I had some recent transplants move back to Colorado and we found them a wonderful home! After closing, these folks wanted to donate to a nonprofit that benefits refugees. After researching some organizations, they selected Project Worthmore located in Aurora.

Project Worthmore provides programs that foster community, self-sufficiency and increase quality of life among Denver-area refugees.

PW accomplishes this endeavor through a multitude of avenues. They provide:

  • English (ESL) classes at no cost to refugees
  • A dental clinic for the refugees who cannot afford dental care. 
  • Fresh and healthy produce for families to attain bi-weekly
  • A family partnership program to help orient refugee families to Denver 

I was particularly inspired by the family partnership program, as this is not just a way to help the refugee families, but to become acquainted with another culture and step out of our comfort zone. I especially think that families with children could receive great benefit by participating in this program. What a wonderful way to expose your children to culture, while helping another family in need!

Here is a video about Project Worthmore’s Family Partnership Program:

Careholder from Project Worthmore on Vimeo.

There are many ways you can become involved with Project Worthmore. You can donate or volunteer. You can follow them on Facebook or Twitter. AND you can attend their upcoming event: Our Neighbors, Ourselves, which is an art exhibit that will take place at Stanley Marketplace on September 24, 2016.

As always, you can donate to Project Worthmore when you buy or sell a home through Conscious Real Estate – we always contribute 10% of our commissions to the nonprofit of our client’s choice! To learn more about this, call Allison Parks at 303-908-9873 or email allison@theconsciousgroup.com.

Conscious Real Estate Broker/Owner Allison Parks with Project Worthmore Executive Director Frank Anello

Our wonderful client Sonya closed on her home, just in time to get settled before welcoming her twin grandbabies! Sonya chose to donate to CWEE: Center of Work, Education, and Employment, because she wanted to support an organization that empowers local families to better their lives and break the cycle of poverty.

CWEE is an impactful nonprofit, based in Denver, that assists low-income single parents to gain employment and create financial security, often to transition off public assistance.

The participants attend CWEE’s program 30 hours per week for an average of three to six month. Participants learn soft skills necessary in employment and then begin building credential-backed technical skills they need to obtain and maintain long-term employment. They also learn such necessary skills as building a budget and finding childcare. After the participants complete the program, they can still access post-employment support as needed.

In 2015, CWEE served 616 participants, with a 62% increase in the number of individuals who gained employment from the previous year, with an average starting wage of $11.36 for full-time employment. CWEE is especially impactful in resolving the disparity in single mothers’ experiencing poverty – single mothers account for 10.7% of families in Colorado, but comprise 42% of all families living in poverty.

Caitie from CWEE, our client Sonya, and Conscious Real Estate Owner/Broker Allison Parks

Caitie from CWEE, our client Sonya, and Conscious Real Estate Owner/Broker Allison Parks

To date, CWEE has assisted more than 13,000 single parents to lift their families out of poverty, which has resulted in an estimated $6 million in wages being invested back into the Denver economy.

In the photo , we are standing in front of the CWEE tree of jobs. Each leaf has a CWEE participant’s name, their new job title, and their hourly wage.

I was thrilled to learn about this organization and to be able to donate on behalf of Sonya.

If you would like to learn more about CWEE, you can follow them on Facebook or Twitter. You can donate money, volunteer, or you can even donate professional clothing or business books! CWEE’s annual luncheon will take place this year on September 22 at Mile High Station, if you would like to honor their successful alumni, outstanding volunteers, foundations, community partners, employers, and corporations.

As always, you can always donate to CWEE if you choose to purchase or sell your home through Conscious Real Estate, since we donate 10% of our agent commissions with every transaction. To learn more about this, call Allison Parks at 303-908-9873 or email at allison@theconsciousgroup.com.

CWEE's Tree of Jobs

CWEE’s Tree of Jobs

 

Have you heard of TBI:Alive?

We were lucky enough to be able to donate to this wonderful organization recently, after our clients’ purchased a home and selected this organization to receive a Conscious Real Estate donation!

TBI:Alive is comprised of brain injury survivors, impacted families, and proactive health practitioners promoting cognitive and emotinal fitness through healthy social interaction, enjoyable community activities, and engaging lifestyle tools.

