HISTORY OF MONTBELLO ORGANIZING COMMITTEE
Montbello is a community rich with assets and, yet, faces many challenges. It is one of the largest neighborhoods in Denver but one that experiences under-investments of resources and infrastructure on all fronts. Recognizing the need for a committed process of organizing residents for strength and voice, a multiracial, multi-ethnic group of Montbello residents and stakeholders— including African American, Latino, and Caucasian—began meeting in mid-2013. Simply calling themselves the Montbello Organizing Committee (MOC) they began training in community organizing, talking with community members, and establishing the foundation for an organization that chose to maintain the original work group’s name.
MOC’s community engagement phase began in late fall, 2014 with a Pre-Thanksgiving gathering of community members titled Turkey and Tamales. At the feast, community members were invited to celebrate community assets, achievements, and leaders (both emerging and established) and identify issues to address within the community. More than 80 residents provided input at that gathering about pressing issues in the community.
Additionally, another 300 community members responded to a needs-assessment survey regarding their thoughts regarding pressing issues. A process to identify MOC priorities was conducted and concluded in January 2015 when many of the earlier participants and others met again to solidify priorities to be addressed. Spurred by the closing of the only full-service grocery store, the impending development of RTD commuter lines and the cessation of neighborhood bus routes, and the worsening narrative about the community, the top priorities of transportation, retail development, and community enhancement were identified. Task teams composed of residents and stakeholders were developed to meet regularly to address the issues. (Read the 2017 – 2020 Strategic Plan for more details).
MOC was awarded a national grant by the Kresge Foundation and began working on the Freshlo Initiative. In addition to the work to build a grocery-anchored community hub and affordable housing, we are currently working on a 2020-2023 Strategic Plan, which will expand the focus of the organization, its partners, and stakeholders. Based on community feedback and data, we will work with community members to address the difficult and pressing problems associated with gentrification and dislocation, lack of affordable housing, a failing education system in Montbello, and the disproportionate rate of unemployment and underemployment in the community.