June 2014 Posts

What are we doing?

Since 2012, Fort Collins Rescue Mission has made significant improvements to better serve the homeless in our neighbord.

We are hosting our second open house July 23rd at the shelter in Fort Collins to help our business neighbors and community learn more about what we are doing here! Like how we are addressing the needs of our community and how we are changing lives.

So, come, learn and tour the shelter to hear real stories, to understand the real issues around homelessness, and to meet the employees.

FCRM open house invite

A different graduation.

When you think about your moments as a ‘graduate’ various memories might pop up. Images of caps, gowns, diplomas, camera flashes, hugs, tears, smiles…you get the picture. Not everyone has the same experience.

Graduates of the New Life Program are given more than a cap and gown and more than a piece of paper. They are given another chance at life. Anthony says it best in the video you are about to watch, “I needed a second chance or a third chance or a fourth chance.”

They are smiling, crying, hoping, and praying as they graduate the New Life Program. The three men you are about to meet display incredible strength in remaining sober, self-sufficient and part of their community. Thank you for sharing your journey with us.


The Focus of Fundraising

You read these words a lot from me, I work with incredible people.

Denver Rescue Mission is more than a building, more than a non-profit. It’s made up of people who are passionate about serving our community. We have people that work in accounting. They make sure we are ethical, paying our bills, tracking budget, and much more. We have people in programs, working directly with men women and families helping them achieve self-sufficient lives in practical ways. And then we have people that help raise funds so we can all continue to do what we love and help as many people as possible. Today, Susan Scratchley, Major Gifts Officer for Fort Collins Rescue Mission and Harvest Farm, is sharing her passion!


Every day I am grateful for the opportunity I have to impact the lives of people who desperately need a second chance. I see their faces and hear their stories. I hear hopelessness and sorrow in their voices at first, but I get to listen as those emotions are transformed into hope, joy and a love of God.

My best story is when I was volunteering during the Mission’s Easter Banquet, giving hygiene supplies to the homeless as they left. One of the women asked me if I was sure she could take the toothbrush and toothpaste I was trying to give to her.  The woman was older and had a blue windbreaker on that didn’t seem durable enough to protect her from the cold, and she seemed scared at the offer of a gift.  She felt that no one cared enough to give her anything.  When I told her that it was simply a gift with no strings attached, the most amazing smile surfaced on her face. She thanked me with tears in her eyes. Even a small gift of kindness can bring incredible meaning into someone’s life.

These stories let me know how important it is for me to focus on the work that I do as a fundraiser. Every minute lost takes away from an opportunity to truly change a life, because the lifeblood of our ministry and the work we accomplish to help people change their lives (spiritually and physically) are the money, resources and outside support raised.

I give thanks each day that I am part of a committed team of professionals who have the training and expertise to deeply engage people to raise the support needed. This year the Major Gifts team accomplished the following:

  • Raised approximately 30% of the Mission’s operating budget
  • Developed relationships to secure large in-kind donations, such as cars, building supplies and land
  • Increased awareness for the work being done by meeting with people and organizations in our community

As a fundraiser, we want to inform our community to know that there is no better place than Denver Rescue Mission for them to make a 180 degree difference in a person’s life. We will share stories about the people we serve and we will ask for the support needed to transform their lives.  Because the work being done at the Mission needs to flourish.

Meet Susan, Fort Collins Rescue Mission and Harvest Farm Major Gifts Officer


Come for the Pumpkins, Stay for a New Life

Come for the Pumpkins, Stay for a New Life

Ray came to Harvest Farm over a year and a half ago to buy pumpkins with his sister and her family. Learning about the work we do year-round, he made one of the hardest decisions of his life, to enter the New Life Program and confront his issues with drugs and alcohol head on.

Since then he has worked and grown in ways he never imagined. Ray is naturally gifted in technical and tactile work. He has thrived at Quick Appliance where he is learning, gaining competence, increasing his responsibilities and getting raises.

But Ray’s character really shows in his academic work.

Though Ray can spend hours trouble-shooting an appliance or on a building project, books are difficult company to keep for more than thirty minutes. Yet Ray has been working tirelessly on his GED, logging in more hours with our GED tutor, Amy Ostrowski, and in Front Range Community College’s GED Prep classes, than anyone I’ve ever seen come through the program. He even received an award from the college this last May for his commitment.

He logged 326 hours in class or working with tutors at FRCC, over a hundred more hours than any other student in the program.

And this week, Ray Biel graduated the New Life Program at Harvest Farm.

His sister’s family, the same ones that brought him to the Farm almost two years ago, were here to celebrate as he left. Ray has been such a positive influence during his time at Harvest Farm – instrumental in work therapy and a warm, upbeat presence with staff and fellow participants – that we say goodbye to him with some mixture of sadness and extreme pride. I, for one, will miss seeing him around so consistently.  I know I will not be the only one.

These pictures are from the halfway point in Ray’s program at the Mission’s graduation last year.

I didn’t have a chance to take off the robe we wear as LEC Instructors when Aneta snapped these pictures of Ray and I, though it is somewhat fitting for me to look the part of the student.  When I’m around Ray, I pay attention.  I lean in to study this man of fortitude and cheerfulness. I have learned a great deal about what a true man looks like by watching Ray grow, persevere and overcome.




Our Work

Recently, I was privileged to witness a graduation of one of our New Life Program participants. He had come to Harvest Farm from out of state, an alcoholic and a heroin addict whose numerous attempts at cleaning up failed time and time again.  As I watched him standing in front of a packed house filled with friends, mentors, staff members, and fellow participants, I was struck by how he held himself, how well his voice traveled through the room, how alive his eyes looked.

He spoke to us with authority, with determination and conviction, and told us his story, the story of his life.  The audience, I among them, listened with wonder as he traced the progression of his addiction and the unlikely path that led him to this little farm in Wellington, Colorado.  He spoke of his addiction in the past tense, as if had all been a bad dream, and he regarded his old lifestyle with a disgust that we could hear in his voice and see in the way he rolled his eyes and clenched his fists.  Standing there before us, he was a picture of renewed strength and of victory.

But he didn’t always look that way. 

One of my duties at the farm is to interview all new participants and assign them to a work therapy area on the farm where they will work for the entirety of their program.  When I interviewed him some 14 months ago, he was broken and doubtful and nearing the end of his already frayed rope.  He had given up on life, on living.  He had injected heroin into his arm two days before I met him; I could see death casting its shadow over him.  Near the end of our meeting, he shook his head, and with his eyes glossed over with tears, he said, “I think I’m just done.”  I wasn’t sure if he meant he was done with drugs and booze or if he was done with his life.  I don’t think he knew himself.

Over a year later, he stands before me and the rest of his community and asserts his freedom from bondage.  When his speech ends, he receives a standing ovation, shouts of encouragement and accolades from a long list of people.  I can immediately see the impact that he has had on the people around him.  Instead of being served, he has become the servant.  His eyes look upward, not down at his feet.   I get the overwhelming feeling that he has won.  That we all have won.  There is an unspoken connection between those of us on staff at that moment, a reassuring voice that says: This is why you are here. 

And yet, when the graduation is over, when the final blessing has been given and shared, when all of the hugs and handshakes have been offered, I walk back through the crowd of well-wishers and run into a new face I have not seen before.  This new man entered the program the night before, and his face is creased and confused.  I introduce myself, and he forces something like a smile that is not convincing.  His hands are subtly shaking and the whites of his eyes are pink.  Welcome to the farm, I tell him.  He nods his head, says thanks, and looks down at his shoes again.  His journey at the farm, at recovery, is just beginning.  The hard part lies ahead.

And I am reminded—corrected—that this is why we are here.  There is little time to share in stories of victory, to celebrate and pat ourselves on the back for work well done.  For there will always be another man waiting, struggling, holding out an open hand and pleading for help, for hope, for deliverance.  This is why we are here, what we are called to do.  This is our work.


Rachel’s Lens // First Friday

First FridaysI’m currently out of the country, but fear not: I’ve still made a list of things for you to read this week. Presenting, the past month’s best articles, says me:

1. I constantly battle being busy. And it’s awful…and selfish, it turns out. This is the best article I’ve read about the true root of our busy Christian lives. So convicting!

2. A different, but very real and troubling story about homelessness.

3. This might be the funniest thing I’ve ever seen on the internet.

Have you found anything amazing on the web this month?


Rebuilding and Restoring Relationships

Written by Valerie Cabrera, Public Relations Intern

One significant way Denver Rescue Mission changes lives in the name of Christ is by putting broken families back together again. This includes giving grandfathers back to their grandchildren and fathers back to their sons and daughters.

Mike was just 16 years old when he became a father. Life took a drastic turn, though, when he began drinking and dropped out of high school. He was homeless, lost jobs, and went in and out of church rehab programs until finally, in accordance with his brother’s dying wish, he sought long-term help in the New Life Program. Two months into his stay, the daughter he had never met called him; after nearly 25 years, she had tracked him down, wanting to get to know him.