A conscious focus on fundamental physical, emotional, psychological, and community health is essential to realizing stability and happiness post-trauma. Educational and recreational activities encouraging worthwhile self-regard and realistic goal-setting help to build upon each participant’s positive foundation, while sensible affirmations and constructive feedback within an engaging community serve to support ideals of acceptance and evolution following cognitive trauma.

Activities and events organized within this community all share an ardent TBI:Alive philosophy to promote:

A) Psycho-social Benefits

-Consistent group communication and support

-Engaging community activities

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B) Somatopsychic (Body-Mind) Benefits

-Promotion of physical health and stability to benefit cognitive function

-Nutritional awareness, education, and resources for functional health in daily life

-Scheduling consistent community physical activities and events

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C) Informed Personal Health Awareness through education and support, encouraging:

-Personal abilities and responsibility to encourage healthy function

-Opportunities for conscious health-promotion in every aspect of life

-The value of structured and consistent daily practice

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We are incredibly grateful for the work that this organization does in our community and we are happy for the opportunity to help support TBI:Alive! To learn more about this organization, you can follow TBI:Alive on Facebook. You can donate. And don’t forget, Conscious Real Estate always contributes 10% of agent commissions to the nonprofit of our client’s choice, so if you are selling or purchasing a home, come work with us to support TBI:Alive! Contact Allison Parks at 303-908-9873 or allison@theconsciousgroup.com

Meet our Rock Star Agent, Kodie Miller!

She looks like this…

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And this…

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And sometimes, even this…

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This is what Kodie had to say about a recent home sale with Conscious Real Estate…

“Buying a house is exciting, plain and simple. You finally get pre-approved and your finances are in order. Chances are, you are going through a major shift in your life. Maybe you’re planning space for a new family… maybe you need a home with an addition to start your new salon… maybe you’re downsizing because your 30-year old son FINALLY moved out. (Queue background choir singing.)

Although buying a home is exciting, there are A LOT of moving parts: the inspection, an appraisal, negotiations, extending your appraisal for another inspection, more negotiations… and trying to figure out where the seller put the key to the mailbox.

My recent buyer, Mary Sue, can attest to all of this… We speed dialed each other for a solid 45 days, which was awesome. When I joined the real estate realm, it was assumed that, as a new agent, you should basically accept any business that is thrown in your general direction. To some extent, that holds true. To gain experience, you must work.

This holds true at Conscious Real Estate. However, at Conscious Real Estate, we offer our clients the opportunity to give back to causes that are important to them. By investing in what’s important to our clients, we are investing in who they are – to create a space that’s comfortable, friendly, and competent. We work on their behalf, not just because they chose us, but because it’s a conscious decision to work with one another. (See what I did there?)

For her Conscious Real Estate donation, Mary and her boyfriend, Josh, selected the “Helen M. McLoraine Scholarship for Foster Care and Emancipating Youth” through The Denver Foundation. This scholarship is awarded to youth emancipating or emancipated from the foster care system to attend college, university, or technical school. By providing this support, these young people have the opportunity to improve their future and overcome the pattern of poverty.

I am so proud to have been part of a transaction that helped Mary achieve her goal of home ownership, as well as provide support to such a wonderful cause. As for her new home, she is doing pretty well…. Here are the before and after photos of her kitchen!”

BEFORE:

marys-home-before

 

AFTER:

marys-home-after

If you would like to speak with Kodie about buying or selling a home, you may contact her at 303-­802­-0566 or kodie@theconsciousgroup.com.

 

 

1. Sit on the Front Porch

Sitting on the front porch or gardening in the front lawn can open the opportunity to have discussions with your neighbors that aren’t forced. A simple wave and friendly smile can go a long ways. Don’t hide, get out there! Your neighbors who will be walking their dogs, picking up their kids from school or just taking a stroll will be happy to see new neighbors in clear view when they first move in. Everyone is always curious about new neighbors and putting yourself out there can avoid nosy ones later – the ones who are wondering, “Just what are they up to?”

