Little things add up. ATM fees, for example. And chocolate chips. And the number of steps needed to burn off those chocolate chips. The same can be said for good deeds, and nowhere is this more evident than the United Way’s Make a Difference Day.
In case you, like I, have always wanted to participate in Make a Difference Day but haven’t quite gotten organized in time, rest assured that registering for this event could not be easier. The United Way of Larimer County website lists all volunteer events, the times and dates, and the number of volunteers needed. (This is also the site to check for information about donations or upcoming events any time of year.)
By the time I got around to registering, most of the positions had been filled (good for you, Larimer County!). I signed up to help Character Fort Collins present cards of recognition to other Make a Difference volunteers. Character Fort Collins is a community-wide initiative launched in 2001 to promote good character, which they define as “the inward motivation to do what is right.”
I joined CFC Executive Director Becky Dixon and CFC volunteer Marge in recognizing the efforts of a group of HP employees who were busy removing graffiti from a west-side neighborhood. After we (hopefully) made the HP people feel appreciated, we had a chance to talk with City of Fort Collins Graffiti Abatement Coordinator Nick Myers. This is a part-time position with a full-time work load. You may not notice much graffiti around Fort Collins. Or if you do spot some, it isn’t there long. This is largely due to the efforts of Nick and his helpers. Long story short, he is a 3-year resident with a lifetime’s worth of pride in this community.
The HP Team
The HP team then let me tag along (sorry for the pun) as they painted over graffiti at the vacant UBC lumber yard and the back of the former Wal-Mart on Harmony. They didn’t need my help, but I wanted to be able to say I chipped in a little. And I still have the paint on my jeans to prove it.
I imagine that graffiti abatement is like the labor of Sisyphus—the mythological king whose punishment required him to push a huge boulder up a hill every day only to have it roll back again at night. These days, maybe that would be called job security. Regardless, I was glad to see that as of yesterday afternoon, there was no new graffiti at UBC or Wal-Mart.
Most of us are not in the position to make a Bill Gates-type donation to a charitable entity, but if we can give even a little of our time and/or money, it does make a difference. And if you ever see Nick out working to preserve the beauty of Fort Collins, tell him thanks.
I can't believe I've already had ten weeks of Choice City fun. It seems like the perfect time to celebrate with a giveaway. Send me (firstname.lastname@example.org; no attachments, please) your Fort Collins story (how you came to be here, what you like to do, your local business/website/blog). When I've received ten stories, I'll enter the names, plus the prior three, into a drawing for a $20 Downtown Fort Collins gift card. I'll post the stories on Fridays.
Friday Mystery Photo:
Last week's photo was the Nelson Farm milk house at Spencer Park, on the corner of Swallow and Lemay. If you've never been by, it's worth a quick stop.
This week's photo: Where in Fort Collins was this picture taken?
Everyone needs a good oasis. The desert-palm-tree type is hard to come by here in Northern Colorado, but we’re fortunate to have many other peaceful places to stroll or sit with our thoughts. Or our iPhones. Or our coffee. Or all of the above. (We’re supposed to be multi-taskers now, right?)
On Sunday, I discovered CSU’s Plant Environmental Research Center at 630 West Lake Street. Never mind the fact that my “new discovery” has been there for 37+ years. And the greenhouses for 61. Yes, despite spending 4 years criss-crossing the CSU campus, I never made it to the PERC. (Of course, had it been adjacent to Old Chicago or the library, my odds would have been better.)
The gardens were established to benefit students, researchers, and other “interested persons.” My family and I counted ourselves among that last group as we wandered around on another one of our warm October afternoons. We began at the hedge collection:
Found some edibles at the end of their summer season:
Enjoyed the herbaceous perennials and ornamental grasses:
And wended our way through the Arboretum, which has the largest collection of woody plants in the region:
The Annual Test Gardens were once located at this property but are now at 1401 Remington Street.
The few available benches are well-weathered, and the koi pond is not what you’ll find at The Gardens on Spring Creek. But there are many lovely places at the PERC to spend a few quiet moments. And maybe even put the multi-tasking on hold for a while.
Here are two more excerpts from “Talking About Fort Collins: Selections from Oral Histories,” a joint project of The Friends of the Library and the Local History Department of the Fort Collins Public Library (1992). Transcripts of the oral histories are also available at Fort Collins History Connection.
“The first oil well came on here November 11, 1923, northwest of Wellington. It was called the Scott Well. Another well was down here at the Whitaker place where the Country Club is now. It created a lot of excitement, and some of it was false. For instance, the Northern Hotel was owned by a man by the name of Withrow from Wyoming. He got excited and put a third story on the hotel, which broke him, because the boom died out very shortly.” --Francis Gilbert Martinez, 1974
“The Northern Hotel was a very special place. It had marble in the foyer, and a beautiful stairway. That’s where the parties were held in town, the only nice place to go for dinner. When Ace Gillette and his wife Nell came to town and bought the hotel, they made a room called the Gilban Room, which was all red velvet and mahogany. The name Gilban came from the first three letters of Gillette, and the first three letters of banquet. Every Sunday night you could have a spaghetti supper there for one dollar.” --Evalyn Prouty Hickman, 1992
Blue eyes. Poets write about them; The Who, Elton John, and British popster Mika sing about them; Frank Sinatra personified them. But what if blue eyes were an undesirable trait, one that inspired discrimination? That’s the premise of Jane Elliot's film “Blue Eyed.” The film is the fourth and final selection in this year’s (tenth annual) Eracism Film and Discussion Series. The series “is designed to heighten awareness and create a better understanding of the issues facing people of color or of minority ethnic backgrounds.”
