Cliff and Asia Lyons believe in community. Not an online community or an office community, but something that has become all too rare: a community built on shared recipes and helping one another. After achieving success as a chef and a schoolteacher for Cherry Creek School District, the two blended their passions and founded The Spoon to revive that sense of tableside camaraderie. Using cooking as their core, the organization's lessons impart important food-preparation techniques and easy recipes, but also branch out beyond the kitchen. The Lyonses stress the importance of continued education and spread their micro-community into the greater community by having their wards prepare dinners for families at the Ronald McDonald House and sort items at the local food bank.
In an interview with CBS4 Studios, the duo explained that “when kids help make it, they want to eat it.” So their classes focus on healthy eating habits and blending bright flavors with a do-it-yourself attitude. They set up a kitchen area with tools and supplies at local schools, then help kids prepare chicken and rice soup or Vietnamese spring rolls—"one of the kids’ favorites.” Students in series classes, meanwhile, take their lessons to the next level by participating in off-site field trips to restaurants.
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Laura Monahan comes from an artistic family, and spent her youth practicing sculpture, oil painting, pottery, and what turned out to be her ultimate passion: photography. Her ability to preserve candid moments has left an indelible impression—she has a published portfolio on three continents and product lines appearing at national retailers such as Hallmark and JCPenney. Laura’s photo shoots always take place outdoors, capturing newborns, older kids, families, and makeshift popsicle-stick families in soft, natural lighting and poses that never appear unnatural. Her settings span the country from San Diego’s foamy beaches to Denver’s red-rock sunsets and into the Midwest’s autumn leaves.
More than two dozen flat-screen TVs line the walls of Cleatz Sports Bar & Grille, casting a glow across an arsenal of pool tables, poker games, and decadent fare created by the kitchen’s veteran chef. As the wait staff shuffle around deep-fried mushrooms, catfish poboys, and buffalo wings drenched in a spectrum of sauces—from sweet molasses to XXX hot—a DJ spins live tunes before the munching and swaying crowd. On Friday nights, live jazz music replaces the electronic beats, and musicians welcome locals on stage to jam with the band or turn their middle-school diary into a new song. As for every other night of the week, the bar hosts a range of events, such as pool leagues, poker tournaments, and karaoke.
John Hand has a theory: for any problem a person might have, someone in their local community has a solution. To that end, he founded Colorado Free University, continuing a tradition that began with the Denver Free University of the 1970s and early '80s. Whereas the Denver Free University was created as a political move to make education more accessible, the Colorado incarnation sets its sights on simple personal betterment, becoming more of a learning network than a school. All of its teachers are independent contractors culled from the local community, and together they helm skill-based and enrichment classes for adults, spanning a range of artistic, humanitarian, and business disciplines.
Students can receive training in foreign languages or ASL, business or marketing, acting or visual arts, woodworking or floral design. The school's facilities also accommodate CompuSkills computer-training classes, which progress from basic sessions in computer operation to advanced sessions in photoshopping a ghost out of a family portrait. The campus's 89-seat John Hand Theater, meanwhile, hosts intimate performances from local Firehouse Theater Company and Spotlight Theatre Company.