For FoCo

Published 08:45 - 05/05/2020 Updated 17:56 - 07/21/2021

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En Español

Fort Collins is in this together.

The pandemic has brought serious challenges to Fort Collins, but it’s also proved that we live in an exceptional community that rises up to help one another. At For FoCo, we want to highlight the resilience of our community and how we’re building back stronger.

The City is set to receive $28.1 million of the nearly $6 billion American Rescue Plan Act funds received by Colorado and other communities. These funds can be spent over the course of the next three and a half years. To guide this spending, the City is developing a Fort Collins Recovery Plan.

We want to hear from you! What does a resilient, vibrant recovery for all residents and businesses look like? How can we get there? Share your ideas, thoughts and stories and explore stories and ideas from others below.




Recovery Plan Vision

As we shift from response to recovery, we know we cannot return to the pre-pandemic status quo. Recovery is a multi-faceted, multi-year process requiring strategic nimbleness to address the needs of today and the future. Successful recovery is broader than simply restoring infrastructure, services and the tax base. As our community continues to heal, the vision for recovery is that all Fort Collins residents and businesses are able to participate in a resilient, vibrant and inclusive future.

We cannot do this work alone. Throughout the pandemic, our community banded together in innovative ways to support each other. As we create the Fort Collins Recovery Plan, it is crucial that we are intentionally reaching and listening to diverse community perspectives to achieve an inclusive, long-term recovery plan. By understanding our community’s lived experience throughout the pandemic, we can work collectively to make sure that our polices and practices do not widen the K-shaped recovery (a recovery model where some parts of the economy are recovering while other segments remain stagnant or sink into further disparities).

En Español

Fort Collins is in this together.

The pandemic has brought serious challenges to Fort Collins, but it’s also proved that we live in an exceptional community that rises up to help one another. At For FoCo, we want to highlight the resilience of our community and how we’re building back stronger.

The City is set to receive $28.1 million of the nearly $6 billion American Rescue Plan Act funds received by Colorado and other communities. These funds can be spent over the course of the next three and a half years. To guide this spending, the City is developing a Fort Collins Recovery Plan.

We want to hear from you! What does a resilient, vibrant recovery for all residents and businesses look like? How can we get there? Share your ideas, thoughts and stories and explore stories and ideas from others below.




Recovery Plan Vision

As we shift from response to recovery, we know we cannot return to the pre-pandemic status quo. Recovery is a multi-faceted, multi-year process requiring strategic nimbleness to address the needs of today and the future. Successful recovery is broader than simply restoring infrastructure, services and the tax base. As our community continues to heal, the vision for recovery is that all Fort Collins residents and businesses are able to participate in a resilient, vibrant and inclusive future.

We cannot do this work alone. Throughout the pandemic, our community banded together in innovative ways to support each other. As we create the Fort Collins Recovery Plan, it is crucial that we are intentionally reaching and listening to diverse community perspectives to achieve an inclusive, long-term recovery plan. By understanding our community’s lived experience throughout the pandemic, we can work collectively to make sure that our polices and practices do not widen the K-shaped recovery (a recovery model where some parts of the economy are recovering while other segments remain stagnant or sink into further disparities).

  • Business Stories: FoCo DoCo

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    Interview with Megan Barghols Owner of FoCo DoCo. Be sure to follow FoCo DoCo on Facebook & Instagram.

    Why do you think it’s important to have spaces in our community where people feel like family and people feel safe, regardless of identity?

    As a small business owner I am all about community! Community means all of us, and its important that there are places in Fort Collins where anyone can go where the staff/owners/customers look like them, respect them and welcome them. Can’t tell you how many parents of LGBTQ+ kids have thanked us for having pride flags year round so they know its a safe and welcoming place.

    Do you see your experience as a business owner and a member of the LGBTQ+ community as different from business owners who are not part of the LGBTQ+ community?

    Our experience has been that Fort Collins loves themselves some small businesses, regardless of the owners gender identity or sexual orientation.

    Can you tell us about how you got started making donuts?

