2016 Posts

The Feeling of Family at Thanksgiving

During my childhood Thanksgiving was always my favorite holiday. Most often we would spend the holiday with my maternal grandparents in Longview, Texas – surrounded by my mother’s siblings and extended family. Papa was always in charge of the cooking. His cranberry salad is a must-have for all of my brothers to this day. Some years the day began with an early morning round of golf. There was always a TV on for James Bond marathon. Endless games of Spades provided the quickest way to get Mema worked up and laughing until she cried.

 

This Thanksgiving will be our second without Papa. Mema hasn’t been the same since her stroke several years ago; and was recently diagnosed with cancer. When I stop to process the gravity of this reality, I start my list of should haves, wish I’d have and ought tos… Why didn’t I make the time to visit more often? I wish my boys would have gotten to know their great grandparents better. I ought to make trip to see Mema soon.

 

My wife and I moved to Denver a decade ago, soon after being married. Our closest family was and is 700 miles away in Oklahoma and Texas. After we moved it was hard to get home for the holidays – especially Thanksgiving, due to school, work, life. From our first Thanksgiving in Denver, we decided that we would never spend the day alone in Denver. We had plenty of friends, transplants just like us, who couldn’t travel home for the same reasons. While our traditions differed from many of our friends (I’ll never forget my first, and only, vegetarian Thanksgiving); we were thrilled to spend the day with folks we cared for; many of whom we now call family.

 

As I think about this year’s Thanksgiving, I’m excited that we will be traveling home to be with my family. Lord Mema is with us; and we will hopefully see some extended family. As my two boys grow up I desire them to feel firmly rooted in their family – never in doubt of where they came from or who they are. At the same time, I want them to learn to draw new, wider boundaries around how they define family.

 

Family has a different meaning for everyone. And for our homeless guests at the Mission, holidays are often times some of the hardest. They think of family that they’ve lost or not seen in while and the one sliver of joy they may feel for the day is a warm greeting at the Mission.

 

Today, we served 600+ guests at our Great Thanksgiving Banquet. 600+ helpings of turkey, stuffing and pies. 600+ warm “hellos” from our volunteers. 600+ gift bags filled with scarves, hats and gloves. Our hope is that all of our guests felt that little piece of love and family that we all yearn for so much.

 

 

I pray that your Thanksgiving will be filled with lasting memories, and that you will be firmly rooted in your family and seeking new ways to make room for someone else.

Giving A Meal

A large part of my job as the Writer/Photographer is to write the monthly newsletter for Denver Rescue Mission and Fort Collins Rescue Mission. With the title “Changing Lives,” we always try to have the newsletter feature someone whose life has been positively affected by the work we do.

And, honestly, the stories aren’t that hard to find. With all the work we do here, you don’t have to search far to find someone with a story to share, whether it’s one of our staff members, guests, program participants, volunteers, or even donors.

A few weeks ago, I was working on just such a story for the October Fort Collins Rescue Mission “Changing Lives” newsletter. The woman sharing her story was Dawn (you can read it here).

I finished interviewing her and taking a few portraits at around 3:30 p.m., picked up my wife from a local coffee shop, then headed back home to Denver. The drive from Fort Collins to Denver is nice, and my wife and I love spending time together in the car, so it was great that it worked out that she had an appointment in Fort Collins the same day I did.

On the way home, we stopped at a Qdoba for dinner, and what followed was an ironic twist of fate.

I stepped into the line to order my food and noted that the man in front of me was wearing an Ohio State polo shirt. My parents live in Ohio, so I thought momentarily about striking up a conversation with a fellow Ohio transplant. But I’m naturally a little shy and introverted, so I decided against it. I had spent enough energy in my interview and photo shoot with Dawn that afternoon.

But as I was eyeing this guy’s shirt, he must have glanced at the Fort Collins Rescue Mission stitched onto the left side of my black Mission polo. I could almost feel him staring at me while I pretended to inspect the menu. I hoped the line would move so that he could step forward and stop looking at me.

“So, what is Fort Collins Rescue Mission?” his voice broke the awkward silence filling the short distance between us.

Grateful that he wasn’t just staring at me anymore, I began to explain how Fort Collins Rescue Mission is owned and operated by Denver Rescue Mission. I went on to describe the Steps to Success Program, the shelter for men and women available at Fort Collins Rescue Mission, and how the Mission was able to increase its work in Northern Colorado by adding the Mission to the existing work of Harvest Farm.

As I described the programs and services we offer in Denver, he started nodding and acting like he already knew what I was talking about. I said as much, and he explained that he is a Denver Rescue Mission donor already.

Surprised, I thanked him for supporting the work we do, and we chatted a little while longer. His name was Chris, and as it turned out, the Ohio State shirt was from his wife. She was from Cleveland.

