Community Connectors - Growing Roots in the Neighborhood
Meet Evon Lopez
We sat down with Evon Lopez, community organizer, mother, grandmother, seamstress, hiker, tree lover aaand…The Park People’s new Community Connector to talk about her life, her work, her community, and her dreams.
When we caught up with Evon, she was resting in the car after wrapping up her grandbaby duties for the day. At 62, Evon is retired from a 25-year career working with the City and County of Denver as a Human Resource professional. She cares for her infant grandson full time while pursuing a masters degree in Human Resource Management and working tirelessly on behalf of Valverde residents. She has been a vocal advocate for a quality-of-life-first approach to development, lobbying for more green spaces, access to great schools, healthy food and clean clothes for her friends and neighbors. You may see her hanging flyers on your door or speaking in front of City Council - she is a wonder woman whose work inspires us and those around her daily.
Tell me a little bit about yourself - your childhood, your passions, your community work - anything that you feel like sharing.
I am a Bible believer, woman of faith, I am a firm believer everything happens for a reason not by chance. My purpose is people and the planet, but first and foremost my family, I pour into them and have instilled that community service is how we give back. My parents are social activists who have instilled strong beliefs that when you help others and give freely to those in harm's way, the blessings will hunt you down.
As you see it, what is a Community Connector and why did you choose to take on this role with The Park People?
I got into this because I saw it as a way to bring more trees into the Valverde Neighborhood, because I love and honor the people from this neighborhood with all my heart. Yet something has happened, and I don’t know how to describe it. It’s supernatural. I feel like somebody pushed a button in me. I think I’ve fallen for you, trees, The Park People magic. Perhaps I’m smitten, or is it bitten? Community Connectors are important because we teach each other. You teach me about trees and show me how to bring more people so I don’t just do it all myself. I speak the language of Valverde and that’s important for The Park People’s work to be successful there.
You’re working in Valverde, the neighborhood you grew up in - what are the reasons you love Valverde and want to encourage others to stay in the area?
Growing up in this neighborhood running up and down the streets at 10pm barefoot I could knock on anybody’s door and say ‘hey, can I get a glass of water’ and they’d say ‘you better run home now Evon, I’ll call your mom’. I remember waking up to the smells of tortillas whether it was my mom or the neighbor or the restaurant down the street. It’s not like that anymore - I don’t want to see it but there’s crime and gangs and violence. This resilient, triumphant community has been through heck and high water but they are still trying and it makes me wish for better days. You can move but you can’t reinvent community.
What are some of the biggest challenges facing residents of Valverde?
I want to keep the character of Valverde but with economic development it’s a give and take. Our leaders decided what neighborhoods were NEST neighborhoods and who fit in. Our next leaders could come in and change that. We are finally gaining ground and I think that’s one of the biggest challenges - to get whatever we can but yet acknowledge that other people still have that lens of colonialism.
What is your dream outcome of your work with The Park People for you and your community?
Environmental justice. I feel like ‘wake up everybody, it’s time to make a new way’. The world is a cold and ugly place. It won’t get much better unless we all lend a hand. People who need people are the luckiest people in the world. I need you guys to keep bringing the heat. Identify EJ and call it out. Bring trees and plants and flowers because we need it, we desperately need it.
What do you enjoy doing when you’re not out doing community work?
I sound like a little kid because I love to hike. Black Canyon is like an adrenaline rush. It’s not exercise because you’re climbing mountains. My love for trees & water stems from my rich Native American culture. I sew. I haven’t been sewing recently because I take care of mi hijito.
What’s your favorite tree?
Aspen because in the mountains you see so many of them. I understand that it’s an organism and one of the biggest is in Colorado.
What fun tree fact surprised you?
I never knew that if you touched the sidewalk and it’s 90 degrees, it would be cooler if you have several trees along the sidewalk. Temperature can change because of trees.
One last thing… If you could achieve only one thing this year, what would it be?
Corporate social responsibility from the industrial areas. They are billionaires. They give back so little. Why don’t they give a scholarship to some kids who have no roads to college or host a community event where people can have fun and eat for free. Why can’t they be like Patagonia?