Creating and Redefining Your Own Monsters

Back in 2015 when I joined our neighborhood HOA, we joked a lot about “the big green monster” Xcel utility box that greeted folks at our entryway. It’s truly huge at about 7-8′ long and 4′ wide and 4′ tall. That problem seemed insurmountable, so I focused on what I could: getting a Little Free Library installed and learning the ropes as a new board member.

A little later, I helped procure a $25,000 Vibrant Neighborhoods Grant with the full intention of painting a mural on it, only to be told that because it wasn’t City property, we couldn’t do it without a few hundred more steps. So I mapped out that process and in the meantime, our neighborhood and artist Kristin Vohs opted to create the longest community-participation mural in Fort Collins at 190′ and paint the City-owned utility boxes as well.

Still, that big green behemoth sat… and one day, I had an idea that made me giggle, so I made it happen. I turned the big green monster into… Frankenstein. And then I made him a friend (the Robot):

These two monsters started getting lots of attention… a lot of friendly smiles and waves, especially from kids and their parents. So much so that in November of 2019, I started a GoFundMe page to capture the interest and give folks a pathway to invest in adding art to our neighborhood. As of last month (a full 3 years later), we finally hit the 50% mark and the Board voted to fund the remainder of the project – the mural will be created by local artist Chris Bates.

My kiddos were pretty sad that their friend Frankenstein would be retiring, but they were consoled by the fact that I still have a few sets of giant wiggle eyes and plenty of pipe insulation left, so you never know where another monster may pop up. Changing something about your community just takes dedication, some gumption, and a healthy dose of willingness to walk around and talk to folks.

And when you do that for a while…

Recently, something pretty cool happened – thanks to Danaly Howe and our management group at CCG – our neighborhood HOA was recognized as Association of the Year by the Community Association Institute. It’s an award given to neighborhood HOA boards that do exceptional things to serve their neighborhood.

While I know most folks totally loathe their HOAs (sometimes for really good reasons), I’ve been honored to serve on this HOA as a board member for 7 years, 4 of those as president.

One of the things I’m most proud of is that in November, we swung for the fences for a $20K grant from Northern Water to fund an upgrade to our irrigation timers and replace a sizable amount of turf into native grasses.

Big whoop, right? Except for the fact that those two projects combined will save an estimated 7 million gallons of water each year. 7 million gallons of water is kinda hard for anyone to fathom.

Put in perspective: it’s as if every neighbor in Maple Hill stopped using water for 3 months each year. No showers, no flushing, no sippy cups, nothing.

If you indulge me for a minute, I’m gonna humblebrag about some of the work we were able to accomplish as a neighborhood in collaboration with our friends at the City of Fort Collins Neighborhood Services, our fellow North East neighborhoods, and CCG:

– earned a spot for Maple Hill in the Sustainable Neighborhoods Network/NextLevel Neighborhoods program

– coordinated a $25,000 Art in Public Places grant to paint a 190-foot mural and 4 utility boxes in our neighborhood, a $1,500 COVID grant to supply 216 trick-or-treat bags to neighborhood kids that would otherwise miss out on trick-or-treating as well as a streaming neighborhood concert featuring two local bands, a $1,000 grant to create a series of weekly educational events hosted by neighbors culminating in two neighborhood-wide marketplaces to showcase local creators, artists, and authors, and a $750 grant to help purchase reusable materials for an annual community-wide egg hunt event

– coordinated an additional two grants worth $25,500 to help reduce irrigation water usage and increase xeriscape usage.

– fundraised $2.5K and matched $2.5K for another set of 2 utility box murals at the entryway (Frankenstein and Robot)

– diverted 60lbs of batteries away from the landfill and into recycling in the first year of our Battery Collection Drive contest

– coordinated in the creation of a regional advisory group of North East Fort Collins neighborhood HOAs, city partners, and local developers

– installed and regularly stocked two Little Free Libraries

– worked to help ensure our neighborhood park was completed ahead of schedule and had a sustainable source of irrigation water through an agreement with the City

– worked with the City’s Streets Department to establish a series of speedbumps to help slow down traffic and ensure pedestrian safety to and from our neighborhood park

– helped establish the neighborhood’s technology infrastructure to help coordinate record retention and dedicated email addresses for the Board for easy contact by neighbors

– helped to coordinate vendor relationships, negotiating 3-year contracts on a fixed rate schedule to help keep dues stable and among the lowest in Fort Collins for similarly composed neighborhoods

If the pending grants close in our favor, we are very close to $60,000 in grant funding procured to make our neighborhood better one small project at a time.

Each of these things were possible because of the dedicated work of a small group of neighbors and volunteers who care about the place they live. They looked around and said, “What can I do to make this place a bit better today for everyone?”

Leadership Fort Collins: Healthcare Day

There is no better example of a small but dedicated group of folks than healthcare workers… and the level of expertise we have in our community is stunning.

We started the day off at the UCHealth Harmony Campus to learn about UCHealth’s oncology research department and the various public and private partners offering healthcare in our community. The most alarming stat shared was that there will be a nursing shortage of around 10,000 nurses by 2026 (right now the ratio is 1 nurse to every 6 patients). Programs like Front Range Community College’s nursing school will be a critical resource, alongside UCHealth’s tuition reimbursement and hiring bonuses, to offset this shortage.

On arriving at Poudre Valley Hospital, we were treated to a tour of the new wing of the hospital and the attention to detail is stunning – in particular, to the wellbeing of the nursing staff, as each patient bay has a patient lift. Back injuries are a recurring issue.

A few teams from UCHealth’s research departments presented their latest work, including a program with Poudre School District to help identify health and safety issues early on to prevent bad outcomes later in life. We also saw a new kind of heart valve stint and a machine that helps speed recovery and improve mobility for patients with broken leg bones. We also met the therapy dogs who help patients with traumatic injuries.

Capping off the day, LFC got a tour of the intensive care unit and emergency department – particularly the decontamination room, which can process over 500 people in an hour, allowing for rapid emergency response and treatment during a catastrophic scenario. Poudre Valley Hospital is a Level 3 Trauma Center (one of the most advanced in the state).

It was another humbling experience showcasing the value of these experts doing their best to make our community better one decision at a time.

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