March 2015 Posts

The PR Desk: All About Ads

Second by second we are inundated with advertising through TV, radio, social media sites, and even the ‘old-school way’ – the mail.

I personally think that advertising can be valuable. It keeps us informed of unique events, special offers and opportunities in our community.

But sometimes ads can be negative – especially those political ones. (Ouch!)  Our online activity even dictates the ads we see. Pixels on our computers track our purchases, Facebook actions and much more. It’s scary!

At the Mission, we advertise through direct mail, email marketing, TV commercials, print ads, and online ads. Most of our ads can be seen in the fall/holiday season. That’s when the needs are great and we need to reach our community for support! Each year we carefully plan out our budget with an emphasis on stretching each dollar as far as it can go.

Pie Chard

We often are asked WHY we spend money on advertising. Without ads we may not reach the people who give so generously to this organization. Thousands of people across Denver and Colorado are part of the big picture at the Mission by supporting us financially as well as in other ways. A lot of times, they learn about us through various ads/marketing.

You may see our Easter commercial running right now.



A Stranger in a “Strange” Town

His name was Carry, and honestly, I didn’t know if I could trust him.

He wasn’t homeless. He didn’t need to join the New Life Program. He just needed a good neighbor to reach out and help.

His name was Carry, and honestly, I didn’t know if I could trust him.

As the Mission photographer, I get to chat with lots of people on the street. Some of them are just down and out, others probably have mental disorders, but all of them need our help. It’s not always easy listening to their stories of heartache and loss. Some have ended up on the street because of their own decisions, and others are victims of circumstance or worse—the evils of domestic and social abuse.

But how do you know when someone is telling the truth about their story? Sometimes the stories I hear sound like they could be a phishing or spam email. Once, while waiting for a train in Boston, I even had a flush-faced young man come up to me twice with two different stories. He was obviously on something, but he didn’t like the fact that I remembered his various versions of why he needed money from me.

His name was Carry, and honestly, I didn’t know if I could trust him.

So when Carry approached me, I wasn’t sure if he was one of those situations. I was talking with a homeless man on the street about the cold weather when he walked up. He had a large bag slung over one shoulder, and a “troubled-but-trying-my-best” half-smile on his face. I asked him if he would be staying at the Mission that night.

“I don’t need a homeless shelter,” he replied desperately. “I own my own house in Minnesota, but I’m just stuck in Denver.”

“What do you mean?” I asked interested.

He went on to explain that he had come to Denver just two days ago to complete a moving job with the company that had hired him. They paid for the bus ticket to get him to Denver, but when he arrived, no one was here to pick him up. He tried calling the company, but they ignored him. They thought he was trying to scam them. They even threatened calling the police if he continued to call. Yet here he was stuck in Denver without enough cash to get home.

A victim of circumstance, like so many homeless guests at the Mission. He indicated that he was trying to hitch a ride with one of the truck drivers at a nearby truck stop.

At a loss for how to help him, I asked him if I could pray for him. It seemed the least I could do was ask God to provide a ride for him. I asked him if he needed anything, knowing the Mission was just down the road.

“I think I’m okay,” he said. “The only thing I don’t have is a pair of gloves.”

That verse about going the extra mile and giving more than you’re asked flashed through my mind as I reached into my coat to give him my simple one-size-fits-all gloves. He beamed with gratitude as I handed them to him, and we parted ways. I thought I’d never see him again, but I was grateful God made me available to help him out in some small way.

Over the next three days, I occasionally saw Carry at the truck stop as I traveled to work each day. I stopped a couple times to say hello, but each time Carry had no luck with a ride.

“Where are you staying at night?” I asked him indicating that the Shelter wasn’t too far away. But he didn’t want to leave the truck stop. He was desperate to find a ride home.

“I have a nice sleeping bag in my pack, so I just curl up behind the dumpster here and there. It’s warm enough,” he said forcing a grin.

I asked if he’d had progress with calling the company who sent him here, but he had no good news. They continued to ignore and threaten him for calling. He explained to them that all he needed was a bus ticket home—a cost of about $150.

He explained to them that all he needed was a bus ticket home—a cost of about $150

“$150 will get him home,” I thought. A plan began to form in my mind.

