2018 Posts

Today, I’m A Full-Time Dad

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Being a good dad doesn’t happen by accident. Providing for a family takes intentionality, commitment and love.

 

Dwight grew up in a good home. He grew up in the church and his parents were committed to loving him well. But at 15 years-old, Dwight went searching for a new family, one that would let him live a life that he wanted—no rules, no convictions. “I joined a gang when I was 15,” he says. “My parents were there for me; they treated me right, but I was looking for a different kind of family.”

 

Dwight spent 15 years in a gang. During that time he began a family of his own, and while his son, Jonathan, was growing up, Dwight was living on the streets in California doing what people in gangs do. “I didn’t care about anything, not even hygiene. I wouldn’t change my shoes, and I remember one time my wife had to peel the socks off my feet. I didn’t go home often, but I’d go for a month or so, and when I did, I’d sleep for days.”

 

All the while, Jonathan was at home with his mom. “It wasn’t the easiest childhood,” says Jonathan. “At one point my dad wasn’t home at all. Then he was there on and off, but when he was at home, deep down, he knew he wanted to stay there. I think he had to defeat whatever it was keeping him on the streets.”

 

Gang life and drugs were keeping Dwight from being a good father. “For a long time, I had no convictions of what I did and who I did it to,” says Dwight. “I had a choice, and I chose the streets, the gang and drugs over my family.”

 

One day, when Dwight went back for getaway from the street, his wife said enough was enough. “She told me that until I got help, I couldn’t come home. She allowed me to wash clothes and shower, but then she said, ‘you have to go.’ She wouldn’t let me sleep there anymore.”

 

Dwight was homeless for 10 months before he reached out to Denver Rescue Mission.

 

In May 2017, he joined the Next Step community and three weeks later he was accepted into the New Life Program. “The New Life Program…it basically saved my life,” says Dwight. “I’ve been through too much; I’ve been beat down, left for dead. I’ve done been through it all, but I’m here now. I remember where I came from, but the first time in my life, I know where I’m going.”

 

During his time in the program, Dwight has reconnected with Jonathan. The two are still navigating their relationship and strengthening it, but it’s never been so good. “This is the best Father’s Day I’ve had, says Dwight. “I’ve missed out on a lot. And a lot of that I can’t get back. But I’m here now; I’m not a part-time dad. I’m a full-time dad, and I’m living for Jesus and my children.”

 

‘I’m glad that he’s here and doing what he has to do,” says Jonathan. “Our relationship is top notch. If I have questions, I know who to ask; he’s stepping into the role of my father.”

 

At the Mission, we love hearing stories of redemption and families reconnected — like Dwight and Jonathan — especially around Father’s Day when we’re reminded of the vast impact that our fathers have in our lives. Happy Father’s Day from our Mission family to yours.

Faces of the Mission :: John

JOHN

“I just got out of prison; I did three and a half years,” says John. “I came to Denver to do ironwork, and because I’m a big Peyton Manning fan. I tried to get here before he retired, but they wouldn’t let me out of prison, and I couldn’t escape.”

John laughs, but he’s serious—not about the escaping prison part, he wouldn’t do that. But he’s serious about the Peyton Manning part; John came here because he loves Peyton.

“I went to Indianapolis and saw some games when he played there. I wanted to see him in Denver, but he retired before I could get here.”

His dream to see Peyton play one more time is gone, and John knows that. But he’s got other goals, better goals.

“Now that I’m here, I want to get a job and a place and get back on my feet. I go to work on Monday. A guy told me he’d give me a job doing ironwork.”

He reaches into his pocket, pulls out his phone and scrolls through his photo album.

“This is the work I do,” he says. “This one is of me in Idaho, eight stories. This one is in Savannah, Georgia. And this one is in Seattle, Washington; it was only three stories.”

He’s showing me selfies of him standing at the top of buildings that he helped construct. He’s smiling at the camera, and I can’t help but laugh. Everything about the man sitting in front of me is pleasant. He talks like a true southern man — straightforward and unhurried. He jokes and smiles, laughs and even cries.

“How does a man like you become homeless,” I ask.

John puts his hands on the table. He glances out the window and stares into the distance. I can’t be sure what John’s looking for, or at. He nods his head as if to affirm my assumption—that a man like him doesn’t belong here, on the street, homeless, without a family or a job.

“Most of us men out there are taught to be dominant, an alpha male. My wife didn’t like that; she thought I was harsh, not toward our kids, but toward her. I wasn’t trying to be that way. I was trying to be the leader. I got depressed, and when I get depressed, I turn to alcohol, and then I get behind the wheel and drive. That’s what sent me to prison.”

John reaches for his phone, again. “I don’t show too many people these, so …”

His voice fades with the smell of his lukewarm coffee. He scrolls through his photo album, and this time he pulls up pictures of his children. “I haven’t seen them in years,” he says. “All I want is to be with them, again. But I messed up; I drank too much. I acted like I was on top of the world, and I did everything I shouldn’t have done.”

