Civic Health Club: Warm Cookies of the Revolution

Warm Cookies of the Revolution encourages active citizenship with monthly meetings covering everything from water treatment to pro sports. Founder Evan Weissman is looking to expand the concept with a permanent storefront and more frequent gatherings.
With the recognition we only have so many hours in a given lifetime, let alone a single day, we attempt to fuse productivity with pleasure as much as possible. So when everything is checked off your to-do and want-to-do lists, does chatting about civic issues sound like your activity of choice?
"I guess when people are working hard, raising families, running errands and have limited time and money to spend, they do what's necessary first and then they try to have a little fun," says 34-year-old Buntport Theater Company veteran Evan Weissman. "I've been working at Buntport for the past 12 years and we get a lot of people who come to our shows every week. But I'm also involved in a fair amount of civic, social-justice and political things, and it's so much harder to get people out for those."
That is, until Weissman started Warm Cookies of the Revolution -- a first-of-its kind group venue intended to encourage people to discuss and actively engage in community institutions. Longer term, Weissman hopes that civic health clubs catch on throughout Colorado and beyond.
"We're creating a laid-back social space for people to meet, share a snack and exchange ideas on improving our community," Weissman says, of his 'civic health club,' that has brought Denver citizens together since last November over cookies -- from Santa Fe Cookie Co. and Watercourse Foods -- conversation and eclectic entertainment.
"You go to a gym for your physical health and a church or synagogue for your spiritual health," explained Weissman. "This is a place where we can exercise our civic health."
Much like its name -- which blends the comfort and indulgence of warm cookies with the determination and disruption of a revolution -- Weissman offers a home and network for hungry activists and curious citizens, mixing fun, fact-based discussion on subjects ranging from religion to forgiveness and obedience, the prison system, race and segregation, and most recently water and sanitation, at its Aug. 22 program.
"If we were to go up to people and say, 'Hey, you should come to this thing on Thursday about municipal waste water management,' most people would say 'No way!' and turn around and walk the other way. But we decided to have a program where people could ask stupid questions about the magic of modern day plumbing and where waste goes after you flush the toilet."
Poetically coupling "the poop thing" with a performance by Denver's foremost fork-bending magician, Professor Phelyx, a presentation by Ned Breslin and Dr. Nina Miller of Water For People, a Denver-based global nonprofit that focuses on long-lasting, safe drinking water resources and improved sanitation, and an open-floor for questions and comments, Weissman's got himself a roomful of satisfied citizens at the McNichols Civic Center Building (thanks to co-sponsor Create Denver).
"I really knew nothing of the program and arrived completely unaware of what to expect," says David Cordova, a first-time audience member at the Aug. 22 meeting. "I was intrigued -- and quite frankly surprised -- to see such a large turnout for an event of this type. I found it very encouraging to see people getting involved in the discussion of civic issues such as water sanitation."
At the start of every program, audiences of roughly 50 to 100 people are asked, 'What do we want?' allowing participants to define the two-hour program, as well as meetings to come.
Then it's up to Weissman, his guests and participants to figure out how things work and establish collective goals and values.
"There's a lot of smart, well-trained people who are trying to run things and doing their best," Weissman says. "The assumption is that regular people won't get the systems and policies we have in place because they're too complex. But I don't think so… You can choose to be as involved as you want. The trick is we have to be knowledgeable and proactive."
Though nothing is finalized, Weissman hopes to expand Warm Cookies programming with other Denver-based groups and plans to open a storefront space in the near future to facilitate more frequent gatherings.
"It's all in the works," he says. "We want to have a central, dedicated space so we can have meetings on a more regular basis. We've got vague notions, and it's coming along, but, depending on what happens with the space, we're not totally sure yet."
Longer term, Weissman hopes that civic health clubs catch on throughout Colorado and beyond.Warm Cookies of the Revolution encourages active citizenship with monthly meetings covering everything from poop to pro sports.
"The truth is, there's a sports bar on every corner, shopping malls in every town, theaters and comedy clubs. How about one place you know you can go for some fun and to learn how and why you can take part in civic life? Like my friend Stephen Handen says, 'You don't learn to swim by reading a book.' We have to exercise our civic health. There has to be an action component."
Next up: Warm Cookies of the Revolution will be discussing food at this Friday's Untitled at the Denver Art Museum and will also host "The Huddle," on Oct. 10 from 6:30 p.m. – 9:30 p.m., where "smart sports fans," will meet at Cap City Tavern (1247 Bannock St.) for the Bears-Giants game.  Talking points during half time may include, but aren't limited to: who pays for our stadiums, why so few openly gay athletes, is free agency a good thing, and more. 

Read more articles by Gigi Sukin.

Gigi Sukin is a Denver-based writer-editor. She currently works as an editor at ColoradoBiz and previously worked as an editorial intern at 5280.
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