 2. Go to the Block Party

Neighbors having a shindig down the street? Grab an appetizer or beers and head over! It’s pretty much guaranteed that there will be more people just like you, feeling a little awkward, yet wanting to get in good with the neighbors. Bring a yummy treat and you can’t really go wrong. Warning: Do not get drunk and do something stupid, unless you want to regret it later. Remember, this is your first impression, and they are important. We recommend going a little after the party has started, or right when it has first begun, and leaving well before its over. Make your presence known, stay awhile, but not too long. It’s good to leave them just a taste and not overstay your welcome unless you want to have VERY close relationships with your neighbors, get involved with gossip or somehow get dragged into some neighborhood committee (unless you want to of course!).

 3. Join NextDoor.com

Another “new-fangled” way to get in touch with your neighbors is to join the social community NextDoor.com. It is similar to Craigslist in that people announce sales, ask for referrals, post government information and events, but it loses the creepy-factor because you can only join if you actually live in the neighborhood. To sign-up, go to NextDoor.com and fill out the application form. After that, they will mail a postcard to your home with a special code on it. Once received, follow the instructions and enter your code on the site. Once verified, you will get access to all neighborhood goings on such as playdates and happenings. You can adjust the frequency and type of notifications you get in the account settings section.

 4. Walk the Dog

Similarly to hanging out on the front porch, walking your dog is a fantastic way to meet your neighbors. In fact, your dog might try to meet them before you, running up to them with a big wet kiss or happy tail wag. Usually, most people are happy to see dogs, but make sure to hold their leash tight until giving the okay. People do not like their space invaded and want to be sure your dog is nice first before petting. This can open up such questions as, “What breed is your pup? How old is she? Have you just moved in?”, etc. If they have dogs too, and you hit it off, offer to go on your next stroll together and pick a time and day. Voila! Friend made. If you find out on your walk that they are not your cup of tea, let them know at the end of the walk that you enjoyed their time, but you are sad because given your schedule of just moving in, it’s likely that most of your time will be taken up with work/school/mother-in-law visiting/household projects/etc. Then, always give them a smile and a wave when you see them next.

5. Bring Over a Basket of Goodies, Flowers or Just Leave a Note

This one’s a classic. Everybody loves gifts and cards. These days, baked goods or homemade snacks may be looked at with suspicion or not eaten if you are still considered a “stranger”, so it’s best to go with wrapped items if you go that route. Flower baskets left on a door with a note are a fantastic way to say hello. Plus, if you are an introvert, this way offers you an avenue to say hello without actually saying hello. Next time you talk, all they have to usually say is “thank you” and all you usually have to say is “of course!” and tell them a bit about where you came from, what you do and what your family is all about (kids ages, etc.). A note can have the same effect if written with kindness, although flowers or a gift add a special touch.

6. Look for a Meetup Group

Another way to find neighbors with similar interests is to look for Meetup groups that suit your fancy. Love crafting? Have small kids? Love hiking? There is a Meetup group for almost every hobby. Simply look on the website, join, mark your calendar, and go! Not every group is the perfect fit for you, so it might be good to tell the host that you are new in town and trying out lots of things so that they don’t pressure you to be exclusive, giving you more time to check it all out. And, if you love it, well, you just found a weekly or monthly activity and a whole bunch of new friends.

7. Hold a Yard Sale

You might have thought you needed every single thing you packed for your move, but upon unpacking, you might discover that not everything fits perfectly or that you just have too much. Holding a yard sale can invite the neighbors to you and maybe even make you a little cash.

8. Start a Free Little Library

Free Little Libraries are always a magnet for good will. If you check out their website, you can learn all about how to build and get your free little library officially commissioned. They are adorable and neighbors can participate by lending and loaning books. Include titles that are non-controversial to start and include some kids books of all ages. You will immediately get a good impression (so long as the one you build is classy and keeps with the neighborhood vibe) and neighbors will appreciate that you are open to sharing with them in a literary way.

9. Go to a Town Hall Meeting

You can find out about town hall meetings from the newspaper, online and in forums like NextDoor.com. Attending meetings about current events affecting your neighborhood allows you to get an inside peek into the happenings around you. And, it allows you to be introduced to your neighborhood “movers and shakers.” If you lean toward politics and getting involved, this can be a great way to break into an influential group of neighbors.

10. Visit Your Local Shops and Tell the Cashiers That You Just Moved In

Shop owners, bartenders and baristas meet and talk to lots of people during their day. Through this interaction, they are privy to current events, people and tips on the best spots to visit in town. Be friendly and tell them you are new in town. Next thing you know, you will likely be pointed in the direction of something awesome to check out.