    I spent 10 years in the pacific northwest and fell in love with all of the amazing coffee and donut shops up there. It’s built into the culture of the PNW. My family has been in Fort Collins a long time and whenever I visited I noticed a lack of small, local donut shops. Sometimes you need something more interesting than what the big chain donut shops are selling. It also so doesn’t hurt when that donut is served hot, freshly made right in front of you. We go out of our way to source ingredients locally, and try our best to spread the love around foco.

    How would you like Fort Collins to celebrate Pride Month?

    I would just like to remind everyone that anytime, not just pride month, it costs nothing to be kind.

    Why do you think it’s important for our community to celebrate Pride Month?

    It’s all about acceptance, visibility and making sure everyone knows they matter. We all deserve to get to be our authentic selves without worrying about being discriminated against. Pride is a time for everyone to come together and celebrate the progress we have made – while also acknowledging we still have work to do. We will always stand with our LGBTQ+ people and allies in the fight for equality.

    What is one thing you want the Fort Collins community to know about you as a business owner?

    I like that FoCo DoCo has the ability to have a positive impact on someones day, thats what it’s all about. I get to serve people tasty little donuts and coffee and see a lot of smiling faces everyday and I really hope everyone knows that joy is a two way transaction. All the love and support you’ve showed us in these first 3 years, we are going to continue to try to put right back out into the community.


    What’s your favorite donut flavor?

    Lemon Poppyseed reins supreme.

    What are some ways you’ve celebrated pride at FoCo DoCo?

    We have a special donut we do every year for pride, THE PRIDE DONUT! We also have year specific pride stickers we make that are different every year so people can collect them. This year we are actually in the middle of moving to our new location and didn’t get any events planned, but we do have something up our sleeves for Fort Collins official pride weekend next month in July.

    Do you feel like there’s a special connection among LGBTQ+ owned businesses and business owners?

    Yes, but there could be a lot more of us. And that’s another great reason for celebrating Pride, and featuring businesses like ours who are proudly queer owned and operated. Anybody out there who isnt sure if you can be an LGBTQ+ business owner in this community please look us up and look at us go! And definitely let us know if we can do anything to help you get going.


    Learn more about Fort Collins businesses and how to support them

  • Business Stories: Snack Attack

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    Snack Attack is an independent, local, and veteran-owned sandwich shop. Husband and wife owners Shawn & Lauren Storeby love to serve great food and beer to the community. With a variety of local craft brews on tap, you’ll be sure to find your next favorite.


    What do you think makes our Fort Collins business community so special?

    Our business community is so supportive of each other! What I love the most is that businesses are interested in partnering and getting creative to come together for a common goal.

    What advice would you give to community members who are looking for ways to support our local businesses?

    There are lots of ways our community can get involved to support local businesses. First is to actually shop local when you can! Another way would be to leave positive reviews on businesses Google, Yelp and even Facebook pages.

    What’s one thing that would surprise people about your business?

    The biggest misconception about Snack Attack is that we are a college hangout. Our biggest supporters are families, working professions and anyone looking for a top-notch sandwich. And if you didn’t know, we actually put chips on sandwiches…yup if you didn’t know, now you know

    How does owning a local business keep you connected to the community?

    Owning a small business keeps you connected because you are just like the rest of your neighbors working to make a living. Our job is to make the best sandwiches, salads and wraps in Fort Collins and to do so we have to be connecting with our community. To keep promoting our brand we have to be out spreading the message about who we are and what we do.

    What do you love most about running a business in Fort Collins?

    I love that our local business community and municipalities are so supportive- offering initiatives just like this! When our local government offers marketing to spread awareness of small businesses it shows they want them to thrive.

    Do you have any special events, promotions, products upcoming you would like to share with the community?

    We are so excited to announce that we have some events coming back like our Trail Pick Up, Flower Truck Friday, Park Yoga and our 4 year Anniversary mid-June!

    What has the past year taught you about our Fort Collins community?

    This past year has taught us that we are extremely grateful for this amazing community! They supported us over the past year and without them we may not have made it through. Choosing to spend their money locally with us was heart filling and humbling. They supported not only our business but our family.

    Be sure to follow Snack Attack on Facebook & Instagram.


