October 18, 2018
As a teacher at Loveland’s Cottonwood Elementary School, Laney Howard came to know firsthand the challenges faced by many of the school’s students. But the annual state testing results showed that those students who qualified for free or reduced price lunch tended to make less and slower progress than their peers.
So in 2010, Laney and some other teachers started a Homework Help program at the nearby Lago Vista mobile home park, where many of those students lived. Two years later, Laney and her husband, Duncan, moved into the mobile home park, where their Lago Vista Neighbor program has expanded to include a variety of academic, religious and religious programs for preschool to high school-age residents of the trailer park.
Now the couple is eyeing several next steps for Lago Vista Neighbor, including expanding the program’s recreational and discipleship programs for older students, increasing its after-school offerings for elementary students, expanding its summer programs and increasing the connections between the mobile home park’s families and their schools.
On Thursday, Lago Vista Neighbor received a major boost toward obtaining those goals in the form of a $3,000 grant it was given by Loveland ministry resources publisher Group Publishing during the company’s annual Community Service Awards Luncheon. Lago Vista Neighbor was one of 28 organizations that do work within the Larimer County community that received a grant at the luncheon.
The grant Lago Vista Neighbor received was Group’s faith based-service award which Colorado State Sen. Kevin Lundberg, who presented the grant, is given annually “to a church or parish-based organization for “outstanding ministry related community service.”
“We are thrilled,” Howard said Thursday afternoon. “We now have a board of directors and are trying to get grants to continue to support and expand our program and so we are very thankful for this and to Group for their commitment to encouraging service within our community.”
July 5, 2017
For the last eight years, retired teachers Laney and Duncan Howard have dedicated their time, talents and hearts to the kids at Lago Vista Mobile Home Community in Loveland. What started as a small reading program with 10 or 20 kids has grown into a successful year-round program supporting up to 150 kids each year. The program ramps up in the summer providing a variety of activities three mornings each week, including reading, art, chess and outdoor recreation designed for children ages 5 and up. In addition to the activities designed to support academic, social and emotional success for elementary students, Laney and Duncan developed a leadership program for the community’s middle and high school students. This year, they have 16 kids in the leadership training program— more than ever. They treat it like a job, with an application, an interview and required hours.
“E”, age 13, has been in the leadership program for three years and says, “It’s fun. It’s a great way to learn about being a leader and being responsible. You get to help the [younger] kids with reading and homework and play games.”
The Food Bank for Larimer County is proud to partner with Lago Vista community and has been providing Kids Cafe meals and snacks since 2014. According to Laney, the Kids Cafe food really makes a difference for many of the kids in the community. “When kids come in the morning for a snack, a lot ask if they can take food home for dinner.” She says it makes her feel good to know they are getting one good meal. Tacos are especially popular and almost every child asks for seconds … or thirds. “S”would eat 3rds or 4ths of everything if he could. “He’s hungry all of the time, things are pretty rough at home,” shared Laney.
“I love the food,” shared 17-year-old “L”. “The tacos are really good. That’s my favorite. Or anything with salad, vegetables, fruit—I’m all for it!”
Making a Difference
During their second summer at Lago Vista, Loveland. Police visited the mobile home community manager and said: “What are you doing here?” Lago Vista had been infamous for vandalism, fights and other criminal activity, but that summer there had been only one incident reported. The park manager attributed the change to Laney and Duncan’s investment in the community. And that’s not the only difference they’re seeing. At the end of the 2016-17 school year, the Howards received an email from the Dean of Loveland High School sharing that 15 out of the 16 seniors in the community graduated. In a community where 90+% of the kids qualify for free and reduced lunch, that graduation rate is unheard of – the district and statewide rate is around 67%.
Laney credits their success to creating an atmosphere where it’s ok to learn and study. They’ve also established a program called Graduation and Beyond for high school students. It includes a monthly speaker and a scholarship program that can be used for any continuing education. It’s not restricted to college. She’s really proud of the students they’ve worked with in the community who are now attending the University of Northern Colorado, working on welding certification and going to cosmetology school.
“It’s a small program, but growing and we trust we are making a difference,” said Laney.
“L” is 17 and has been in the leadership program at Lago Vista for several years. She has grown in maturity and social skills to the point that she has been hired as a paid summer staff member, a position usually reserved for college students. She works 13.5 hours per week. Life isn’t easy as her parents are divorced and her dad is a veteran and has cancer, so she’s currently living with an aunt.
“The leadership program, for me, it’s grown me to be a more mature young lady. I like being there for the kids and helping them with school.” Her sister, “used to do this job, but she’s in college now.”