 

Alright…now that you’ve gotten your tips, it’s ready set go time. See which ones work for you and if there’s one we missed, feel free to send us your idea right here.

 

 

Water is a precious resource, we all know that for a fact. In Colorado, you will typically see either long periods of dryness, or downpour after downpour.

If you’re used to some of the more delicate flower breeds like petunias, you will likely be in for a surprise when you find out that no matter the amount of sprinkling, watering and raining, your gorgeous flowers have shriveled up to the point of no return.

Let’s avoid that for you this year (or if you are new or planning to move to Denver soon), and go over how to garden in Colorado. Which plants will endure?

There are many plants that thrive from little to no water and come up every year, leaving you with little to do each summer but enjoy the fruits of your labor (from last year!).

Here is a comprehensive list of some of our favorite Colorado-loving perennials and a little about each one to make your garden a success this year:

  • Dianthus

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Dianthus flowers are fragrant and come in several color varieties including pink, red and white. They have notched petals and are beautiful for cutting and arranging in a vase. They are even deer resistant.

The best time to plant Dianthus is in the Spring or Fall about 6 – 12 inches apart. After the first frost, cut the stems to about 1 – 2 inches above ground. Stake the stems when they first begin to grow as these can be very tall plants.

Dianthus multiply easily, so every 3 – 4 years, you can take the plants, divide them up and replant them for even more coverage.

  • Rocky Mountain Penstemon

 

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This plant is a relative of the evergreen and appears as a small bush with purple flowers. It grows best in drained soil (think: dry) and can handle high altitudes and plenty of direct, brutal sun.

Rocky Mountain Penstemons also attract bumblebees, making your garden an attractive spot for them to pollinate and maintain an insect ecosystem, which is great for the environment and creates a safe haven for them.

The purple flowers are exquisite. Tall and straights, they bloom consistently and add height to your landscaping. They are also native to the region, providing a stable and natural addition to the area’s flora.

  • Liatris

Liatris.jpg

Liatris varieties are one of the easiest plants to grow in the Colorado area. They are able to withstand the blazing sun without much water, for long periods of time.

They are a prairie wildflower that grows somewhat in the shape of a small bush with leaves and greens at the bottom and pinkish/purple “paintbrush” appearing blooms.

Liatris can grow from 1 – 5 feet tall depending on how close they are to other plants or obstructions and how much (or too much) nutrients they receive, so to get to their full growth, plant your seeds a bit further apart, at about 12 – 15 inches.

  • Rocky Mountain Columbine

Rocky Mountain Columbine.jpg

It’s not surprising that the Colorado State Flower, the Rocky Mountain Columbine, would make this list. It has been a favorite of Colorado residents for over a century, voted into “statehood recognition status” in 1891 by local school children.

While most plants on this list can grow in full sun in arid conditions, the Columbine is just slightly more delicate and should be planted in partial shade. They are a hardy perennial, however, so they can withstand more sun and less water than the average flower.

Fertilization is a good idea for Columbines and can help them be most vibrant. And, make sure you do not overwater as they thrive in well-drained soil.

Columbines are resistant to insects and diseases and will grow all season long, making them a perfect staple to your Colorado garden.

  • Poppy Mallow

Poppy Mallow.jpg

 

Poppies are beautiful plants that come in a variety of colors, including the most well-known orange colored variety. In Colorado, you will find orange and a magenta variety, among others with speciality growers and seasoned landscapers.

Poppy Mallows (and poppies in general) require a different method of planting than many other flower varieties. The best time to plant the seeds is in the fall, or even in the winter. Winter? Yes. Poppies need a period of “stratification” or “period of exposure to cold” before they will germinate. Make sure you plant in bright, bright sun as they absolutely love it.

They do have a short bloom season, so these are often planted with other annuals and perennials for variety in color once the poppy blooms have faded. They are a great accent and do very well in Colorado climates, coming back year after year to make your garden the envy of your new neighborhood.

Want more? Check out these local resources.

Now that you know to avoid the tempting displays at the local shopping centers, make sure to check out a local gardener for these and many more Colorado-happy varieties of plants. A great idea is to create a Pinterest board of the flowers that do well here and bring your phone to the market. Show the pictures and names and get the info you need from experienced “bloomers.”

Another way is to check out this guide from 5280 (one of our local Denver magazines). It goes into not only the perennial flowers mentioned here, but also great annuals that do well, vegetables that will make it, and herbs that will season your dishes and grow naturally well in our local conditions.

And, if that’s not enough, geek out on Plant Select’s comprehensive “e-guide” here that breaks it all down for you.

Ready to start planting the seeds in your Colorado move?

Contact us here to get sent free listings exactly in your price range, neighborhood, style and size. It’s so easy and better than browsing because these days, you can’t really trust what’s online commercially, but you can trust the National Association of Realtors, which has the only truly up-to-date listings in the area. The Association stands behind honesty and accountability in real estate and it’s the only system we us. Just click here to send us a note on what you’re looking for and we’ll get you all set up.

 

Welome aboard, everyone… This is your Captain, Allison speaking…

The subject heading of this blog is about our company donating to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation of Colorado, and we did. A client selected this organization after a recent home sale. Rather than discussing the donation, I would like to discuss cystic fibrosis.

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Cystic fibrosis is a life-threatening, genetic disease that causes persistent lung infections and progressively limits the ability to breathe. In people with CF, a defective gene causes a thick, buildup of mucus in the lungs, pancreas and other organs. In the lungs, the mucus clogs the airways and traps bacteria leading to infections, extensive lung damage and eventually, respiratory failure. In the pancreas, the mucus prevents the release of digestive enzymes that allow the body to break down food and absorb vital nutrients.

Today, the median predicted survival age is close to 40. This is a dramatic improvement from the 1950s, when a child with CF rarely lived long enough to attend elementary school. Thanks to advances in medicine, the life expectancy has been increased dramatically.

By pursuing bold strategies, the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation has built a robust pipeline of potential new therapies that fight the disease from every angle. And, nearly every CF drug available today was made possible because of Foundation support — including therapies to treat the underlying cause of the disease. However, there is still much research to be done. While there has been significant progress in treating this disease, there is still no cure and too many lives are cut far too short.

From discussing this with the directors at the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation of Colorado, they informed me that we may often not know that this is affecting someone who we may work with or know. People aren’t always forthcoming with the information, because they may not want to be perceived or treated differently. The directors at CFF of Colorado also told me amazing stories of the resiliency of the families who have children who are affected by CF.

My takeaway from this meeting was an extreme sense of gratitude… On a personal note, I get stressed about my problems and love to worry about this and that. But when I consider the fear and challenges that other people sometimes must face and the STRENGTH that other people bring to the table when facing these complicated issues, I am reminded to be grateful that I have my health… to not sweat the small stuff… I sometimes think I have “problems,” but there are plenty of people who would be grateful to have my problems.

I also remembered to have compassion for other people. I’ve learned this a million times and I even run a company that donates money constantly, but I still need the reminders. We may not know what the person next to us is dealing with. I learned that many people who have CF may look incredibly healthy, but they’re actually dealing with some extreme health issues.

If you would like donate to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation of Colorado, click here. Or, if you would like a fun challenge that benefits this organization, on June 25th, 2016, they will be having the Denver CF Climb, in which you climb ALL of the stairs – 3865 TOTAL – at Mile High Stadium. Sound difficult? I was told that some of the participants who have CF and only have 40% lung function still participate and do the climb! Conscious Real Estate will be hosting a water station at this event, so we certainly hope to see some of you there.

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tennyson-tim-and-anita

After our recent clients closed on the sale and purchase of their home, they chose to donate to the Tennyson Center for Children at Colorado Christian Home. These clients wanted to donate to an organization that benefitted at-risk youth and wanted to choose an organization which was close to their home.

Tennyson Center for Children at Colorado Christian Home is one of the Rocky Mountain region’s leading treatment centers and K-12 schools for emotionally and crisis-affected children and youth, particularly those suffering from abuse and neglect. They serve children ranging in age from 5-18 and are dedicated to ensuring that these amazing kids having the fighting chance they deserve at a satisfying and fulfilling life.

