RMNAAFA Member Spotlight: Jan Marie Belle

RMNAAFA member and Denver native Jan Marie Belle has quite an impressive list of accomplishment! Not only has she been actively fighting "fatism" by writing letters to the editor of Denver's newspapers but also she is very active in Denver as a civic leader. Jan Marie knows how to get the job done!

She has given much of her time and financial resources so that her Denver neighborhood, Ruby Hill, and its residents thrive.

Recently Jan Marie was awarded the Civic Entrepreneur of the Year from the Denver Foundation. This award was presented to her for establishing the SouthWest Improvement Council (SWIC). Jan Marie started SWIC with her own money, $38,000 in severance pay from Service Employees International Local Union 105. Since its inception in the late '80's SWIC has established programs to buy and renovate vacant buildings, provide down payment assistance for first time home buyers, train volunteers to care for homebound community elders, and provide conflict resolution training and positive alternatives to gang activities for youth. Jan Marie has served as the Executive Director for SWIC since 1988.

Jan Marie is a graduate of English and Secondary Education from the University of Colorado, a graduate of Biblical studies from Regis College, and a graduate of Biblical Studies from St. Thomas Seminary. Along with her work with SWIC some of Jan Marie's' other positions have been as a High School Teacher, Labor Union Organizer and Business Agent, and was President of SEIU Local 105 Labor Union.

Jan Marie and SWIC have received numerous international, national, and local awards over the years for her dedicated and charitable work in Denver's urban areas. Some of her awards include the following: 1990 City of Denver "Women of the Year"; 1990 Louis Sullivan Award from the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services for personal leadership in community health promotion; 1997 International Award for Building Healthy Community from International Health Care Forum; and, the aforementioned 1999 Civic Entrepreneur of the Year from the Denver Foundation.

Jan Marie has been a Commissioner on the City of Denver's' Planning Board since 1994 and has served as the President of the Ruby Hill Neighborhood Association since 1996. Along with her civic work, Jan Marie is a private consultant with JB III Consulting whose services include meeting facilitation, board and volunteer training, grant writing, proposal development, technical assistance in organizational development and management. This consulting group also facilitates workshops for law enforcement officers and community members using a Community Policing model.

Jan Marie's works and accomplishments are only partly reflected here. She clearly "walks the walk" when it comes to community involvement. When asked what she is passionate about, she states, "I am passionate about accomplishing things, at the time and place I am in, that's most effective for bringing goodness and right relationships to the surface. I am passionate about engaging all beauty and possibility, especially that which is hidden and oppressed. I am passionate about seeing people as they are, behind all the labels that make people objects and substitutes for authentic engagement."

Jan Marie is a great addition to our community as well as NAAFA. Clearly she is a shining example of how much one person can do-regardless of size! In her own words she says "I have seen visions of joy-the insight of children, the kindness of strangers, the little things of everyday life and the great victories of gatherings. It matters not "how" we come to appreciate this Great Truth that Goodness Lives-there are as many points of view as there are places to stand. I want everyone to be with me in the real world beneath the unreal world that denies and oppresses us."

The Member Spotlight column is the work of Patti Kelly.

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