Four years ago this month, the first Advocate rolled off the press, ready for delivery to one of 5,000 targeted homes in the Lakewood area.

Once printed, that first paper was carefully rolled into a small plastic bag, stuffed with hundreds of other Advocates into garbage bags, loaded into our cars’ trunks and then hand-delivered by my partner and I on what seemed like endless trips through our neighborhoods.

I don’t remember much else about the first issue, and I’m sure most of you don’t either.

My excuse is that most of our work was done between midnight and 3 a.m., when we stole time from our families and our paying jobs to glue and paste together a start-up newspaper.

And I’m sure most of you don’t remember that first issue because you didn’t see it. After all, 5,000 newspapers spread unannounced throughout an area as large as our neighborhood really don’t attract much attention.

One thing I remember about those early days is the reception I received when I showed up to cover a neighborhood meeting.

“I’m with the Advocate, the new newspaper in our neighborhood,” I’d proudly announce.

“The what?” people would shoot back.

And for a few years, that’s exactly the way things went.

It was hard to sell advertising in a newspaper no one knew about.

It was hard to get people to return our telephone calls about story ideas.

And most of all, it was hard to find good writers willing to donate (and I do mean “donate”) their time to help a fledgling concept get off the ground.

Four years ago, Diane Dynis listened patiently in her SPCA office while I described my ideas for a new neighborhood newspaper and talked about the importance of finding someone to write a monthly column about pets.

Diane listened to my sales pitch, and then she started talking about one column idea after another. And every month for four years, Diane wrote a pet column that was as much about the human aspects of pet ownership as it was about taking care of animals.

Without fail, Diane’s column generated letters from our readers. She took a very simple idea – write something about pets – and gave it personality.

Lynne Kleinpeter went about her restaurant reviews in much the same way. In the beginning, when I talked with her about writing reviews, her first response was: “What do I know about reviewing restaurants, much less writing?”

But I pleaded, and I begged, and then I pleaded some more, and finally Lynne agreed to help me out – for a few months.

As the months turned into years, and as our distribution doubled and doubled and then doubled again, Lynne good-naturedly continued to donate more and more of her time looking for interesting restaurants in an ever-expanding distribution area.

Lynne and Diane donated a great deal of their time during the past four years to a project that is dear to me, and I hope they have the same sense of pride in their accomplishments that I feel every time another issue of our newspaper rolls off the press.

Without the contributions of Lynne and Diane and many other neighbors like them, our newspaper wouldn’t be what I think it is today: A dependable chronicle of neighborhood events written by neighborhood people about neighborhood issues that affect our lives.

Good luck in Colorado, Diane. And enjoy dining out without having to write about everything on your plate, Lynne.

Good-bye, Chuck

One day a few years back, neighborhood resident Chuck Lewis walked into our office unannounced and offered to help us out.

Chuck said he’d sell advertising. Write stories. Attend meetings. Whatever we needed.

How about delivering newspapers to neighborhood schools? I asked. Sure, he said, and every month, we could count on Chuck to drop off Advocates to 40 neighborhood schools – “his schools,” he called them.

Not too long ago, though, at the age of 79, Charles D. “Chuck” Lewis died unexpectedly.

The last hymn at his funeral was my old favorite, “How Great Thou Art.”

That’s what we thought about Chuck, too.