Getting Lucas Garcia, Raul Gonzalez and Ashlee Lewis together on a Zoom call was a challenge. They were all on the move. In their cars, walking around, no time to stop. “It’s a busy day,” said Lewis. The trio are the founders of Compassionate Colorado and when they finally slowed down to chat, they had just returned from bringing food and supplies to the Navajo Nation in New Mexico. The next day they were heading to South Dakota to help people there. The plan was to start at the Lake Traverse Reservation and head home through Rosebud and Pine Ridge to see what the Ogalala Sioux might need.
The group had already started collecting food and supplies for Denver’s older adults and disabled people who were hit hard by the coronavirus crisis. They were delivering hundreds of boxes of donated goods to people who were afraid to come out of their homes. “It was just so amazing to see North Denver come together and have my back,” said Lucas. “Being compassionate is everything we had in common,” said Raul.
A cry of help from the Navajo Nation set the journey in another direction. Garcia’s great grandfather is Navajo and he has friends and family in New Mexico. The group got in touch with a 12-year old girl named Jojo in Tinian who was making cakes to support her community. She said they needed cleaning supplies and hygiene products. Compassionate Colorado collected food, five pallets of El Dorado Springs water, cleaning and medical supplies, masks, face shields and gloves. The elders needed bedside commodes. They got those too. Six cars and a 26 foot truck took the 12 hour trip to the reservation. They have taken three trips so far.
What they’ve seen on the reservation has been eye opening. Garcia experienced some difficulties over the years but said “what’s going on in my life is nothing compared to what they’re going through.” Gonazalez added, “You don’t realize how difficult it is to be in a community that doesn’t have running water. These are people in our own land. It’s like a third world country.”
“We give our pets more water than they are capable of giving their children,” said Garcia. “They struggle every day. If they go to the hospital, they have no ventilators. They can’t save people’s lives. We don’t know if our elders can make it through this. One group of people in North Denver is helping them more than our government is.”
Garcia credits Northside Denver’s culture for allowing them to do the work they are doing. “We’ve always been a community that took care of each other.” He laughs that he has been nicknamed the Northside Batman because of his efforts to make a difference in the community. “If we pull together as a community, we can make a huge impact. Garcia wants to inspire other communities in the United States to show what’s possible when you create a grassroots movement. “The virus is dark, but people have lit up like fireflies. We’ve been able to come together and make a big change in the community.”
Today they have about 35 volunteers working at Compassionate Colorado. If you would like to volunteer or donate go to http://compassionatecolorado.org. As Gonzalez says, “Compassionate Colorado is possible because of compassionate Coloradans.”
Vicky Collins is a freelance television producer and journalist with a diverse portfolio that includes network news, cable programming, Olympic sports, corporate and non-profit videos. Vicky has created a Facebook Community called Bucket List Community Cafe which is a digital news site for Denver’s Northside.