I talked to my wife about it, and we agreed on finding the money in our budget to help him. The next day, I intended to stop on my way home and get him a bus ticket home, but he wasn’t there. I figured he’d found a ride after all.

The following evening, I left work a little late. But as I passed the truck stop, I saw a familiar silhouette near the road. I pulled up to Carry and asked how he was doing.

“Well… fine except that I got arrested last night,” he said with a depressed chuckle.

“Arrested?!” I exclaimed.

It turns out he looked like a suspect the police were looking for, so they had him spend a night in jail while they confirmed his identity. He was grateful for the haircut and the chance to brush his teeth, but at the end of the ordeal, he was released and forced to pay his last $30 for the booking fee. He hung his head sadly.

“I just want to get out of this town,” he said.

He’d been through a lot in just 10 short days. I felt bad for not doing something sooner, but I pushed the guilty feeling out of my mind. There’s nothing I can do about the past. All I can do is respond to what’s in front of me now.

“How much do you need to get home, Carry?” I asked.

“About $150 will get me a bus ticket,” he replied.

“Okay,” I said. “Then we’re getting you home tonight.”

“Really?” he said surprised.

We went to the bus stop, and I purchased a ticket for him to get home. On the way, he called his mom to tell her the good news. She was very grateful to hear that her son would be home soon. She wasn’t able to afford a ticket because she was struggling with her own financial issues, Carry explained.

I bought him dinner and Carry told me about his home, his girlfriend and his family. He’s been in and out of work since a job injury a few years ago. That’s what led him to accept the moving company job that stranded him in Denver. This experience made him realize he needs to find more stable and reliable work. He mentioned looking into a camp near his home that helped mentor troubled kids. He said his experience the last few days opened his eyes to how tough life can be. He wants to use that to help others.

We traded numbers so that he could let me know when he made it home safe. I had to chuckle softly under my breath. Had I not listened to the Lord’s prompting, he might have ended up eating meals at the Mission like our homeless guests and fighting to get home. But he wasn’t homeless. He didn’t need to join the New Life Program. He just needed a good neighbor to reach out and help. Isn’t that the point of the parable of the Good Samaritan?

The experience reminded me that I need to be purposeful about really listening to the people I meet at the Mission and on the street. Because that’s what they are. They’re people. Not just “The Homeless” masses. Each of them have a name, a story, a father, a mother, a sister, a brother, and a God who watches over them, just like me.

In the early 2000’s, we used to parade around with “WWJD” bracelets and t-shirts, but when I look at the people we serve, the phrase takes on new meaning.

“But what if he’s dangerous.”

What would Jesus do?

“But he’s filthy.”

What would Jesus do?

“How can I know she’s telling the truth?”

What would Jesus do?

“What if they’re an alcoholic?”

What would Jesus do?

Or more importantly, what would you do if it were Jesus?

After all, “I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!” (Matthew 25:40 NLT).

To the One Who Knocks…


I hate running late, but I must confess, this morning I stepped into my office at 8:35. Five minutes late isn’t a huge deal since I’ve been staying a little late this week too. But I was taught to be more than punctual, so I don’t like making a habit of it.

If I were honest with myself, I’d recognize that I’ve been a little stressed lately. I just got back this week from a long road trip to Ohio for my grandfather’s funeral. The service was nice, and my parents were glad to see us. But the 1,300 miles and week away from work have left me feeling like I’m running behind all week. Thankfully I was able to work ahead before I left, so none of my projects are behind deadlines. But still the small stresses can build up sometimes more than the big ones.

As I walked upstairs to “clock in” on the simple In-Out board in the lobby, I took a deep breath.

“Okay,” I said to myself, “Let’s get today started.”

Suddenly I heard the energetic and enthusiastic voice of one of my co-workers, Lisette. If you’ve ever met her, you’d remember. She has the biggest, loving personality of anyone here at the Mission, and this morning was no different.

“Well, let’s just take a minute to pray about it right now,” she said gently.