Finally, our burritos made it to the cashier. Since we’d been talking so much, she asked if our order was all together.

“No, they’re separate,” I said quickly.

But as I pulled out my wallet, Chris quickly handed his credit card back to the cashier and told her to pay for mine as well.

In a small way, Chris gave me an example of how our guests must feel when they receive a meal from the Mission. He was already donating to the Mission, providing meals, shelter and more to people in need, and here he was giving me a meal as well.

I’m grateful for supporters like Chris. Because of people like him, I’ve seen people’s lives completely turned around. I’ve met so many drug addicts and people suffering who have been completely transformed by the power of Jesus in their lives. And it’s only possible because of Chris and other donors like him.

So thank you for the meal a few weeks ago, Chris. But more than that, thank you for joining the Mission in helping rescue people from the struggles of being homeless.

Robo and Chris

Chris and I snapped a pic after our chance encounter at Qdoba

The transformative process of Work Therapy at Denver Rescue Mission

Oct. 10, 2008 is the date I graduated from the New Life Program at Harvest Farm.

This date is important to me because it is the anniversary of my new life, freedom, and happiness. The anniversary of my sobriety is June of 2007 which is also when I joined the New Life Program. It is meaningful, but not nearly as important to me. I feel that rehab wasn’t the start of anything; it was more like the end of a nightmare. Before entering the New Life Program at Harvest Farm I had been in two other “sober living programs.” The first program I attended was 60 days long and consisted of a lot of group therapy, Alcoholics Anonymous and DUI classes, (I attended this specific program twice, so I guess you could say I was in 3 programs.) The second program focused on mental health disorders and how they affect addiction. I don’t think these programs were inconsequential, but they definitely did not give me what I needed to change my life. What I did need to help change my life was a realization that I could change it, for the better.

When a person gets used to doing the same thing (good or bad) every day it is very hard to get out of that cycle. It’s like that job that you hate but you keep going to because you’re afraid to quit because you don’t know how to do anything else. Being an addict is a job in itself, except you lose money. It takes all of your time, burns you out, makes you angry, and ruins your relationships.  I came to Harvest Farm needing something to replace the monotonous, destructive, disastrous work that my addiction had become and work is exactly what I got.

Josh Dickinson

Starting my journey to sobriety back in 2008 at Harvest Farm’s New Life Program.

Work Therapy was one of the highlights of my time at Harvest Farm and every day I see it change the mentality of the men who come into the New Life Program at Harvest Farm. After getting sober at Harvest Farm, I was actually hired as the Work Therapy Supervisor. In this role, I am charged with figuring out how the men who are assigned to work with me can be utilized to benefit their program and Harvest Farm. Every man has different skills; some have been doing the same job every day for 25 years and don’t know that life is not about work, others have barely lifted a finger to do anything and they don’t know that work can be fun. It’s incredible to work alongside such a diverse group of guys trying to change their lives for the better.

Me (back row second from the right) and fellow staff members at Harvest Farm

Me (back row; second from the right) and fellow staff members at Harvest Farm.

At Denver Rescue Mission, our goal is to help New Life Program participants understand that becoming a productive, self-sufficient person can be enjoyable. The program provides education, life skills training, and spiritual and emotional counseling, which sets a strong foundation for a self-sufficient life.

Even after graduation, many New Life Program graduates participate in our Post-Graduate Program, which provides further mentoring, accountability, counseling, and financial assistance. Graduates also mentor others, as well as volunteer for the Mission. Just like me – these graduates get a chance to inspire other men and help them towards sobriety.

October 10 has come and gone and I celebrated eight years of being a New Life Program graduate. I’m proud to say that life doesn’t feel like “work” any more.

Harvest Farm Fall Festival Bridges Family Fun and Addiction Awareness

The leaves are changing color and the smell of autumn is in the air.  That means it’s time for family fun at Harvest Farm’s 14th Annual Fall Festival & Corn Maze!

While there are other corn mazes to choose from, Harvest Farm’s Fall Festival & Corn Maze offers so much more than just twists and turns.  In fact, the event serves to advance Denver Rescue Mission’s sission statement in several ways.

First, it promotes “productive, self-sufficient citizenship” by involving the New Life Program participants in the preparation and operation of the festival. For example, the men use their God-given talents and trade skills like carpentry, electrical work and welding to construct nearly all of the festival grounds. Others in our program have artistic talents which are channeled into the design and creativity of the attractions. Because everything is meticulously hand-crafted with love, it sets our festival apart from the commercial, pre-fabricated feel of other fall festivals.


Additionally, the men assist with the festival operations by staffing the attractions. From greeting guests as they enter the corn maze to preparing hand-popped kettle corn, the men are a critical part of the event.

