By Joel Hillan

DENVER (CBS4) – Denver’s Sun Valley neighborhood came together to pick up trash and debris. Denver City Councilwoman Debbie Ortega led the annual effort to keep plastics and other waste out of Lakewood Gulch on Saturday.

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After the clean-up, they all headed down to the Sun Valley Kitchen and Community Center, which has become a gathering point for the community and is changing lives.

“Whether it’s a kid or a resident, I think so much of our day-to-day work here is just paying attention and serving the one right in front of us,” said Daisy Wiberg who is the Director of the Sun Valley Kitchen and Community Center founded by Glenn Harper five years ago.

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“It’s this gathering place and a place for community and connection, despite different cultures and religions and languages,” she said.

Every week, their no-cost grocery program serves about 300 members of the community including Taylor Allese.

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“When I first started coming here, it was out of absolute necessity. We had nothing,” she said.

Now, Taylor has blossomed as a cook and is looking at becoming an employee of the restaurant that was added to the center last year.

Jashaun Blackmon, 10, has been coming to the center since he was 6 years old.

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“It’s been really fun to see him just transform through this program, he now comes and hangs out with us after school and helps cook and just loves being in this space,” said Daisy.

After school he works as a cook, helping prepare the food that feeds 60 kids each night Monday through Friday. His favorite meal?

“Macaroni and cheese with sausage cut up,” he said.

This center has inspired Jashaun to be a cook when he grows up, but not just any cook.

“I definitely don’t want to be an assistant, so I want to be the head chef.”

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A community lifted and inspired from within.

“I love this place, and I’m glad it’s here, and I’m glad I found it,” said Taylor.

LINK: Sun Valley Kitchen and Community Center

Joel Hillan


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