The first day I brought the kids down here we managed to find Glenmere Park. It was a beautiful fall day and I thought, “this is it”. It felt really wholesome. To me, community is a place where you feel comfortable living, playing and learning. I found a place of healing and belonging after a bad marriage. I now have people to rely on and trust; Why would I ever leave?
My then-boyfriend (now my husband) grew up in Greeley and kind of talked me into moving here. I was attracted to Greeley because it has such a diverse community. Especially coming from a homogenous community, Greeley had culture; it felt safe, a good place to raise my kids. I wanted them to be exposed to the different cultures and languages. I also loved the history, the deliberateness and thoughtfulness that went into building this community.
Talking about diversity reminds me of a funny story. I was looking for garlands to hang up at my wedding about a year ago. I thought it would look festive and fun. I went to every Mexican store, like the quinceañera stores, a few markets and I could not find any. No one had them. Most of the vendors were monolingual, and since I don’t speak Spanish, I took the liberty to take pictures to show them what I was looking for. Even though they did not have any garlands, everyone was still so nice and would refer me to someone else. Going to these markets reminded me of Mexican villages and I thought, “This is so cool and it’s right here”.
Yet besides all I had noticed about Greeley, it took me ten years to truly appreciate the Greeley community and all it had to offer. I belonged to my kid’s school and the UNC communities and that was it. Although we were a poor family who went to college, we did it! That was a wonderful time in my life. Now that my kids are grown up and I work in Greeley, I appreciate the community more.
From my perspective I think the community is healthy, but I was a single white woman with certain privileges. As a single woman, it’s hard to be part of communities, but I felt safe and had an easier time in Greeley. However, if I was a Hispanic mom, I’m not sure I could say that I had the same opportunities and resources. I worry about that, and I don’t think we get enough opportunity to intermingle within one another. This causes a barrier that creates division within Greeley.
I had commuted to Denver to work for nine years, and now I work in Greeley. One of my jobs requires working with neighborhoods, such as helping them organize events, help clean-up, even helping with traffic problems, or noise issues. I just try to bring people together to solve problems. I mostly facilitate communication. I am very passionate about social justice and women’s issues; they don’t feel like work, but more of a calling. I have been a member of the League of Women Voters, a lobbyist for the homeless, I manage a community garden, volunteer for the elderly and individuals that are disabled who stay home.
My other job is with the Farmer’s Market. I was a consumer for about twenty years and am now managing the flow of the market. One thing I have noticed is that there are very few refugees that come to the market, although I’m not sure why. Perhaps they are intimidated with the variety of produce available and what to do with them if purchased. Farmers, however, grow and sell based on what’s in demand. This is one area I would like to see improve.
Of course there are problems that need to be improved besides the expansion of produce, but for the most part, I believe people in Greeley want to live peacefully. There are stereotypes about Greeley, but it’s because people don’t know much about the city, besides the way it smells. The smell is always a problem due to the local dairy farms and meat packing plants. They’re a stinky business, but they are the largest employer of refugees, giving them a means to make a livable income and a community to belong to. So, like a lot of life, it’s the ying and yang.
I think people are just so fearful these days. We just need to turn off the TV and radios, walk outside, sit on our front porch and talk to people. We are living in a multicultural community so we need to put the money where our mouths are and really make this work. Kids are so wise and they just want to play together, and people could follow their example and talk together and interact. Interaction with one another could truly make the community a place where you feel comfortable living, playing and learning, just as it was for me.
This story originally appeared in Facing Change: Reflections on Civic Health & Social Trust, a publication of The Facing Project that was organized by the University of Northern Colorado in Greely, Colorado.