In the aftermath of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., then-third-grade-teacher Jane Elliott wanted a way to get her students thinking about the damaging effects of discrimination. She divided her class into two groups: blue-eyed and brown-eyed. The blue-eyed students then spent the day treating the brown-eyed students as lesser individuals. The nature of the lesson proved very effective but did not endear Ms. Elliott to her fellow townspeople. Her family suffered serious hardship as a result.
Later in her career as diversity trainer, Ms. Elliott repeated the exercise with adults. This time, the blue-eyed among the group were discriminated against. “Blue Eyed” is the documentary film of this experience. Ms. Elliott is no cuddly grandma-type, and it was fascinating and distressing to watch the blue-eyed adults—who knew they were part of a brief social experiment—falter under her treatment. And it was humbling to hear other participants describe the ways in which they experience discrimination based solely on their skin color.
I grew up as a white girl in a predominantly white community. I doubt I’ve ever been discriminated against in any meaningful way based on my appearance. I also happen to have blue eyes. My sister and I share a strong resemblance, but she has brown eyes. As I watched the film, I couldn’t help but think that my sister and I would have been on opposite sides of Ms. Elliott’s room—despite possessing the same genetic material handed down from the same parents. That’s how senseless discrimination is.
After the film, Dr. Patricia Vigil, Assistant Professor of Sociology at CSU, led a discussion of the film. (For more information about diversity at CSU, click here.) I should ‘fess up here and admit that I’m sometimes tempted to sneak out the back when ‘discussion time’ rolls around. But I’m glad I stayed. One of the attendees shared what it was like to grow up in a Klan family. Another told of his experience as a participant in a Jane Elliott experiment. Others gave examples of how discrimination affects them, and their families, right here in our city.
I like to think Fort Collins is an inclusive community, but we’re not perfect. We can all stand to learn more about the issues facing our—and this country’s—increasingly diverse population. The Eracism film series is an excellent place to start. “Blue Eyed” is showing again tonight (Oct. 13) at 6:30 at the Harmony Library.
When my boys were younger, we attended many story times together. I’ve heard stories at libraries, at bookstores, at schools, at The Farm, at The Gardens on Spring Creek, at Dandelion Toys. I‘ve heard stories under umbrellas in the rain and under canopies in the sweltering summer heat. I’ve heard stories accompanied by music, puppets, magicians, giant furry mascots, and slide shows. I’ve heard stories about talking animals, evil kings, wayward travelers, wise elders, and more talking animals. I’ve heard a lot of stories. Now that my boys are a little older and their story time opportunities are fewer, I’m finding that I miss those days. (All except the sitting-on-the-floor-until-my-spine-is-rendered-immobile part.)
So I was pleased to discover that storytelling in Fort Collins is not just for kids. On Friday, I kicked off the month of October with some spooky stories for adults, as told by the Larimer County chapter of Spellbinders Storytellers.
Spellbinders was founded in Denver in 1989 by Germaine Dietsch, with the goal of strengthening intergenerational connections using the power of story. The organization has since expanded to 22 chapters in six states, Canada, and Wales. I arrived early enough to chat with some of the Storytellers, who are quite possibly the nicest people I’ve ever met. They tell stories in Larimer County schools on a regular basis, and I imagine they are beloved by kids of all ages. I know my boys always looked forward to their third-grade story times.
The best spooky stories are the subtle ones—no rampaging psychopaths or marauding werewolves for me, thank you very much. I'd rather hear the tale of a haunted bedroom with a mysterious quilt. Or a civil war soldier witnessing a dying man reunited with his dead love. A medieval forest which protects the innocent. A ghost mother bringing milk to her baby. The Spellbinders mixed in some humor, too, with stories of a “noodlehead” who didn’t quite know what it meant to be dead and a sassy toddler who wasn’t about to let an angry spirit keep her from going for the gold.
A story is only as good as the teller, and the Spellbinders didn’t disappoint. (Anyone who can captivate a class of squirmy grade-schoolers must have a gift.) I can’t remember the last time someone told me a ghost story, and I was happy to find that it’s just as much fun as it used to be. All that was missing was the campfire.
The Spellbinders next adult story-telling will take place on April 1.
I’m no restaurant critic (for that, visit the excellent Feasting Fort Collins) but I do like to eat out. Especially breakfast. Eating a big breakfast I did not have to prepare for myself is one of life’s great treats. Here are five of my favorite breakfast places, in order of the restaurant owners’ astrological signs. (Well, maybe, who knows? But most likely they’re in no certain order.)
Choice City Deli (104 W. Olive Street; website under construction): Yes, they do beer and steaks and all that good stuff for lunch and dinner. But they also do breakfast, and just as amazingly as they do everything else.
Snooze (144 W. Mountain Avenue): Fun, funky décor. Fresh, delicious food. Big coffee mugs that are nice to hold on to. And pancakes. Pancakes, pancakes. Even gluten free (yay! Benedicts, too).
McCoy's Morning Glory (1003 W. Horsetooth Road): I love being able to order a half-size omelet. The Sunday brunch has plenty of tasty choices and is reasonably priced. And my family and I can walk there.
Lucile's Creole Cafe (400 Meldrum Street): Fish, beans, and collard greens for breakfast? You bet. And more traditional breakfast fare, too, including biscuits the size of throw pillows. The spice tea is out of this world.
The Rainbow (212 W. Laurel Street) Eggs, bacon, tofu, tempeh, beans, brown rice, veggies, pancakes, crepes, granola, fruit…if you can’t find something for breakfast here, go back to bed.
If you have a favorite place to add to the list, please leave a comment.
Friday Mystery Photo Where in Fort Collins was this picture taken?