feeling of great hope and faith in community.


/ For All The Right Reasons

Walk 7- 8- 2018

Dan Benavidez

FOUR YEARS AGO!! In the early morning in July Longmont Chief of Public Safety Chief Butler called me and said “Dan will you accompany me on a neighborhood walk”

And wow!! Never, never would I have ever imagined that this Sunday July 8th we would be starting OUR FIFTH YEAR of Sunday walks in the neighborhoods of Longmont. Chief Mike Butler for all the “Right Reasons” has indeed and without a doubt started a “BELONGING REVOLUTION!” the “BELONGING REVOLUTION” is not a once or twice Sunday neighborhood walk but a total commitment of Sunday neighborhood walks for years. It reminds me of Cesar Chavez who at Mass ending his 25 day water only fast issued the following statement.  

“The greatest tragedy is not to live and die, as we all must. The greatest tragedy is for a person to live and die without knowing the satisfaction of giving life for others “

 Indeed, without a doubt someday Mike will be “Having the satisfaction of knowing his giving of his life for others!”

This Sunday walk so inspirational and so meaningful to me.  We had walked this neighborhood about a year ago and oh how good I felt when several of the neighbors remembered we had been there with them before. And I felt sad when we met the Army Vet down on his luck a survivor from recent cancer and now hopefully in remission and he and I shared little about our Army experience as we both served about the same time, and I thought to myself after our visit with him that me so blessed because only by the grace of God go I!

Over all one good walk this Sunday morning.  And thank you ever so much Longmont City Council Member Tim Waters and Kristy Beachy-Quick from Colorado State University it was so good of you to be there with us! THANK YOU BOTH AGAIN!

Mike’s Perspective

A warm day indeed. Council person Tim Waters and Kristy Beachy-Quick researcher in Social Work with the Social Work Research Center and the One Health Institute joined us. We walked the St. Vrain Mobile Home Park.

We walked this neighborhood about a year ago because of the palpable fear residents felt given the national tenor about immigration. At that time, we assured people we met that Longmont police were not at all interested in anyone’s immigration status and encouraged everyone to access services notwithstanding their status.

What a difference a year makes. Not one person mentioned that concern during our walk. Nevertheless, we assured them again.

Dan and I are starting our fifth year of walking neighborhoods in our community. Our core purpose has been to create a future for everyone we meet in our community that is not just incidental for them, but one of a different nature from what they have. The kind of future we are primarily interested in is the way in which people can develop a deeper sense of belonging with the rest of us. We know our community is made up of all that has built us and broken us. And whatever is broken about our community, it is the people in our neighborhoods who are the glue.

And we know these transformations don’t happen overnight. Our social fabric is created one person, one gathering, and one neighborhood at a time. And like fine art, communities take time. Monet grew his gardens before he painted them. And so it is with our community. Onward to year five! Blessed be our Belonging Revolution!

Tim Waters Longmont City Council Member Ward 1

Sunday, July 8th, was a typically beautiful, warm, summer morning in Longmont.  It was a perfect morning for walking a neighborhood in the southwest part of our community.  Fortunate for me that I had been invited by Mike Butler and Dan Benavidez to join them and Kristy Beachy-Quick to do just that.

Having heard and read about Mike and Dan’s neighborhood walks I was pleased to be included.  The two hours (or so) we spent visiting with residents made several deep impressions on me.  First was confirmation that Longmont residents connect with this community and affirm their sense of belonging.  This is their community and they believe they belong in Longmont.  Second is that residents in the neighborhood we walked connect with one another.  There is a strong sense of “we” in the neighborhood we walked.  The residents care both about their home AND about the community in which they live. 

Most of the individuals with whom we visited are Latino.  In our conversations either Mike or Dan asked if they had ever, in any way, felt excluded or marginalized as Longmont residents.  Their response was consistently “no”.  A couple of individuals shared stories of when individuals behaved badly, but these were shared as rare exceptions, not the norm.  So my third impression was that on a day-to-day and person-to-person basis, Longmont approximates the inclusive community we aspire for it to be.  I am certain we still have work to do, but I am more confident today that we are moving in the right direction.

I was impressed with the impact these walks, conversations, and connections can make in Longmont.  Our Sunday morning walk likely had a much bigger impact on me than it did on the larger community.  There can be no doubt, however, that Sunday morning walks, conversations, and connections week after week, month after month, year after year impact Longmont in profound and positive ways.  Thanks to Mike and Dan for their commitment to walking neighborhoods, listening to residents, and including people like me in the process.  We are all better off for their efforts.

Kristy Beachy-Quick CSU Social Work Research Center

I work at CSU in the School of Social Work and with the One Health Institute and met Chief Butler through a project we are engaging in with the City of Longmont to increase connections and build social capital. I heard about his Sunday walks and had the privilege of accompanying Dan Benavidez, Chief Mike Butler, and Councilman Tim Waters on a walk to meet the residents in the St. Vrain mobile home park this morning. We walked several streets and spoke to individuals and family groups that we encountered outside. The first gentleman we met was on his porch with his young son. Mike introduced himself and asked some questions in the course of conversation that he asked of everyone we encountered:

-        Do you feel safe in your neighborhood and in Longmont in general?

-        How is it for you to live in Longmont? Do you feel at home in this community, like you belong here?

-        If you have had experiences with the police or fire departments, how did those go for you? Have you had any negative experiences that you would like to share?

-        Have you experienced any discrimination in Longmont?

He ended each conversation letting folks know that if they themselves are undocumented immigrants or if they know others who are, to tell them that it is safe to contact the fire and/or police departments if they need services – that documentation status does not matter to the City of Longmont and they are welcome and safe here.

