The Circle of Service

These local businesses alleviate collective suffering through their services.

Children’s House Preschool, 
Elaine McCarthy & Michael Knuckey

Children’s House Preschool, a red school barn, stands proudly in North Boulder. Elaine McCarthy and Michael Knuckey, both award-winning teachers, own and operate this experiential option for preliminary education.

On a typical day, the children arrive and the first hour is an opportunity for them to identify how they’ve shown up. Do they want to paint? 
Do they want to rest? This time is dedicated to supporting what they need in order to transition into the rest of their day efficiently. Next, is circle time where all of the children gather for a group activity. Snack time follows, prepared by the children from the food they’ve collected at the Community Gardens (think: kimchi carrots and zucchini muffins). Each activity is hands-on from start to finish and fine-tuned based on the story the Children’s House is focusing on.

The idea of weaving story into the curriculum is called, ‘dramatic play.’ When I went to visit, the students were reading Summer Days and Nights by Wong Herbert Yeh. Dramatic play means that everything mirrors the elements presented in the book. The classroom itself was covered in spider webs, water sprouts, frogs and butterflies. The students played in dry bean gardens and were encouraged to bring elements of the book into their artwork. The intention is to bring life skills and imagination together so that students have an example but also the freedom to decide how their plot-line goes.

What the Children’s House is providing is a balance of both structure and play. With a diverse population of students, it is a method of learning that everyone understands. When asked if the model is sustainable on a large scale, McCarthy affirms that all of the resources are free, that imagination and magic can be utilized anywhere. Knuckey tells me about how much of his work is focused on filing for grants, and thankfully, Boulder supports their mission. Thanks to the sugar tax, the Children’s House will be able to plant their own garden on site and hopefully, in the future, remodel their small kitchen to be a more workable and interactive space for the students.

The Children’s House encourages children to view the world with new imaginative eyes in hopes that we will have leaders that understand how to discern for the benefit of us all.

Mother House, Jessica Doerschlag

Jessica Doerschlag is a resident of the Mother House. Eight months into her pregnancy, newly sober and homeless, she applied ruthlessly to be a part of this safe haven. I found out later that being accepted into the house is no easy feat. There are currently only five other women. The Mother House is a support center that demands self-sustainment.

“Goal orientation matters, ambition matters… you need to want the help and want to work,” Doerschlag tells me.

Each member must maintain a job outside of the facility where they are required to work 20 hours a week. While staying in the house, the women set weekly goals, attend speaker presentations and do various activities such as meditation.

Mother House also provides strategic and individual case management support. Doerschlag relays the experience of going to the hospital with Mother House to witness a live birth, which made her anxieties about the process diminish. In addition to emotional support, the women receive bus passes, diapers, food stamps and child-care covered through C-Cap once the baby is born.

Through state acknowledgment and support, Mother House can support these women. This process alleviates the cyclical nature of children born into homelessness. The hope is that each child will have the opportunity to break free from preexisting and compromising circumstances.

Beloved Community Village, Amanda Mack

Beloved Community Village is a neighborhood of eleven tiny homes and fifteen residents addressing the issue of homelessness that is present in both Denver and Boulder counties.

Tiny homes provide relatively low cost and low maintenance design. Right now Beloved Community Village has been running for three months but, due to zoning laws, they are required to relocate every six months. This means more money, more time, and obviously, more displacement.

Amanda, a former resident of Beloved Community Village is now a volunteer with the Denver Homeless Out Loud and a board member of the Colorado Village Collaborative. 
Before becoming involved she was “homeless and alone.” The community provided a platform for her to grow. Through the self-governing nature of the village, she eventually stepped into roles that make decisions for the community.

“I feel like I matter again, and more importantly, that I’m a part of something else that matters much more,” she says.

The community also provides food, employment aid, transit, Medicaid and laundry. These supportive measures further encourage residents to go into the city and build a sustainable life. Overall, the idea is to eliminate the ‘us’ and ‘them’ mindset by providing the foundation that most of us are gifted to have. The issues of homelessness are complex, in need of readdressing, and Beloved Community Village provides hope that they will be.