    Learn more about Fort Collins businesses and how to support them

  • Business Stories: Tararine Thai Cuisine

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    Interview with small business owner Reena Duwal. Be sure to follow Tararine Thai Cuisine on Facebook and Instagram.


    Why do you think it’s important to have spaces in our community where people feel like family and people feel safe, regardless of identity?

    I think creating and sustaining such safe spaces is important because it is in those spaces that we come together despite our differences. In those spaces, we are the most compassionate, we have a clear mind, open and accepting, and that helps us have conversations necessary to understand our biases and overcome those. I think of a safe space as one filled with chosen family, one where we are truly looking out for each other. Those kinds of safe spaces where people can go to heal, and I think right now, the AAPI community needs that safe space to come together to mourn and to heal. And there is space for allies who want to support that healing.

    Safe spaces are where we also celebrate our diverse identities. It is a space to rejoice in the goodness in each other. It’s like Jan Gehl says, “A good city is like a good party – people stay longer than really necessary, because they are enjoying themselves”. A safe space needs to be like that city, like a home.

    How do you see your experience as a business owner and a member of the APPI community as different from business owners who are not part of the APPI community?

    As an immigrant from Nepal, I have had to face many challenges to get to where I am today. When me and my team started out on this journey to open a restaurant, we didn’t have access to any resources or connections. We had to quite literally start from scratch. Plus, English is our second language, and traversing that adversity of a language barrier to navigate governmental and official forms and applications was challenging in its own way.

    We also didn’t have people who could guide us back then. In terms of AAPI owned businesses, there wasn’t a large community of business owners. And sadly, I think that is still true now, though there are more AAPI owned businesses that have opened, there still isn’t enough support to sustain them. Both within the community, and from outside. I have noticed that there is very little participation in the Better Business Bureau. Personally, we’ve always had a hard time getting grants from the government, because we aren’t trained in grant writing and there are no programs that help AAPI businesses to learn this kind of skill. For the most part, we’ve had to figure things out on our own. As difficult as the work is, it is also truly rewarding. And I think that is what has sustained us and got us here through these years.

    Can you tell us about how you got started in this industry?

    My love of cooking for others began at home. In Nepali culture, it is a tradition to get together and eat. And this is for every single meal, whether it is a daily dinner or a big festival gathering. After moving to the US, I got inspired to share that piece of my culture. Back in Nepal, we have large gatherings in our community, we invite friends, family, neighbors, I cooked for everybody, and I loved every second of it. Cooking for others is something that is ingrained in my DNA. That is my inspiration as someone who grew up in Nepal. Then there’s Chef Eak from Thailand, who is the Head Chef at Tararine. He brings in his own passion into the food well. He’s cooked in the streets of Thailand for 20 years and has been cooking in the U.S. for 20. When I see him work in the kitchen, his passion and aura steep the food. I’ve always wanted to start my own restaurant and continue cooking for people. The idea of opening an actual Thai restaurant came to life when I met Chef Eak. And today we proudly run Tararine Thai in Fort Collins.

    How would you like Fort Collins to celebrate AAPI Heritage Month?

    Our hope is that Fort Collins celebrates AAPI Heritage Month by actively supporting the AAPI Community. Especially with all the hate that has raised against the AAPI community with the pandemic, there is work that needs to be done to not only heal the community, but also to support its progress, and ensure our safety.

    As a business owner, I want to encourage people to support locally owned businesses like us. Get to know the people who run these places, ask us about our cultural festivals and join us in celebrating them, make better choices to support family-owned places, find out how you can dedicate resources like time, effort, and money to support the progress of the community. And I want to extend this to say that this kind of support to uplift minority communities should be extended year-round. I think the AAPI community is so strong and has always bounced back. I believe it’s in our culture, to rise from our ashes. So, I would like Fort Collins to celebrate with us, support us in our much-needed healing and progress forward.

    Why do you think it’s important for our community to celebrate AAPI Heritage Month?

    I think a lack of communication creates division. When minorities aren’t sharing their stories, or aren’t getting the platform to share their stories, assumptions are made about them and their cultures. But celebrations like AAPI Heritage Month presents an opportunity to share and highlight our culture, our stories, to finally be able to talk to other communities and welcome them to our beautiful and diverse traditions, food, and customs. Establishing that connection and forming relationships is how we spread love and create safe spaces and become compassionate enough to listen to each other.

