Helping others becomes full-time job

Englewood woman heads group aiding people in need

Posted 8/21/17

Englewood resident Jessica Luem said while she has always done what she could to help those in need, she never dreamed it would become a full-time job. But it has, as she is now director of CitySquare Denver, an organization seeking to provide …

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Helping others becomes full-time job

Englewood woman heads group aiding people in need

Posted

Englewood resident Jessica Luem said while she has always done what she could to help those in need, she never dreamed it would become a full-time job. But it has, as she is now director of CitySquare Denver, an organization seeking to provide services to those who need assistance.

“I have always had a desire to help those who needed help by volunteering or helping where I could,” she said. “Helping others became a bigger part of my life in 2008 when we started the Well-Fed program in Englewood, a program to provide food to of needy families of Englewood students. As that program wound down last year, I helped CitySquare organize and run the summer lunch program in Englewood. CitySquare Denver is part of CitySquare Dallas, and I guess I did the summer lunch program well because the folks from Dallas asked me if I would consider becoming director in Denver. I said yes.”

She said the idea was to do some things differently at CitySquare Denver, where they were only doing the food pantry at the time.

She said when you know better you do better, and she had learned a lot working with Well-Fed that proved helpful in her new position.

“I was there to help needy families through the Well-Fed program but I wasn't homeless or in crisis,” Leum said. “Working with those families I learned a lot from those who were in those situations. I feel it was a plus that I was able to apply what I had learned as we opened this facility in April.”

The organization is based at 2575 S. Broadway. Neighbors, including the homeless, can visit the computer lab or check out what is available Monday through Thursday from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. There are specific times and days for some specific services. For example, representatives of Denver Human Services are at the center Tuesdays while the food pantry is open.

“We also have a bicycle recycle program as volunteers donate their time to refurbish the bikes we are able to get,” she said. “Bikes are always available for children. Adults also can receive a bike. We have a lottery system on Thursday and give away all the adult bikes we have available.”

The services are paid for through grants and private donations. Luem said there here are three full-time employees and a long list of volunteers.

Jim DeBoer worked on a bike Aug. 9.

“I am a cyclist and I like to work on bikes,” the Englewood man said. “I think it is great that we can fix up bikes for adults who can use them for transportation when they can't get around other ways.”

Luem said volunteers like DeBoer and Connor Mace enable the center to offer all its services.

Mace, a Littleton resident, said his mother saw the CitySquare Denver site online and he became interested in the organization.

“I checked out the information online, I liked the values the organization represents so I decided to volunteer,” he said. “Being a CitySquare volunteer gives me a chance to help people and I like that. It also gives me the opportunity to meet people in need and know that I might be helping them a little. I feel it is a great opportunity and a learning experience for me.”

Luem said many of the neighbors who come to the center are homeless.

“There are a lot of homeless people living in the area,” the Cherry Creek High School graduate said. “They are welcome to visit us. Many of them come and use our facilities to do their laundry or to use one of our lockers to store their belongings.”

Ed Shute was at the center Aug. 9.

“I used to live in Littleton but I am homeless now. It isn't an easy life and I can't thank the people here for all the different ways they have helped me,” he said. “They helped me get my identification documents, helped me get some good clothes and they even helped me get a good haircut.”

He told the staff he was tearing up a bit when he thought about all the ways CitySquare Denver had helped him.

Luem said plans for the future include construction of a three-story, eight-apartment building in a lot they own at 2479 S. Broadway. Plans are for apartments on the second and third floors and 1,400 square feet of retail on the ground floor. She said the goal is to have retail businesses in place that serve the neighbors.

She smiles as she said there are no limits to the future of the center.

“I tell my kids if your dreams and goals don't scare you, your dreams and goals aren't big enough,” she said. “I feel this is a good place to think big, and when you think big you have to be a hard worker. I see our services growing and we hope to be able to offer legal services and more medical assistance. But I feel the sky is the limit.”

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