Having worked with at-risk youth for five years prior to real estate, I very much enjoyed touring the facility. The Tennyson Center utilizes a great deal of effective occupational therapy and traditional therapies to help the youth deal with their traumas.

As you can see from the photo, my clients brought their baby, James, on the tour. Tia, the Tennyson staff member who led our tour, used James as an example for how children can be affected when raised in a neglectful situation. When James became fussy throughout our tour, Tia pointed out how his parents used various techniques to calm and soothe him – maybe holding him differently, bouncing him a bit, or speaking to him gently. When parents use these typical techniques to soothe their baby or child, the child learns trust and eventually learns to self-soothe with age.

When a child is neglected, they don’t learn these ways to calm themselves. When you compound this with abuse, the child is constantly living in a heightened state of anxiety, and can display a great deal of emotional problems and has difficulty functioning in classrooms or other structured environments. Tennyson Center addresses many of these issues in their classroom settings and in their occupational therapy rooms. A child can go to the occupational therapy room and assess what level of intensity their body is experiencing that day and then choose one of the coping methods, such as bouncing on a trampoline or putting their body through the “squeeze machine.” The child can then reassess how they are feeling after their therapy. Over time, the child learns that they can calm themselves down through various techniques, so they will be more adaptive, rather than reactive to life’s situations and stressors.

This is just one of the many wonderful ways that the Tennyson Center helps children who have suffered from abuse and neglect. If you notice the blue pinwheels in our photo (or if you have noticed them around town), these are for recognition of National Child Abuse Prevention Month, which occurs every April. Although it is never enjoyable to learn about the abuse and neglect that happens to young people, it was very meaningful to be able to donate to this wonderful organization during the month of April.

If you would like to learn more about Tennyson Center, you may follow them on Facebook or Twitter. You may also donate or consider volunteering with Tennyson Center.

 

 

“How personal should I get?” asked Danielle Norris when we inquired as to the start of her socially conscious enterprise – Sovenco.

Norris calls herself an at-risk youth. At 16, she was assigned a case worker who was a beacon of light. Her name was Mary. When life for Norris seemed its bleakest, Mary spent 18 months guiding her out of that world and out of poverty. “She was everything to me,” says Norris.danielle

Danielle, Norris, Founder, Sovenco

Things changed when Danielle turned 18. Her program was shut down due to lack of funding and Mary lost her job. It was at that moment that Norris realized the injustice of the situation. Fourteen years later, one of her core values is making a difference, so that is what she sought out to do.

“With nonprofits, the biggest thing that doesn’t work is that they are not allowed to spend money on building the business. Too much time is spent fundraising instead of making an impact. Also, it’s an “us and them” model (for-profit businesses vs. nonprofits). It divides the class systems and creates inequality. There are two myths in business: that nonprofits can’t invest in overhead and that for-profits can only focus on bottom-line.”  – Danielle Norris, Sovenco

Now, Danielle runs the socially conscious consulting business, Sovenco. Business owners tend to reach out to her when they are wanting more out of their life and want to have a direct impact in the community. “We like to connect them to their purpose,” she says. “We take them through an 8-step process, which is a combination of life coaching and basic business consulting. We look at business in an holistic way and add a social enterprise twist.”

Case studies show a very direct impact on the community. One client, a social media marketing company came to Norris wanting to do good and enter the socially conscious industry. When they came to Sovenco, they weren’t making any impact. Now, they are looking at hiring underserved populations.

“We are very new in the industry. Our overall goal and big vision is to bring the concept of do good businesses to regular everyday small businesses. That every small business owner can make a small impact in the world. And it creates a more fulfilling life. In general, people have an innate need to serve others directly and it’s missing in our society,” says Norris.

And that’s where Sovenco comes in.

At Conscious Real Estate we love supporting socially conscious businesses. If you have an idea for a story on a business that is doing great things for our community, just reply here and drop us a note.

And, remember that Conscious Real Estate donates 10% of every commission to a nonprofit of our clients’ choice. Make a difference today! Referrals are the sweetest thank yous.

 

Maybe you have already heard of VORP, but I pride myself on knowing about all local nonprofits and I had not yet heard of this one, although they have been providing services to Denver youth for over 20 years. I was incredibly inspired by my visit and am grateful that my clients chose to donate to this wonderful organization, so that I could learn about this organization and contribute to their cause.

