/ 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.