The Sun Valley Community Connectors (CCs) expand community input in the Sun Valley neighborhood by engaging residents in projects that elevate residents’ creativity, resourcefulness, and culture. The Community Connectors empower, engage, and include the greater Sun Valley community in the transformation of their neighborhood.

The CCs are supported by the Kresge Foundation and The Denver Foundation, and employed by the Denver Housing Authority.

Scroll down to read more about their work, meet the Community Connectors, and learn about highlighted events!



The Community Connectors are three Sun Valley leaders that connect neighborhood residents and businesses to community-serving projects in the Sun Valley neighborhood.

The Sun Valley Community Connectors (CCs) are three culturally-based Denver Housing Authority (DHA) employees who are tasked with engaging underrepresented community members in Sun Valley in neighborhood-based planning efforts. The CCs are supported by the Inclusive Community Placemaking grant, which began in January 2017. Their positions are sustained with the support of the Kresge Foundation and The Denver Foundation.

After being hired in 2017, the CCs received extensive training and began to work with DHA’s Sun Valley Choice Neighborhood Implementation (CNI) team. The Community Connectors played an incremental role in the CNI by putting their skills towards outreach goals, working with the relocation team, and organizing community events aimed at keeping residents engaged in community building, art making, and new opportunities for resident leaders to stay on top of redevelopment progress.

The CCs have lead their community in the creation of the Sun Valley Healthy Living Initiative (SVHLI) and ongoing targeted activities, which include:

  1. launch health outreach and create health recommendations that are informed by the existing cultural preferences, needs, and desired outcomes;

  2. increase the visibility of existing culture, food, and art through a youth art installation and new creative microenterprise market that celebrates and invests in the rich, ethnic diversity of the neighborhood;

  3. incorporate multicultural values, voices and art to uniquely characterize and impact the programming and implementation of the Sun Valley neighborhood transformation;

  4. and create a replicable cross-sector approach that combines community connectors and the Sun Valley Healthy Living Initiative to directly impact health outcomes and strategies for inclusion of the underrepresented in community placemaking.

Meet the Community Connectors, and learn about highlighted events below!




Click the photos to meet the Sun Valley Community Connectors!


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Journey 2 Unity | a youth art installation

The Journey 2 Unity (J2U) art installation was created by high school-aged youth in Arts Street’s creative industry academy in the summer of 2018. This project explored the potential to change negative opinions and strengthen positive perceptions about immigration. A partnership between the Denver Housing Authority and Arts Street used creative vehicles such as storytelling in podcasts, video, and visual art projects to document a variety of immigration and life stories from the Denver community. Arts Street with engaged youth planned, organized and implemented community events to celebrate and honor residents of the Sun Valley neighborhoods. The team was led by three Sun Valley youth residents who facilitated the work in the community and worked with the Sun Valley Community Connectors to recruit youth and family participants and to promote the opening event.

Hope in Our City in Sun Valley | Asnake Deferse 

The Community Connectors partnered with the Hope In Our City organization to better reach youth and to help the Sun Valley neighborhood. They have their own property in Sun Valley across street from Fairview Elementary School. Hope in Our City provides sewing classes with most refugee and immigrant women in Sun Valley; a weekly Women’s English Conversation class; and provide leadership classes with Sun Valley youth. The organization also works with Sun Valley Elementary kids during Friday recess.

Food Bridge International Market | Asnake Deferse 

The Community Connectors have partnered with non-profit organization Food Bridge to establish an international grocery store inclusive of fresh foods. The Sun Valley neighborhood, a food desert, poses unique problems for immigrant families; immigrants had to travel almost 15 miles from Denver to Aurora to access culturally appropriate and significant food items. Most of these immigrants have many family members to feed, making the transportation of these groceries difficult. The Food Bridge International Market is located near the Sun Valley neighborhood in the Mariposa redevelopment.

Bridging the Gap cop’s and kid’s Parent & Guardian Workshop  |  Lisa Saenz

For the past two summers the office of the Independent Monitor, the Denver Police Department, and 10 kids from Sun Valley worked through a Summer Youth Employment Program that provided opportunities for the children to meet judges; visit the Denver District Attorney’s office, the state capitol, the Denver Crime Lab; and to learn great new skills.

After both of her children completed the program, Lisa Saenz was contacted by the Independent Monitor to see if she would be interested in doing a pilot program for parents and children in Sun Valley to discuss their sentiments toward the police. Lisa’s event included two Saturday sessions with eight residents. The events were fun and educational and certificates were provided upon completion. Saenz is confident that the opportunity has strengthened the Sun Valley community and she continues her efforts to strengthen the relationship between Sun Valley residents and the local police department. Saenz’s efforts are up for an award with the National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials.