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Social media and a caring community help a teen in need to succeed

The gift of a new bike is helping Brian to journey through life while trying to heal from a disruptive childhood.

By Lynne Marsala Basche; photo courtesy of Judy Carlson

Often, social media platforms are used to complain, shame or spread a whirlwind of negativity. However, since a serendipitous meeting between Castle Pines resident Judy Carlson and a teenager in need, Nextdoor became a conduit for an outpouring of generosity throughout the community.

One morning, Carlson was walking her dog when a teenager riding a girl’s bike stopped to ask for directions to Chick-fil-A in Castle Rock. Thinking it was an odd request, Carlson asked him questions. The young man’s name was Brian, and four weeks earlier, his mother left him at a homeless shelter with only the clothes on his back. Brian, who is 18 and a high school senior in Douglas County, found his way to a friend’s house in Highlands Ranch.

Carlson reached out to her church, food banks and organizations that could help. She also shared the encounter on Nextdoor and included a list of Brian’s needs with the hope that the Castle Pines community would pitch in to help.

Residents and business owners mobilized. Carlson’s post garnered more than 80 responses. Donated items included clothes, a bike and a computer. Residents also thought beyond the initial list and added money to Brian’s school lunch account, took him shopping, offered to take senior portraits, bought the host family groceries. Mama Lisa’s Little Italy owner Lisa Storey and Pino’s Italian Kitchen owner Joe Sabia offered Brian jobs, and Lori Peeples of Omega Learning Center volunteered tutoring and college planning sessions. Steve Peterson of Christian Brothers Automotive fixed a car and gave it to Brian’s host family after he was in an accident with their car.

“It has been fascinating to watch this unfold and see connections that fostered relationships where there weren’t any before,” said Carlson. One resident contacted Carlson after her initial post not realizing there was a homeless student population in Douglas County, and that conversation ultimately led the resident to volunteer for Hide in Plain Sight, which focuses on helping homeless students. Another resident learned about the Douglas/Elbert Task Force and donated boxes of clothing that did not fit Brian.

“When we heard about Brian’s story we were inspired to help,” said Castle Pines residents Tracey and Mark Montano. “Here was a young man who was trying to do the right thing and maintain some sense of normalcy in a very difficult situation.”

Both Brian and his host family are incredibly appreciative and grateful for the help and donations they received.

Castle Pines resident Rich Brown said, “My son Colton and I took Brian out to buy him a pair of hiking boots, then to lunch. Brian is a fine and appreciative young man who is staying positive despite being dealt a difficult hand in life.”

“We need to be willing to lean in and get involved in other people’s messy lives,” said Carlson. “I was in the right place at the right time for the right person.” Interestingly, Carlson went through a series of hardships herself and relied on the generosity of strangers and friends. Now, Carlson is doing for Brian what others did for her.

With the knowledge that Brian’s needs are ongoing, Carlson opened and is in charge of a “Brian Donations” account at Wells Fargo for general needs. People wishing to contribute can do so online or at any Wells Fargo branch. Anyone wanting to help in other ways can contact Carlson at judycarlson815@gmail.com.

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