Here's a good yarn: Shellie Lubowitz of the Shivering Sheep and Coppélia's Needlepoint in Cherry Creek North so wanted to help the homeless that she organized an ongoing Sunday-afternoon knitting circle for that purpose. Participants get to knit, purl and gab while creating warm items -- gloves, scarves, hats and blankets -- for those who are exposed to the elements all winter long. Knit for the Homeless needles on through the end of April. Look for the new tradition to start up again next fall.


It's every teenager's birthright to endure the humiliating rite of passage known as the high school prom. Though formal events are a low priority for school-age youths and families living in shelters, that doesn't mean homeless teens don't want to put on a puffy dress or boutonniere and dance the night away with their peers. That's why the Denver Public Schools created the Threads program, which started out as a prom-dress bank before evolving into a full-fledged store with hygiene items and racks of donated clothing kids can purchase with vouchers. Threads has been a huge success since it opened in a local school last fall (whose location is disclosed only to those eligible for the program). The concept has been expanded to serve homeless children in elementary school, who receive vouchers they can use at local Goodwill stores. Who knew something so positive could come out of prom night?
If clothes make the man, Suits Closet can make an employed man. To help male job-seekers obtain interview-appropriate duds, the non-profit job-placement agency DenverWorks recently reopened its clothing bank to underprivileged guys seeking work. Offered by referral to clients in need of the right stuff, the program doesn't seem like much at first. But when you consider that a good suit can make the difference between landing a job and being shown the door, Suits Closet becomes one of those small steps for man and a giant step for mankind.


Turning water to wine is a tough, though handy, trick; it's pretty advanced stuff, as far as miracles go. Manos Folk Art can help you enact something slightly less flashy. The colorful import shop specializes in goods from Mexico and Latin America, where the faithful make personal appeals to saints using small, symbolic milagro trinkets. The shop's nice selection of metal milagros -- in the shape of hearts, hands, lungs and limbs, among others -- includes utilitarian Mexican designs as well as elaborate pieces from Peru and silver reproductions of vintage artifacts. The Manos staff will also direct you to local churches and shrines where you can petition the saints. Whether you want to pray or simply pump up your folk-art collection, Manos is a heavenly place to begin.


Highland resident Sandra Renteria is so concerned about Haiti, the tiny, war-torn Caribbean nation, that she's become a cheerleader for the place. Dedicated to doing something for the Haitian people, she and her husband formed the Art Creation Foundation for Children, which is based in Jacmel, Haiti, and feeds and clothes children, most of them orphans, while teaching them to make traditional crafts. Renteria's Denver shop, Indigena, specializes in Haitian art, including the children's wares, along with a smattering of better-than-average handmades from Mexico, India and other far-flung locations; Indigena boasts some of the best Oaxacan carvings we've seen in the region. "Indigena wouldn't exist if it weren't for Haiti," Renteria says. It's a small world, after all.
Marczyk Fine Foods already corners the market on gourmet goods, so we won't even start with the rundown of what they've got inside. But last year they went a step further and made the place just plain homey. "Come on over," they invited. "Sit a while. We'll cook you up a burger." And so the Friday cookout was born. The new summer tradition returns in the spring, when the evenings grow long and linger-worthy. The charcoal grill will fire up again, serving friends, customers and strangers side by side at long community tables. Don't like burgers, even when they're fashioned from the finest beef on the planet? No problem. Pick out a piece of fish inside and they'll grill that up nicely for you, too. Fridays at Marczyk's are pure urban bliss.


It's as close as we'll get to walking under the boardwalk in Denver. But, hey, strolling under the viaduct ain't bad -- especially when you're shopping in blazing mid-July heat. Weatherproofing is just one of the strategies behind the Viaduct Market, a cousin to the successful Ballpark Market bazaar. If a trial run in December is any indication, treasure hunters can expect the same quality mix already found at Ballpark: antiques, furniture, old and new clothing and jewelry, refreshments and those once-in-a-lifetime finds. So go: The Viaduct Market will be open from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. every fourth Saturday of the month from March until December. No need to flee when it rains on this flea.


Smaller and less crowded than the market that takes over the Cherry Creek Bed, Bath & Beyond parking lot on Saturdays, the Colorado Fresh Market is held on Sundays from June through October. It's the same zany mix of Colorado honey, Western Slope apples, goat cheese and cinnamon rolls, but at a far less frenetic pace. Here an organic farmer from Paonia will take the time to tell you just how he makes apple cider, and a local baker will serve you a piping hot baguette right out of the oven. Many of these merchants gave up their day jobs to indulge their love of food, and they're happy to share their stories. Bring a lawn chair and your appetite.
After years of deferred dreams and delayed plans, the Osage Mercado debuted last summer as a kind of test, sponsored by the Baker, La Alma/Lincoln Park and Sun Valley neighborhood groups. Apparently, it passed, because the Mercado is here to stay -- at least for one long season. Beginning on Mother's Day, it will continue on the first Sunday of the month through October. Designed to be part farmers' market and part craft fair, it's something like a mini People's Fair, with community-based music and dance, kids' activities and art projects planned each month. So come visit the 'hood. You'll never look at it quite the same again.


First there were health-food stores and co-ops -- little eclectic-eccentric, tie-dyed, bring-your-own-bag places where hippies shopped for goat yogurt, yams and fresh tofu. But somewhere along the line, the stores got bigger. They supplied bags (even plastic ones), widened the aisles and branched into the gourmet-foods market. Hippies? Even if any were still around, they couldn't afford to shop at these places now. Isn't it time something gave? Enter Sunflower Market. The brainchild of former Wild Oats mastermind Mike Gilliland and his brother, Pat, the new store is a delightful setback in whole-foods merchandising, with lower prices, a less outrageous scope and an element of surprise: The get-it-while-you-can aisle features a changing stock of odd-lot grocery buys. In the garden of overblown health-food shopping, little Sunflower towers above the rest.


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