 

By providing opportunities for our men to engage with festival guests, they have a chance to shatter guests’ stereotypes of what it means to be an “addict” or “homeless”. With these interactions, our men begin to realize these terms are simply labels; it does not define who they are as person. Through hard work and positive reactions from festival guests, they gain a sense of self-worth and pride. For many, this is a new and welcomed feeling.

The Fall Festival also provides a chance for the community to learn about how Harvest Farm is “changing lives in the name of Christ.” Taking turns as hay wagon tour guides, our program participants explain to guests the unique opportunities for life change through the New Life Program. They share personal stories of obstacles they’ve faced, challenges they’ve overcome and their hopes for the future. This aspect makes our Festival so unique and truly sets us apart from the competition.

Attending the Fall Festival means guests are directly supporting the New Life Program and helping once broken men turn their lives around. Proceeds from ticket purchases, concessions and merchandise sales are reinvested into the program to ensure it thrives for years to come.

Not only does the Fall Festival & Corn Maze provide opportunities for fall time family fun, it supports a great cause.  We hope you’ll join us this October!  For more information about the event and to purchase tickets, visit: www.harvestfarm.net/fall-festival.

 

 

A Summer of New Experiences

This summer as the Public Relations and Special Events intern at Denver Rescue Mission has truly been an unforgettable experience. Born and raised in Los Angeles, California, I never left my city much. Besides the occasional Las Vegas family trips and trips to National Parks, I rarely left California. In the fall of 2015, my friend, Kelsey, and I applied to Denver Rescue Mission as interns. Suddenly, there was a huge decision to make. Was my calling to stay in California to intern at a typical PR firm working in the hustle and bustle of Los Angeles? Or did I want to do something a little more meaningful in a completely new state and culture? Well, I guess writing this blog post answers that question.

After packing the car and driving 17-hours alongside Kelsey, who also accepted an internship at Denver Rescue Mission, we finally made it. It was my first time in Colorado, first time in Denver, and this was technically the furthest east I’ve ever gone in the United States. Sad, I know. I was extremely hesitant and scared for what lied ahead of me. I once worked at a YMCA, where I will never return to because of the chaos and egoistic attitude everyone wore. It hurt me to see that such a national organization was being consumed by greed and selfishness, or at least at my specific branch. I wondered if working at Denver Rescue Mission would be the same. Thankfully, I can say it has been the total opposite.

driving to CO

On the road to Denver, CO!

My internship here at Denver Rescue Mission was more than I could ever ask for. It was swept me off my feet and I have never been more confident or eager to grab the next opportunity by the horns. Through it all, I have gained so much knowledge about the general duties of PR practitioners, how to act professionally and how to handle the media. I have done so much over this summer, both in my personal or professional life, and I know that my standards have definitely risen after working here. From attending meetings, events, and concerts to working on social media, media pitches, and weekly reports, I have really dabbled in a little bit of everything to broaden my knowledge of how work gets done in this field. As I return to school and apply for internships near me, I am grateful that my supervisors at Denver Rescue Mission have prepared me for the future.

 

Me with my intern supervisors, Stacy and Josh

My supervisors, Josh and Stacy, kept me busy this summer with PR and Special Events projects.

As I continue to grow older and learn more about myself, I think I have found a new love for putting myself outside of my comfort zone and truly immersing myself in new situations. That is when I have grown the most and truly appreciate all that I have, in addition to helping me find my passion. Working at Denver Rescue Mission has helped me discover that I want to help people who are struggling. Through this summer, Christ has shown me that I can always help improve the lives of other people. In such a twisted and unfair world, I believe that everyone should have a chance to succeed and show their ability to their fullest. Wherever I may end up in a couple of years, I know that because of this experience, I will walk away with at least the desire to help save the lives of those suffering in any situation. This summer, the Mission has been a place to call home and I know that this will not be my last time here.

There’s something about Colorado that has won my heart. Both the big and little things have made a huge impact on my stay here. The beautiful sunsets every night behind the mountain ranges. The freshness of the air. The Colorado pride that everyone shares so eagerly. People actually saying “hi” while passing each other on the street. The food here that is so different and tasty (green chili, I’m looking at you). The close proximity to nature. The abundance of free parking, even in downtown (you just have to look for it). The amount of Subaru’s on the road. The amazing restaurant, Casa Bonita. The bipolar weather that is truly not the same anywhere else. The one-way streets that I’ve gone down incorrectly way too many times. The *wonderful* train that passes by The Crossing every 20 minutes. The amazing relationships I’ve made at Denver Rescue Mission. And last but not least, my heart for the homeless community in Denver, who are trying to get back on their feet, all in the name of Jesus Christ.

Amen to that.