    I want to emphasize that understanding the importance of AAPI Heritage Month, and Black Futures Month, is that this kind of support and celebration is something that needs to extend beyond just those months. Having a month of this kind of celebration is needed, but our communities need the support every day.

    What support do you need during this time that was missing? What type of support do you feel you received?

    The main support that we need during this time is community support, grants, and promotions. The one thing that has kept us afloat is the Fort Collins community that keep visiting our restaurant and buying our food. We feel that with more opportunities for grants from the City, and promotional opportunities to get the word out about our new business will extremely help support our family business. As we are relatively new, a lot of people in Fort Collins don’t know us yet. So being featured in interviews like this, being highlighted in the local paper and online community bulletins, and university ads has previously been missing. But I am extremely happy that we are being interviewed for this right now!

    We opened our restaurant right before the pandemic hit and the lockdowns began. It was just bad timing to have started a business. We applied for grants numerous times but didn’t receive any. We did receive some help from the city of Fort Collins. We received some PPP equipment and a small grant of $3500. Though it was not as much as we had hoped, we are still extremely grateful for it.

    What is one thing you want the Fort Collins community to know about you as a business owner?

    I want the Fort Collins community to come enjoy our food! We are new to this area, so I want to extend my connections and relations and get to serve as many people as possible. We cook in this kitchen every day and every night, and we do it to share our love of food, to share our different cultures, our stories, and our passions. I want them to know this is more than just a business to my family, it is a way of finding a home away from home. We have made Fort Collins our new home by sharing a piece of us and our stories through our food. Opening this restaurant has been a dream come true and it would mean the world to us if people came to see us and talk to us and try our food.


    Learn more about Fort Collins businesses and how to support them

  • Staff Chats: Cate Eckenrode, Budget

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    Hear from City staff about their COVID-19 work, how they're staying connected and what they hope to learn from community members like you.

    What excites you about your work?

    CE: I get nerdy when I talk about what I do with FC Lean because it truly ties into the City of Fort Collins’ vision, mission and values. Our vision is to provide world-class municipal services through operational excellence and a culture of innovation. The part that excites me is the connection between innovation and outstanding service and collaboration. Everyday I work with City staff to deliver more efficient and effective City services to our community. Some people think of innovation as a big new idea, but it can be as simple as looking at the work that you do with fresh eyes and an open mind. I get to work with City staff on everyday innovations to make forms easier, service delivery faster and more consistent, and increase capacity to do more. Their creativity and willingness to try new things is inspiring. We listen to each other, work together and brainstorm solutions. And we have a lot of fun doing it, too. The impacts of small improvements are huge. I am grateful to play a role in helping people become better problem solvers for themselves, their workgroups and our community.

    How are neighbors helping each other during this difficult time?

    CE: In my role as a Process Improvement Specialist with FC Lean, I served on the team that created the processes and structure for our Adopt a Neighbor program which expanded in April to better serve our community through the COVID-19 crisis. To date, more than 400 people have registered to volunteer to help at-risk neighbors with outside chores, grocery and prescription pick-up, and other tasks. The way our community has come together from volunteering to donations to buying local has been inspiring. I’ve seen people step up in small ways to ensure that their neighbors feel supported and less lonely during this time. The stories from Adopt a Neighbor and outpouring of support for our non-profit community are full of meaningful donations of time, talent and treasure to offer a support system to each other.

    What’s been the most challenging/rewarding part of your job the last few months?

    CE: The work that we do in FC Lean is built on collaboration and teamwork and has relied heavily on bringing people together to facilitate continuous improvements. The transition from in-person to virtual meetings was a challenge for our team. We offer training, coaching and facilitating on continuous improvement so transitioning all three of those services to a virtual format was hard to imagine at first. How can we continue to assist staff in their continuous improvement work as well as facilitate process creation in response to the crisis? It took a few weeks but together Roland Guerrero, FC Lean Program Manager, and I retooled our Lean Basics course from an all-day in person format to multi-session webinar format. We’ve held four sessions since April and even opened the course up to community members who are interested in taking advantage of our services. In addition to our training courses, we were able to transition to virtual facilitation and coaching on process improvement projects using multiple online tools. It’s a new world but has been extremely rewarding to continue to help people build efficiency, efficacy and capacity in their work areas. If any community non-profits or business would like to learn more about what FC Lean does and how we can help please email us at lean@fcgov.com or visit us at https://www.fcgov.com/lean/.