I paused at the base of the stairs. Maybe someone on staff was sick, or maybe a family member needed help. I softly placed each of my feet on the stairs rising up to the reception desk. I didn’t want to interrupt their moment with the Lord. At the top of the stairs, I waited quietly.

You could tell he’s been living on the street.

There beside the reception desk sat Lisette and a young man. He was bundled up with his hood pulled halfway up and Angry Birds pajama pants. You could tell he’s been living on the street.

“Lord we thank you that this young man is here this morning,” she continued, “and we ask that you would guide and direct him to make the right choices.”

Of course I’m paraphrasing now. I don’t remember exactly what words she said, but I know she prayed that this young man would go to the Lawrence Street Shelter and talk with someone about the New Life Program, that he would be encouraged and that he would join the program. I had to smile.

“But more importantly, Lord … ,” her voice cut into my moment of appreciation.

She prayed for him to accept Jesus as his Lord. She prayed that he would find guidance from the Lord and come to have a real relationship with Him.

She prayed that he would come to understand how much God loves him. She prayed for him to accept Jesus as his Lord. She prayed that he would find guidance from the Lord and come to have a real relationship with Him.

My smile widened as I silently agreed with her in prayer.

Because the Mission is that kind of place. Here I was anxious about my day and the tasks set before me, and God allowed me to see a small moment of what really matters and why we’re really here.

So I hope you’ll join with Lisette and me in praying for this young man. I don’t know his name, but God does. And God only knows what lies ahead for him. But if he honestly seeks after God, we know God will prove Himself faithful.

“For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.”

Matthew 7:8

The PR Desk: Hair Net Rockers

Every single day, volunteers serve at the Mission. They are vital to the work we do.

And the work starts early. While most of us are still in bed at 5 a.m., a crew of volunteers come in to #RockTheHairNet serving breakfast at the Lawrence Street Shelter.

Some volunteers regularly serve meals with us, and for others it’s their first time. But I have a feeling they all leave with shared experiences. They leave with a sense of community. They leave knowing that they #RockTheHairNet to make change.

Why do you #RockTheHairNet? Tag a photo of you serving here.RocktheHairnet_Poster

Giving and Receiving

Frank's daughter, Frank and Bob (a Mission chaplain)

Katie (Frank’s daughter), Frank, Bob (Farm Chapain)

I was reminded of the importance of giving and receiving because of Frank – the man in the middle.

Frank graduated in January from the New Life Program at Harvest Farm, but his first exposure to The Farm was more than a decade ago when his brother came through the Program and graduated in 1999. During that time, Frank cared for and supported his brother, Mike, through his difficult recovery as well as the transition back into society.

Fast forward a few years and the roles reversed. Frank needed the support from his brother who was now 15 years sober and there to guide him through. Frank graduated the program at the Farm and we got to see two brothers healthy, sober and happy.

Working at The Farm reminds me that I am often unaware how much I am wrapped in this spectrum of giving and receiving. I desire to be the giver in my relationships, but my marriage has taught me I can’t hold too tightly to that role. If I do, I not only deny myself of a crucial aspect of my life, but I deny my wife the opportunity to help, support and care for me in my own times of vulnerability, weakness and struggle. I need to apply this to my work at Harvest Farm too. If I work as though I am invulnerable and without needs, I become less effective and helpful to the men I am trying to serve and more miserable in the serving.

There are those who mostly receive in our society. Perhaps the most egregious are those who have received so much—even from the womb—yet don’t recognize the gifts they have been given in safe families, patient teachers, coaches, employers, and societal advantages. To borrow from David Foster Wallace, they feel justified in living life stuck inside their “skull-sized kingdom.” Their lives are marked by endless and empty consuming. And to be honest, I can fall into this category as well.

It is often those I serve that remind me that I have failed to recognize what I have received.

At some point in our life we all will be receivers as we age, fall sick, or get injured. I believe those moments do not need to be sad or horrible. Rather, if we live life awake to the double blessing of giving—perhaps even without pity but in joy—to those who are broken and in need, and if we allow ourselves to be broken and gratefully accept the kindness and care of others, we truly acknowledge the fullness of our existence. That is what I saw in the image of those two brothers—fullness. A picture of knowing and being known. What a blessing to work in such a place.