The community of Avondale, Colo., 20 minutes east of Pueblo, has a post office, an elementary school, a community center and roughly 670 people, a mixture of long-time residents and seasonal farmers who work the fields nearby. It doesn’t have a mayor or police department.
Ask Avondale residents for a wish list for their community, and you may hear things that sound a lot like basic political representation and public services: a sheriff; enforcement of existing laws, including those having to do with rental housing quality and wage theft; a local representative to push for the interests of Avondale; a governing board.
At the edge of Avondale sits El Centro de Los Pobres, which offers food, medical services and other help to immigrants and low-income families. Over plates of Mexican food in November, a long table of volunteers at Los Pobres came up with this list when staff and organizers from The Colorado Trust, including community partner Theresa Trujillo, asked them to talk about what Avondale needs.
Trujillo says this sense of disenfranchisement is common in this part of the state.
“You hear people say that there are two Colorados,” says Trujillo. “One stops south of the El Paso County line.”
In Avondale, as in the farming community of Manzanola, 30 miles east of here, the community leapt at an invitation to envision and realize positive changes for their town after years of feeling overlooked.
For John Garduno, Avondale is the place that welcomed him and his son when he got a job at the nearby Pueblo Chemical Depot in the 1970s. For him, the town holds treasures, like the veterans’ memorial where he likes to sit, drink coffee and reflect.
“[Living in Avondale] is awesome,” says Garduno. “God is good.”
Lately, in a room at the church, Garduno and his neighbors have been working on plans to make the town even better.