    How are you staying connected with people outside of your household?

    CE: I’ve taken to heart what our Chief Human Resources Officer Teresa Roche said early in the crisis: practice physical distancing and social solidarity. I’ve looked for ways to stay connected to my friends and family. I’ve participated in virtual happy hours and physically distant driveway happy hours. My work group has a thirty-minute check-in every week where we’re not allowed to talk about work at all and it’s fun to just hear about their lives and how they’re doing. I even did a book and puzzle trade with a friend. In April, I started sending cards to friends and family who don’t live nearby. It’s nice to put pen to paper again and just check-in and say I’m thinking about you. It’s time for another round of those cards.

    What’s one thing you’ve learned during the pandemic?

    CE: The one thing I’ve learned is how to slow down properly. I’ve had to build new daily routines because everything from home to work life was upended by the pandemic. I’ve started reading the books that were on my side table that I was too busy to pick up before. I have a new morning routine that includes enjoying and not just drinking my coffee. I even bought myself a meditation cushion for my birthday as a reward for getting my meditation practice back into swing. I‘m more mindful about how I’m spending my time and not just getting things done or checked off a list. It’s been nice to slow down with purpose and rebuild my time with meaning.

  • Business Stories: Taqueria Los Comales

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    Taqueria Los Comales is a family-owned business that’s been serving authentic Mexican food to Fort Collins since 2001. Despite all the challenges they faced in the past year, they have worked hard to provide the best quality food for the community.

    What do you love most about running a business in Fort Collins?

    The fact that our current customers and a big number of new customers have been supporting us during this crisis. In the past year, we learned that our customers are always willing to follow the rules to keep us all safe.

    How does owning a local business keep you connected to the community?
    We learned to leverage social media and explore ways to stay connected with our customers that we did not think about before.

    What’s one thing that would surprise people about your business?
    We are always ready to go the extra mile to provide the best product and the best service, all the time.

    What advice would you give to community members who are looking for ways to support our local businesses?
    We like to ask community members to work together to make our city a better place, united and in harmony.

    Be sure to follow Taqueria Los Comales on Facebook & Instagram.


    Learn more about Fort Collins businesses and how to support them

  • Staff Chats: Tanya Pappa, Natural Areas

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    Hear from City staff about their COVID-19 work, how they're staying connected and what they hope to learn from community members like you.

    Why is it important for communities to have a vibrant and diverse culture?

    TP: It is important and crucial for communities to have a vibrant and diverse culture because it allows for more voices to be heard and more knowledge to be gained. When we have diversity in our population, we have diversity in our thoughts, our perceptions and our ideas. Understanding others who may not think or look like you, allows us to all be more compassionate. I hope to see Fort Collins continue to grow in this way.

    What excites you about your work?

    TP: My colleagues and the youth I work with excite me about my work and allow me to dream for the future in a hopeful way.

    What COVID-19 work – from your office or that you’ve worked on personally – are you most proud of?

    TP: At the beginning of the pandemic, I remember reading “don’t worry about what we can’t control, but rather focus on what we can create.” I feel my team in Natural Areas did just that. We offered a range of different programming both virtually and eventually in small in-person groups.

    The program I facilitate is called Club Outdoors. Typically, we take members from the Boys and Girls Club of Larimer County to Natural Areas. This year we made huge pivots due to COVID-19 and were able to still run programming, but in a different way with the appropriate safety measures. The youth and I met 3 times a week and went on nature walks, completed various activities around topics like mental health awareness and environmental education, and enjoyed lunch from Yampa Sandwich Company. The summer season just wrapped up and we were able to serve around 45-50 kids weekly. It was a great season!

    Are there positive ways your work has been reimagined because of the pandemic and current events?

