Brief History of the Lago Vista Ministry
- In the Spring Semester of 2010, Laney Howard and other Cottonwood Plains Elementary School teachers began an after-school Homework Help for elementary students from Lago Vista. This was due to the lack of needed progress on state testing scores of the mobile home park students. They met one afternoon a week in the Clubhouse in Lago Vista to help the kids gain some of the skills needed to be successful in school. Some community and church volunteers also came to help.
- The next school year (2010-2011) the after-school program continued once a week in the Clubhouse but became an enrichment program with guest speakers and writing practice to help the children expand their life experiences and become more skilled in writing.
- During the summers of 2010 and 2011, Laney and her husband Duncan ran a summer program with the help of some of the teachers two mornings a week. The program included reading practice, crafts, and outdoor recreation in one of the two open areas in Lago Vista.
- In the fall of 2011, the owner and manager would not allow the after-school program to continue meeting in the Clubhouse. Laney spent weeks praying about how to proceed. One Sunday in September, a staff member at Faith Church in Loveland suggested that Laney share the prayer request with the leaders at the church. Laney was invited to meet with the leadership of the church to share about the Lago Vista ministry and the need for a facility to carry it out. A month later, the leadership of the church enthusiastically adopted the ministry with funding to purchase and renovate a trailer, under the leadership of Laney and Duncan.
- In January of 2012, the purchase and renovation of the trailer was completed and the after- school programs for the Lago Vista children continued in Trailer 135. Not only were they blessed with a facility for the programs, but they also had an open space behind the trailer for recreation. A teacher and her daughter and a single college student moved into the bedrooms in the trailer to help run the programs.
- In April of 2012, Laney and Duncan moved into the trailer next door to the single wide program trailer. This enabled the Howards to have more of an incarnational relationship with the children, their families, and the other residents. They lived there until the fall of 2019, when the new program director, Jonah Kunisch and his wife moved into Lago Vista to help the Howards with the programs.
- From 2012 to 2014, the programs and involvement of the children continued to grow significantly. In addition to the school year Homework Help and Panther Club academic programs, Bible Club and summer Vacation Bible School helped the children grow spiritually. Youth programs were begun for middle school and high school students. Programs for children and youth were offered year round. Some of the youth became a part of the Youth Leadership Team and learned leadership skills and how to serve in the programs for the younger children. These students were given the opportunity to attend a week at a Christian summer camp.
- The support base for the Lago Vista Ministry has continued to grow significantly. Ten area churches are now involved with volunteers and/or financial support for programs, facility improvement, and maintenance. The churches include Faith, Good Shepherd, Crossroads, Foundations, Bent Tree, Mountain View Presbyterian, Calvary United Reformed, Resurrection Fellowship, Trinity Lutheran Fort Collins, and Immanuel Lutheran. There are also several local businesses and non-profit agencies that partner with the ministry. Some of the agencies include the Food Bank of Larimer County, Thompson R2J School District, Colorado Trust, Vida Sana (UC Health), Chilson Recreation Center, and Loveland Public Library.
- The involvement of the children and youth has continued to expand greatly. In the fall of 2014, the Lago Vista Committee began to pray for the Lord’s direction on how to expand our facilities in response to the needs and new opportunities for children, youth, and adult ministries. From God’s mighty hand and the generosity of the Thompson School District, we were provided with two modulars from a local middle school that each have two classrooms and bathrooms. One was moved in at Lot 133 in the spring of 2015 and renovated by many volunteers. The second modular was moved and renovated in the winter/spring of 2016 and was placed where the Faith Trailer had been since 2011. Bob Redfield and Ed Lanting directed the renovation of both modulars. Colorado Trust provided a large renovation grant.
- Since its inception, the Lago Vista Neighbor has been guided by the faithful and dedicated leadership of the Lago Vista Committee made up of Ed and Linda Leon, Bob and Callie Redfield, Mike and Sharon Reikofski, Beth Taylor, Emma Shockley, and Donna Steelman. Duncan and Laney have also been assisted in leading the ministry by a number of college interns, some of whom have lived in the original Faith Trailer.
- In 2017, the Lago Vista Committee began to take steps to formalize the ministry and make it sustainable for the long term. They named the ministry “Lago Vista Neighbor” and registered it with the State of Colorado. They defined the desired goals and responsibilities of the Lago Vista Neighbor Board of Directors and made a list of candidates to invite to be a part of it, beginning in January of 2018.
- The Lago Vista Neighbor Board of Directors was formed with 9 members in January, 2018. The Board continues to meet monthly and focuses on fundraising, partnerships with local churches, businesses, and agencies, and oversight for staff and programs. In fall of 2019, the Board hired Jonah Kunisch as Program Director to work under the Howards who are now Executive Directors.
From the beginning, the Lago Vista Neighbor has been God’s idea that He has led and provided for in amazing ways. It will be exciting to see the new and mighty things the Lord wants to do in the years to come.