Around Town 1

Annual Chamber of Commerce Awards

The best and brightest in the local business community were honored in early February by the Chamber of Commerce of Highlands Ranch. Below are the award winners who were recognized at the annual Chairman’s Inaugural Luncheon on January 29 at the Sheraton Denver Tech Center Hotel in Greenwood Village.
Excellence in Community Impact—Hide In Plain Sight; Excellence in Innovation—Children’s Hospital Colorado; Emerging Business of the Year—Seven Stones and Bear Mortgage Inc.; Legacy Leader—Peg Rudden with Advocates For Children- CASA; Ambassador of the Year—Kay Stolzenbach, Kellogg Executive Services.

Great Western Bank Among the Best

Despite the growth of online banks with their competitive rates and low fees, traditional brick-and-mortal institutions still appeal to many Americans. In fact, nearly 30 percent of consumers cited convenient branch locations near where they live and work as the top reason for staying with their bank, according to a 2015 survey by consulting firm Accenture. Great Western Bank ranked as one of the top ten best banks in America for 2016 based on criteria such as “yields, fees or other terms on check, savings and one-year certificate of deposit accounts” and “products offered, including auto loans, mortgages, credit cards, investment services and insurance services.” Great Western Bank is one of only two in the current top ten banks to offer free checking. Not only that, but Great Western Bank is the only bank on the list to have the highest BauerFinancial Star Rating possible (5). The bank also offers free online banking and bill pay, with 24-hour phone banking and free mobile banking. Its savings account has an APY of just 0.01 percent and its 12-month CD has an APY of 0.15 percent. So although it only has branches in seven states, Colorado should be thrilled to be home many of those branches.

Highlands Ranch Students Strive for Greatness

Eighth-grade students at Cresthill Middle School in Highlands Ranch looked at the biggest problems facing Colorado and developed their own video advertisements to explain how they would fix them. Thirty-seven teams representing 155 eighth graders spent three months on the projects, which were a collaboration among social studies, language arts, science and wellness classes. The social studies teacher, Sonja Herring, says the project reflected the district’s focus on innovation, 21st century skills and real-world connections. “Rather than just learning about how one goes about impacting local government, we are actually trying to go through the process ourselves,” she says. “Students were able to choose an issue that was truly affecting Colorado in which they could invest their time and passion.” Groups eventually settled on a particular issue and worked to create a real-world solution that took into account the problems’ complexities—ranging from where the money would come from to the impact on Colorado’s economy and people.

Strive to Thrive Offering Help

The eighth biannual Strive to Thrive Resource and Service Fair, hosted by Douglas County’s Community of Care Network, was January 26 at Calvary Chapel in Castle Rock. The free event is designed to help teach attendees how to take advantage of free food and clothing, medical assistance and more, while giving them the opportunity to receive many of those benefits on-site in a one-stop-shop setting. Attendees were able to walk away with new, warm clothes as well as food provided by food banks. They also learned about employment opportunities and how to apply for food stamps. Free haircuts, dental checkups, free stress tests and wellness checks were also available. Project ReCycle was also at the event handing out free repurposed bicycles to the youth. Organizations participating in the event focused on education, employment, family services, health care, housing and utilities, nutrition and transportation. “I think it’s important people know that these agencies are here to take care of them,” Chuck Vogel, volunteer with the Parker Task Force, says. “Douglas County is perceived as a well-off county, but we took care of 10,000 people at our task force last year. Even though our income level is high, there is a lot of need in our county.”

Denver Kids Inc. Celebrates 70 Years

Since 1946, Denver Kids Inc. has worked in partnership with the Rotary Club of Denver and Denver Public Schools to support kindergarten through 12th-grade students in higher-risk environments—homelessness, poverty, attendance and behavioral challenges, single-guardian households—to help them graduate from high school, pursue post-secondary education and contribute to their communities. The organization continues to serve as a leader in youth intervention and dropout prevention, 70 years later, connecting more than 1,300 students in 144 Denver Public Schools with educational counselors and volunteer mentors each year. The 70th anniversary of Denver Kids is an opportunity to reflect on the organization’s history and take stock of its seven decades of enduring achievements in “accelerating the potential in every child.” To commemorate this significant milestone, Denver Kids is launching a call to action for community-wide support to address their waitlist; it currently grows by 20 students per month. The annual cost to support one student in the Denver Kids program is $2,750. “The long-term goal is to empower our young people to become contributing members of the community, and end the cycle of generational poverty one family at a time,” Denver Kids Board Chair, Billy Brown, explained. “It is a critical mission for them and for our local economy.”