    TP: I have felt empowered to share my ideas about how to reimagine programming and professional development within my team and department. I am grateful we collaborate on how to reimagine our future because it is important to continue these processes of evolving for all the communities we serve.

    What do you love most about Fort Collins?

    TP: I may be biased when I say this, but I love our Natural Areas. The Poudre River specifically has been a place of solace and peace for me since I moved here 9 years ago. I am thrilled that after fostering this relationship with the river, I am able to share it with the youth from the Boys and Girls Club in Fort Collins. I hope they are able to share the same appreciation with their own connection.

  • Staff Chats: Sue Schafer, Human Resources

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    Hear from City staff about their COVID-19 work, how they're staying connected and what they hope to learn from community members like you.


    What do you want community members to know about the City right now?

    SS: I’ve worked for the City for 13 years and am prouder than ever to be a part of it. Our leaders are flexible, and responsive to changing conditions. I feel supported as a working parent. I feel that my work is important, and my talents are being called upon in new ways. I have seen our leaders become vulnerable, serve as cheerleaders and handle adversity with grace. This is an organization that cares for its employees and is willing to think outside the box to support the work we do. I think COVID has lowered fences and brought out the best in everyone.

    How would you describe Fort Collins’ culture?

    SS: In Fort Collins we have a culture of philanthropy and volunteerism. Everyone wants to help. In fact, we have the sixth highest rate of volunteerism for similar cities in the country—38.2% of residents volunteer! We like to say that this City runs on the power of volunteers—from youth sports coaches, to volunteer rangers, our community works together to make this a special place. This has never been more true than it is now.

    What COVID-19 work – from your office or that you’ve worked on personally – are you most proud of?

    SS: I am extremely proud of the Adopt A Neighbor program, which was repurposed to serve the needs of vulnerable residents during the COVID. Adopt A Neighbor volunteers were already active in helping with snow removal and lawn care, but after the City had to close Recreation facilities, we searched for innovative ways to help our community get the vital supplies they needed. With more than 400 volunteers helping across the City, the program has been incredibly successful and will continue to be necessary as we move into colder months.

    Do you have a favorite Fort Collins neighborhood/neighbor story?

    SS: We have a neighborhood with tons of kids. We have created a “bubble” with a few families and have enjoyed camping and other outdoor activities together. We are celebrating birthdays, learning new skills and supporting each other. I’m so grateful for our neighborhood!

    What do you love most about Fort Collins?

    SS: Access to nature! I have young kids and we have explored more of the natural areas, open spaces and trails than ever. During the Stay-at-Home Order, we explored our local natural area every day, getting to know wildlife and watching everything wake up for spring. We would have struggled more if we did not have our daily walks. Now, we camp, paddleboard on Horsetooth, enjoy our backyard wildlife and play on the trails every chance we get!

  • Staff Chats: Jensen Morgan, Environmental Services

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    Hear from City staff about their COVID-19 work, how they're staying connected and what they hope to learn from community members like you.

    What’s been the most challenging part of your job the last few months?

    JM: My job is focused on engaging our amazing community members - to get input and ideas for how we can improve climate action in Fort Collins. However, with COVID-19, the world of engagement has transformed in a matter of months. Our team works everyday to discover best practices and learn directly from community members how we can involve people in government decision-making and community action that encourages people to stay safe during COVID. Obviously, virtual engagement is a key part of this, but there are still many in our community that do not have access to internet or a computer. We are still wrestling with how best to make it accessible for people to participate without putting themselves at risk or needing a computer.

    What has inspired you the most about our community?

    JM: We recently launched virtual brainstorming workshops for Our Climate Future. It was challenging to transition this kind of community dialogue into Zoom, but I’ve been impressed, inspired, and invigorated by all the community members joining conversations to imagine solutions to create Our Climate Future. I want to encourage everyone to go to fcgov.com/climatefuture to sign up for a workshop and join the conversation!

    What would you recommend for folks looking to stay active during Safer at Home?

    JM: Shift Your Ride and Get Outside! September is going to be Shift Your Ride Month and the City of Fort Collins is putting on a series of virtual and COVID-safe in-person events to encourage everyone in our community to get some exercise and go car-free by biking, scooting or walking more around town. Using active modes of transportation is a great way for folks to stay healthy even when many of us are spending more time indoors. I have been trying to hop on my bike more for short rides to the grocery store and the park. It has been so nice to stretch my legs!