I was most struck by the genuineness of these encounters. People seemed happy to share their stories and to connect. I noticed that the children were paying close attention and enjoyed shaking hands with everyone and being included in the conversation. While the feedback was very positive overall, a few people shared some issues they were having in their neighborhood and Mike wrote down their concerns and suggested some action steps that he would take. He asked each person if he could call on them to help others if the need arose and many agreed and provided their names and phone numbers. Dan and Mike both wore shirts with the logo “Belonging Revolution” and Dan passed out cards with this same slogan. I was honored to join the revolution this morning.

/ Welcome Sign At The Neighborhood Edge

Walk 6-10-2018

Dan Benavidez

Golly gee it was a hot Sunday for a neighborhood walk but never the less a beautiful day. And what fit in oh so well with me about this Sunday neighborhood walk was an incident that occurred on my own early morning unaccompanied walk that made me know that for sure our Belonging Revolution was working. As I was walking down the street I was passing by a rather old 4 door car the windows were rolled down and as I was passing the car a lady in the car called out to me “Hi Dan, how are you?” She knew me and we had a nice talk and she also knew about our walks she said how great they were, that she was homeless at one time in her life and how good it was that someone like Chief Butler not only did good police work but cared about the people and the man next to her who cannot walk anymore said “Yes he is one great man” and it was apparent to me they were making it only day to day and as I left we all smiled and said we would stay in contact.

And how the people we met all loved Longmont said it was growing ever so much but that it still had its old town pleasant atmosphere.  And how nice the lady sharing with us that she was a child therapist. And Oh, how refreshing and how delightful it was when we were walking back to our cars a Latino man pulled up in his car and with a big smile on his face gave us a happy greeting out the window of his car wow! how cool that was as we had met and talked with him last Sunday on our neighborhood walk just a few blocks away. Chief Butlers “Belonging Revolution” is for real and is working!

And thank you Judy Wong for walking with us. Judy is presently President of Eco Cycle and is an environmental professional with 35 years of public service, retiring in May 2014.  Her most recent position was Assistant Regional Administrator for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in Denver. And Judy and I have shared with each other and I know she and her family have “Walked the walk” from China Town in California to success in our great country!

Mike’s Perspective

There are times in my life when the sacredness and the preciousness of each person I meet is so profound and so wondrous that I can viscerally feel the connection between us. When that happens the depth of that connection is not something words can describe. I felt that connection with those we met on Sunday as we continued to walk Dan’s neighborhood.

The people we met were engaged, introduced us to family members, welcomed us to the neighborhood, and invited us to come into their homes. Those we met were not in the mode of protecting themselves from strangers as much as they were welcoming to strangers - namely the three of us - Dan, Judy and me. And each of us felt warmth, welcomed, and that we belonged in that neighborhood. Truly, there was a welcome sign at the edge of their neighborhood. It was as if we came to the right place and were affirmed for that choice.

Diane, Jessica, Jenny and Guadeloupe were some of those we met Sunday. Their authentic qualities of aliveness, care for others, and seeing new possibilities for their neighborhood and our community were inspiring! They are examples of how authentic community can occur!

I have found that there are certain conversations that have little life to them and have very little power and entail no accountability. Telling history, giving explanations and opinions, blaming and complaining, retelling the same stories, making reports and descriptions, carefully defining terms and conditions are attributes of conversations that, for me, minimally resonate as they are relatively benign and contribute little to transformation.

Conversations that produce more than just talk are those that involve possibilities, commitment, gifts, ownership, dissent and invitation. Inherent in these conversations are deep connection, relatedness, increased tolerance, understanding and love, as well as the creation of a new future. The conversations we have on our Sunday walks are driven by questions and an initiate community where commitment and accountability are ingrained. Our Belonging Revolution conversations overcome fragmentation and creates a space for intentional possibilities. Again, so much more to say.

Judy Wong - President Board of Directors - Eco Cycle

I have come to know Dan Benavidez over the last few years serving with him on the board of Eco-Cycle.  During this time, he has shared his passion for inclusion and for partnering with Chief Butler to help his community be one where everyone feels that he or she belongs. I found it remarkable that Chief Mike Butler and Dan have walked Longmont neighborhoods to engage with people on Sundays for nearly five years! Dan invited me to join them and I’m grateful for the chance to do it yesterday.

Despite the heat, we met many people in Dan’s neighborhood who were gardening, returning from a walk or just hanging out. Everyone was welcoming and appreciated the chance to talk one-on-one with the Chief of Public Safety. Mike was down to earth and genuine in wanting to know how they viewed their neighborhood and Longmont in general. He also asked if they’ve ever experienced any discrimination. In some instances, when the neighbor felt more comfortable with Spanish, Dan served as translator, a big help!

Without exception, every person loved his or her neighborhood and living in Longmont and had never felt discriminated against or treated unfairly. They all felt safe. That says so much about Longmont and its residents.

It was heartening too to hear about their commitment to making things better, from Diane the child therapist who hopes for mental health services that are available to people of all incomes, to Guadalupe, a recent high school graduate who will start training to become a dental hygienist. She noted that her class has almost no other students of color. Guadalupe wants this to change and as an active community volunteer, she’s ready to do her part.

Though it wasn’t the main focus of our walk, Dan and I had the opportunity to ask several residents about recycling and whether they knew of Eco-Cycle. They proudly pointed to their blue-lidded bins and said half their waste was recycled! I explained that the City of Longmont provides collection services and educational outreach and that the collected recyclables go to the recycling center operated by Eco-Cycle.

Thank you, Mike and Dan, for including me. And thanks to Dan’s neighbors for making me feel so welcome!