Denise Lines was your average, amiable, delightful, neighbor. Well, she wasn’t average. Not really. Denise worked at Mercy Housing, helping to provide affordable, safe and quality homes to people and families with the greatest need. She was already pretty spectacular, let’s be honest. And, while at Mercy, as she was attempting to convert an empty lot into a community garden, something serendipitous happened. No, it wasn’t a skydiving accident for a tennis star. It was a group of Somali Bantu refugees, a few families, who were resettled into the building where Denise worked. That’s when everything changed. That’s when Denise found herself in a beeping, booping, mid-‘70s science and medical montage.
They would make her stronger.
They would make her faster.
They would make her better.
They would make her EVEN MORE caring.
The early days
The Bionic Neighbor was born. Denise Lines became an even more incredible advocate for community, inclusivity and knowledge. She became one part teacher, one part gardener, one part head chef, one part chairwoman of the board, and one part mentor. And those are only the parts those government scientists will disclose, wink. Denise comprises so many exceptional parts that a full list would take months to read. By those parts combined, Denise Lines started working with resettled youth while at Mercy Housing in 2003. And in 2008 she started Growing Colorado Kids. It was simple at first. She just opened her doors, her home, and her heart to the Somali Bantu youth refugees. She discovered that they were having a hard time putting food on the table and she taught them to garden and to cook. She found that integrating into American society was difficult, and she mentored and helped them make business and community connections. And she taught job skills, leadership training, financial education and more.
There are benefits to being Bionic. An ordinary person probably would have buckled under the pressure, but not Denise. After a few months, when 90% of that building where Denise worked with Mercy Housing was housing refugee families, Denise discovered that all of their kids and youth were excited about being part of the group. So, hand-in-hand with those Somali Bantu refugee youth, Denise created Growing Colorado Kids. And over that time, Denise has even helped the youth learn to work together, to assign responsibilities among one another, and GCK continues to thrive. Right now, she even holds down a position at the Gathering Place on top of everything that GCK demands of her. She is superhuman. It’s true. Denise even lined up a partnership with the Colorado Non-Profit Development Center.
A lasting impact
Denise Lines, Bionic Neighbor, isn’t great simply because of the amazing super-parts she has and all the incredible roles she takes on. It’s her dedication to community service, a life-long mission across multiple jobs and organizations. She espouses a philosophy of love, one that shows off her incredible and supercharged spirit: “Through social interaction social change happens, I believe that with all my heart.” Denise Lines is all love. As Growing Colorado Kids grows, and as Denise continues to give back to her neighbors, she is more than just an amazing leader for the refugees she helps, or for Mercy Housing, or the Gathering Place, she’s a bionic neighbor to each and every person in Denver. She’s a role model.