    What do you miss most about life before COVID?

    JM: As silly as it may sound I love going to the movies! I love the tradition of being in front of a huge screen with people whispering and laughing all around you while the buttery smell of popcorn wafts through the air. I really miss that experience. My roommates knew this and set up a mock “movie theater” in our house to give us a fun substitute. It’s not quite like a real theater, but it’s still pretty darn good with a bowl of popcorn in your hands.

  • Staff Chats: JC Ward, Neighborhood Services

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    Hear from City staff about their COVID-19 work, how they're staying connected and what they hope to learn from community members like you.

    What COVID-19 work – from your office or that you’ve worked on personally – are you most proud of?

    JC: I am most proud of the magic the City has been able to create under incredibly difficult circumstances at a time where someone’s safety, family, and health may depend on how quickly they get assistance. Adopt A Neighbor is an existing program that was repurposed in 48 hours by Volunteer Services, Natural Areas, and Neighborhood Services to match neighbors in need with volunteers who could help. Many residents who are in COVID-19 “high risk” categories are not necessarily the same neighbors who needed help from the old version of Adopt A Neighbor, which mostly helped lower income senior citizens with snow shoveling. Fort Collins had college students, nurses, new moms, and world travelers self-quarantining and for the first time, many of them had to rely on neighbors and friends to meet basic needs. Adopt A Neighbor was flexible enough to put a support network of background-checked volunteers in place for anyone asking for help. My philosophy in life and work is: “Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.” (-Arthur Ashe) The Adopt A Neighbor expansion and the outstanding City departments involved did just that.

    With more people staying at home, have you seen any silver linings in your field of work?

    JC: Most of my work is public engagement and community organizing. COVID-19 restrictions took away many of the tools I typically rely on to get community members together and improve livability in Fort Collins. The silver lining is that everyone’s expectations changed and this uncharted territory is full of adventure. Necessity meant we could not be in a physical space together, so we have to think about other kinds of spaces to connect people. Virtual meetings and remote participation were seen as a “stretch goal” for the distant sci-fi future and now my Nana is on Zoom meetings every day. We are having a collective ‘make it work’ moment that calls for creativity and optimism because no one knows what this is supposed to look like now and that opens up opportunities to try new things.

    How are neighbors helping each other during this difficult time?

    JC: I always say that in times of emergency, your neighbor will be your first responder. Fort Collins has seen this during fires, floods, and now during a global pandemic. The City’s Adopt A Neighbor program was expanded to match volunteers with neighbors in need during the COVID-19 recovery and the response was amazing! More than 300 neighbors signed up to help with grocery shopping, medication pick up, outdoor pet care, and other errands. These volunteers are also regularly communicating with their “adopted” neighbor, providing safe social interaction for folks who are high risk and staying home.

    I have asthma, so I have been in Safer-at-Home mode for almost 15 weeks. I did not anticipate how much of an emotional toll my “new normal” would take and how much I would miss the random drop-in office conversations or small talk with neighbors at the mailbox. My neighbors started a painted rock scavenger hunt with encouraging words waiting to be discovered around the neighborhood. Other neighborhoods are sidewalk chalking messages of hope, love, and connectedness as a happy surprise to come across while you are walking the dog. Some neighborhood Little Free Libraries are being used as small food pantries and craft supply swaps. Fort Collins has also had driveway Zumba fitness classes, parking lot dance parties, and front porch concerts. Neighbors have been innovative with hundreds of new ways to say, “I hear you. I see you. I am with you.” during the past few months.

    What are some of your favorite neighborhood events?

    JC: My favorite neighborhood events are always those that neighbors create and lead. With more than 185 neighborhoods in Fort Collins each is unique and special. Neighborhood Services Staff provides a big picture idea for an event and supports neighbors in bringing their own vision to life. Neighborhood Night Out is a huge citywide event with more than 100 block parties on a single night. No two Neighborhood Night Out parties look the same. Some are giant pool parties for 200+ kids and some are a handful of long-time residents meeting up for homemade ice cream in someone’s driveway. One size does not fit all for neighborhoods and I love to see neighbors how run with an idea!

