Recently, we went on an adventure. We left our office walls to visit one of our grantees, PorchLight Family Justice Center in Lakewood.
Community First Foundation board members joined staff to venture into the field. Our goals? Research a local problem, seek expert information, and explore the impact the funds we’ve invested in PorchLight are having in our community. Candace Cooledge is PorchLight’s executive director and took us on a journey to show how PorchLight is changing lives for the better in Jeffco. Attending the visit were Nikki Borchardt Campell, Shelley Marquez, Andre McGregor and several Foundation employees.
“If I had $5 million dollars right now, I’d give it all to you today because this place is AMAZING,” said Andre McGregor, a Community First Foundation board member. McGregor was inspired by the work PorchLight is doing to help empower families and people who are struggling to move forward in a positive direction after being impacted by physical abuse, emotional abuse, harassment, threats, strangulation, murder, elder, and at-risk individuals abuse, human trafficking and child abuse in Jefferson County.
PorchLight is a Family Justice Center in Lakewood whose mission is to bring together essential services for victims, survivors and their children to create a positive pathway forward and foster public safety. Started just over a year ago in 2021, PorchLight is making good happen in Jeffco by connecting partners in a collaboration feast of resources and services in one centralized, warm and welcoming location.
Walk through the doors of PorchLight and you’re immediately welcomed into a safe space, free of judgement and with the comforts of home provided. From snacks and clothing, to necessary toiletries and on-site childcare, victims immediately feel the warmth that comes with compassion and care.
“By visiting the site, we are able to get a sense of the organization we’re supporting,” said Noah Atencio, Community First Foundation’s vice president of community impact. “It really helps to touch, see, and feel the impact and you can only do that by being there. It’s rewarding to see the good that is happening.”
More than 75 community partners work together to provide the coordinated services for victims and survivors of sexual assault, family violence, stalking, elder abuse, child abuse, at-risk individual abuse and human trafficking. PorchLight houses a multi-disciplinary team of professionals under one roof to coordinate activities across agencies and more effectively serve their guests.
Since opening their doors on February 25, 2021, PorchLight has served over 1,000 victims. Community First Foundation granted support to PorchLight to help get the organization off the ground and build its capacity to provide high-quality wraparound services to victims through an army of partner agencies.
“Some of the biggest challenges people victimized by violence is navigating the maze of community services,” said Cooledge. “By offering the critical services they need in one place, we are removing barriers to service.”
For example, one of the primary reasons victims of violence often don’t leave home is because they can’t leave their pets. PorchLight recognizes this reason, along with dozens of others. In this situation, partners like Foothills Animal Shelter help shelter pets so victims can leave unsafe environments and get help. Then, they work to reunite pets. “So far, Porchlight has reunited 100% of their guests with their beloved pets,” said Cooledge.
“Our partner agencies work together to help our victims get to a better place; that’s what I love most about the work we’re doing,” said Cooledge. “PorchLight is saving lives every day.”
When asked what PorchLight’s greatest needs are for the next five years, Cooledge responded that like many nonprofits, ever-changing grant-funding, lack of awareness of PorchLight’s work, a lack of safe shelters and increasing homelessness, and an increase in domestic violence in Jeffco all influence daily operations and future sustainability.
PorchLight also wants to give kids and teens witnessing domestic violence in their lives an opportunity to attend Camp Hope which Cooledge hopes to launch in Colorado in the near future. Camp HOPE is a camping and mentoring program that focuses on creating hope and healing-centered pathways through collaborative, trauma-informed care for youth who have experienced trauma to help them believe in themselves, in others, and in their dreams. “If we want to break the cycle of domestic violence, we have to start with the kids,” added Cooledge.