Together we are giving Mike a second chance to become the man his daughter was looking for after all these years; a man with a GED and sobriety, a deeper love for people around him, and a sense of urgency for positive action.

“The New Life Program, isn’t just something to do. It’s your life. When I finish up here, my daughter and I are planning on meeting for the first time,” Mike said with anticipation in his voice.

During Spring Graduation, as Jeff, a 2013 New Life Program graduate, explained “I’m not stinky, grumpy, old Uncle Jeff anymore,” his grandniece and nephew ran up and hugged him with emotion and tears in their eyes. It was true. He was fun Uncle Jeff who loved to take them fishing and who had worked so hard to become a man they could be proud of; a man who had overcome a past full of mistakes, addiction, stubbornness, and overwhelming tragedy and who’s future was brighter than ever.

A lot of us wouldn’t be the man or woman we are if we hadn’t had a Mike or an Uncle Jeff, a father-figure who was ready to take a long hard look at himself and figure out how to be the man we needed him to be. At Denver Rescue Mission, we give those fathers the resources, guidance, and prayer necessary for that redemptive journey.

We give men an opportunity to restore relationships with their families!

Mike receiving his GED certificate at the Mission's graduation.

Mike receiving his GED certificate at the Mission’s graduation.

Jeff with grandniece and nephew at the Mission's graduation.

Jeff with grandniece and nephew at the Mission’s graduation.

Meet Jim Coelho // A Man On the Front Lines

Written by Valerie Cabrera, Public Relations Intern

Jim at his Desk (2)

Jim Coelho was making his usual rounds as a Facility Assistant around the Lawrence Street Shelter when he heard a shout for help.

After sprinting outside, he noticed a hurt man, who had come to make a donation, leaning against the building. His attacker was coming at him again with renewed vigor, but Jim intervened. Over the next 30 minutes, while he waited for the police to arrive, he pressed a knee into the attacker’s back… and the entire time Jim whispered prayers for him.

Although that’s not a typical day as a Facility Assistant (Jim’s only been assaulted once during his notable 15-year run at Denver Rescue Mission), it’s a memorable one for him, especially since that same man who he had prayed for years earlier has come back to see Jim three years later. He wants to be a part of the New Life Program.

I sat down to talk with Jim about his longtime job as a Facility Assistant at the Lawrence Street Shelter and got to hear all about his duties as an FA, his love and compassion for the guests he serves, and how he deals with the tough stuff.

Valerie: Can you walk me through your shift as a Facility Assistant at the Lawrence Street Shelter?

Jim: My shift starts at 5:30 a.m., so I’ve got to be an early riser. When I get here, there’s a 30-minute shift change where I get all the updates from the previous FA. I usually check all my email and respond to anything urgent. I’m also responsible for making work therapy schedules for the New Life Program participants and candidates, so I do that. And then I walk the house, making sure that people are doing what they’re supposed to be doing and being where they’re supposed to be. I document UA’s (urinary analysis) for NLP guys on Scribe and I also write incident reports if anything comes up. One shift is eight hours so I get to be here to make sure breakfast and lunch run smoothly.

V: How are you involved with the guests as an FA?

J: All the FA’s through all the different shifts, we are on the front lines. We’re the ones that everything filters down through. My favorite part is being able to get involved with the guys on a one-on-one basis. Being able to be a big brother, you know, someone who cares, to meet their needs. That’s my job, that’s what I get to do. Sometimes when I’m making my rounds, and see outside guests that are in here for a meal, I’ll sit down and start talking with them. I’m really looking forward to the Lawrence Street Community Center.

V: How do you deal with any obstacles that come up in your job?

J: When you hit an obstacle, or a barricade or something, you’ve got to come at them with compassion. You don’t judge. You listen to people. You don’t go after a person at their level, you go after them at your level and you bring them to you.

V: What is your favorite part about working at Denver Rescue Mission?

J: Getting to meet great people. Taking into consideration the position I’m in, I meet a lot of volunteers and donors. I’ve never met so many caring, compassionate, willing-to-give people.

V: Do you have anything you want to say to those who work at/with the Mission?

J: I think my prayer for the Mission is that we all walk the walk.

V: Last question! Is there anything else you’d like to say about your job?

J: I feel blessed to be able to do what I do. I feel blessed to be part of an organization that helps so many people in just a one 8-hour shift. When I go home, I’m at peace with myself.

Fun Facts about Jim:

  • Jim is a native Rhode Islander but longtime Southern Californian.
  • He is a former New Life Program participant.
  • He stayed in Denver after his car broke down very near the Lawrence Street Shelter.
  • You can usually see him in his trademark dark sunglasses because of a special eye condition.