    Some neighbor-led events grow out of programs like Sustainable Neighborhoods or Neighborhood Connections, where neighbors attend leadership training, develop a communication network, and use their new skills to bring something exciting to the neighborhood. One Neighborhood Connections graduate started a Happy Hour where the neighborhood flag gets passed around each week and when neighbors see the flag out, they bring their own drinks and snacks over to share. It is so difficult as an adult to knock on someone’s front door and tell them you want to be friends. The Happy Hour neighborhood flag is an open invitation to all neighbors that gives people a reason and space to connect.

    What’s been the most welcome change to your daily routine?

    JC: The most welcome change in my daily routine has been getting outside more. The dogs are very stoked that my commute time has been converted into dog walk time. It is not dark when I come home and I have the flexibility to take breaks outside throughout the day. The natural light coming in through the windows is also a huge upgrade from the office fluorescents.

  • Staff Chats: Lauren Nagle, FC Moves

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    Hear from City staff about their COVID-19 work, how they're staying connected and what they hope to learn from community members like you.

    How are you staying connected with people outside of your household?

    LN: I am a car-free and an active cyclist, and I have been making efforts to connect with as many as I can in all of the spaces I occupy in that area. I have continued going to the Murphy Center to wrench on bikes there for the homeless and near- homeless community members. I have gone to neighborhoods on the north side of town to do the same for our Latinx community members. I have had a backyard hangout with my bike polo team. I have worked with the other leaders of the Hex Wenches, a FTW/NB (Femme Trans Women and Non-binary) wrenching group out of the Fort Collins Bike Co-op, to create a Ride with Pride for the LGBTQIA+ community and its allies.

    This month is Pride Month, and while it is hard to celebrate given all that is going on, there have been major milestones that we have experienced in the movement towards equality. Earlier this month, the Supreme Court ruled that gay and trans people can’t be discriminated against or fired for just being themselves. While it is upsetting that it took until 2020 for this to be clarified on a national level for those that didn’t already understand it, it is a huge win.

    Instead of ignoring what is going on for the sake of celebration, we also stand (ride) in solidarity with those protesting, and those fighting for equality for black lives and for QTBIPOC (Queer and Trans, Black and Indigenous and People of Color) lives. Just because we had a huge step taken forward for our equality doesn’t mean that everyone has. This ride will be on Friday, June 26th, and will be a little different because of COVID-19. People are encouraged to ride their bike at any time during the day, on a general loop of Mountain Ave, from Old Town to the cemetery and back. The ride is open to all to express themselves however they want, with rainbow flags, protest signs, costumes, or just plain noise.

    What makes a community’s culture vibrant, rich and representative of its people?

    LN: Every community member’s voice and perspective should be heard. and decision-making spaces should be representative of more than just the majority.

    As a community, we must actively listen to everyone and seriously consider what everyone brings to the table. Ultimately, it takes effort to have a representative culture, and we have to be willing to upset the status quo and make tough decisions in order to represent everyone in our community, not just the majority.

    Why is it important for communities to have a vibrant and diverse culture?

    LN: This is something that is best understood when you consider what it would feel like to be invisibilized. For some, this isn’t easy to actually understand because they have never come close to feeling what that is like. For others, the act of invisibilization goes a step further: there are laws, or institutions, that are built against you, built to actively make sure you fail. These barriers hurt a community’s ability to thrive and prosper, and can cause wide swaths of culture and perspectives to be lost.

    Everyone should have a place they feel safe and a community they belong to. When culture is homogenized, people with diverse identities are left asking themselves where is my place? What do I do? Where is my community?

    What role does collaboration play in creating a vibrant community?

    LN: A truly vibrant community isn’t just made because someone decided to do so one day. A vibrant community is something that is built over time, with many different perspectives and life experiences contributing to the whole. In order to be ‘vibrant’ - full of energy and enthusiasm - there has to be room for everyone to contribute. If you are the majority voice, you can help to create a space for others to be heard. Working together, we can make sure everyone is represented in the fabric of our community.