VORP stands for Victim Offender Reconciliation Program and they keep young people out of jail by restoring the relationships between oneself, one’s family, and one’s community. This is an alternative justice practice, which acknowledges individual experiences and identities. Have you ever heard of transformative justice?

Angell Perez, Executive Director of VORP, almost brought me to tears with the story of Julia…

Julia was a 12-year-old when she was referred to VORP from the Denver Juvenile Diversion Program after receiving a ticket for Assault and Interference with School Staff. She had been handcuffed, arrested, and expelled from her middle school, after spending 5 days in a local “juvenile jail.” Why? Because she got into a fight with another student and when a teacher tried to break it up, she was punched in the mouth by someone who she thought was Julia. Completely unacceptable, right? Sure… but there’s a lot more to the story.

For many months, Julia had been consistently bullied at school by several girls because she plays a lot of sports and dresses like a tomboy. Julia had sought help from several staff members at school and their advice was to “just ignore it.” One day, she finally lost it and got in a fight with one of the bullies. She had been having a terrible time at home. Six months prior, her father had passed away from cancer unexpectedly. Julia had been separated from her siblings, as they were all living with different relatives. She was worried about her little sister, who had been threatening suicide, and since they were separated, Julia could not be there for her. And so the events of Julia’s fight unfolded as they did.

VORP facilitated a Face2Face healing circle with Julia, her grandfather, and the teacher from school who pressed the charges, Ms. Audrey. Ms. Audrey was able to share how much hurt she experienced, both physically and emotionally. She shared that her daughters were students at the school, who saw her get assaulted and were afraid for their mother’s wellbeing. The incident caused so much harm to Ms. Audrey that she had considered leaving her career as a teacher, although she had become a teacher because she wanted to support youth in their education to lead them to better lives.

In this circle, Julia was able to face the harm that she had caused and was able to share her story with Ms. Audrey, so Ms. Audrey could understand the root of Julia’s anger and help her learn how to better deal with it. With the staff and volunteers of VORP, everyone was able to create empathy and understanding with one another.

Ms. Audrey praised VORP’s Transformative Justice Programs and vowed to advocate for calling VORP, instead of the police with school administrational issues. Ms. Audrey also committed to helping Julia get back into school after she had been expelled. Julia completed her community contract to make amends to Ms. Audrey, herself, and her family. She got back into school and finished the school year with all A’s and B’s.

The focus of Transformative Justice is to begin a journey of transformational healing for youth, families, and community by focusing on the root causes of harm (crime.) This is done by addressing generational wounds and trauma caused by societal oppression (racism, poverty, etc.) to inspire youth to empathize with survivors of crime and heal the harm they’ve caused them.

Transformative Justice also actively works to transform systems that cause harm to particular communities, especially communities of color, such as the school to prison pipeline, mass incarceration, and the prison industrial complex. VORP provided programs to 230 youth and their families in 2015. Over 90% were youth of color and 87% qualified for free or reduced lunch.

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Pictured are Conscious Real Estate clients: Zoe, Patrick, Aster, and Oriole with myself

I am incredibly grateful to Zoe, Patrick, Aster, and Oriole for choosing VORP for their Conscious Real Estate donation, so I was able to meet Angell and learn about all of the wonderful work that VORP is doing in our community to help young people. We met with them on December 31, 2015 and I couldn’t ask for a more inspiring end to my year. As we were walking out, Zoe mentioned that one of her friends had recently purchased a home from another realtor and was bragging that her realtor had given them a new security system as a closing gift. Zoe responded to her friend, “Our donation to VORP is our security system.”

“We chose to give to VORP because we have seen an increasing pattern of people of color being sent to courts and jails at early ages. VORP sees the factors that schools and courts miss, like trauma, economic, and social factors that make youth more likely to end up in the correctional system. We believe in VORP’s holistic and transformative approach to justice as well as their leadership opportunities that support young people in changing our future.”

If you would like to learn more about VORP and their programs, click here. You can volunteer or donate to VORP or “like” them on Facebook. And as always, when you purchase or sell a home with Conscious Real Estate, 10% of our commission goes to the nonprofit of your choice and we are always more than happy to donate to such wonderful causes. I hope everyone’s new year is going well. – Allison