I haven’t seen John again since the day I interviewed him back in March. I can’t be sure where he’s at, and I’d like to suggest that he’s doing well, on his way to overcoming his alcoholism and mending relationships with his children. But I don’t know those things.

As we walked back to the Lawrence Street Community Center that day, John said, “Hopefully there won’t be any more roadblocks for me; hopefully I get to see my kids.”

Faces of The Mission is a blog series written by Jordan Smith, Denver Rescue Mission’s Writer/Editor/Photographer, offering insights and real-life stories from people experiencing homelessness and hardships.

Fort Collins Rescue Mission is Honoring Volunteers this Month!

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Fort Collins Rescue Mission and Harvest Farm Honoring Volunteers this Month

Here at the Mission and Harvest Farm, volunteers are our heroes. They help us prepare and serve meals to guests with a caring smile, dedicate time to mentor and encourage program participants, as well as share messages of hope and possibilities of a new life. Volunteers are an invaluable resource that help our organization flourish as we do God’s work.

Last year, volunteers provided over 14,000 hours of service at Fort Collins Rescue Mission and Harvest Farm. This is equivalent to having an additional 6 full-time employees! It’s because of their dedicated service, that we’re able to meet the needs of the broken and lost in our community.

April is National Volunteer Appreciation Month and the Mission, along with numerous non-profit organizations across the country, are taking some time to celebrate. Throughout #VolunteerAppreciationWeek (April 15-21), we will honor and thank our volunteers for their tireless service.

We’re excited to share the passion and commitment of four featured volunteers. We are so grateful for them, and all our amazing volunteers, for everything they do to #SERVENoCo!

 

Jim Lord

Jim Lord

Jim has been serving warm meals to our homeless guests at Fort Collins Rescue Mission for seven years. He enjoys filling this need in the community and says, “It keeps me humble and helps me appreciate what I have more often.”

Jim loves trying to make our guests smile. He has made it his mission to help our guests feel important while they are here.

We appreciate the work you have put in at Fort Collins Rescue Mission Jim. Thank you!

 

Laura Steven

Laura Stevens

Laura has been volunteering with Fort Collins Rescue Mission for the past two years. She loves being a Mentor and helping our homeless guests. Specifically, she has a heart for helping women feel good about themselves. Often, she donates clothing to fulfil this passion.

“Being a Mentor has been the most fulfilling experience at the Mission so far. In the midst of sadness, challenges and pain, we manage to find the humor and faith and laugh a lot together.” – Laura

Thank you Laura for showing compassion to our guests at Fort Collins Rescue Mission!

 

Marilyn Calcatera

Marilyn Calcatera

Marilyn wanted to use her hair cutting skills to do good in the community. That’s how she got connected to Harvest Farm.  Each month, over the past year, she has been offering free haircuts to men in the New Life Program.

She loves being able to have spiritual conversations with the men in the program and helps encourage them in this journey of their lives. “I can show some motherly love, provide encouragement and share a hug” said Marilyn.

Thank you for using your skills to touch the lives of our New Life Program participants, Marilyn!

 

Ryan Carter

Ryan Carter

Ryan serves as a preacher for chapel services at Fort Collins Rescue Mission and he has been doing this for the past year. His goal is to assist the staff in connecting the Mission with pastors and community leaders to maximize the care and service to those in need.

“I see the Mission’s guests as some of the richest and most gifted people in our city.  Darkness has marginalized many people who are desperately needed and deeply loved.”  Ryan loves the Mission because he gets to work with Jesus in the restoration process!

Ryan’s most impactful experience at the Mission was preaching to a man that had never been to church before or heard the Gospel.  “I saw this man two weeks later, and he grabbed me and said, “Everything is changing!”  He had started to read the word of God and exclaimed, “It’s really making sense to me!”  Also, in that two week span, he was restored with his mother in San Diego, and was leaving that week to be with her again.  I will meet this man in heaven!” Ryan shared.

Thank you Ryan for diligently doing God’s work with us at Fort Collins Rescue Mission!

These are just a few examples of passionate volunteers committed to doing the Lord’s work alongside us. If you’ve been inspired to give back and make a difference, we encourage you to serve with us! There are many ways to get involved.  To learn more and sign up, visit: http://bit.ly/Volunteer4FCRM

 

 

We’re Honoring Volunteers this Month!

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Denver Rescue Mission Honoring Volunteers this Month

Here at the Mission, volunteers are our heroes. They serve meals with a caring smile, tutor kids who are behind in school, spend time mentoring adults & children, care for kids in transition, sort donations, and so much more. Volunteers provide 122,276 hours of their time at Denver Rescue Mission each year, which is equivalent to 59 full-time employees.

Throughout #VolunteerAppreciationWeek, volunteers will be honored and thanked for their service to the Mission on our social channels. We’re excited to share the passion and commitment of these seven featured volunteers. Read their stories below and consider signing up to make an impact at www.denverrescuemission.org/volunteer.

Thanks for all YOU do to #ServeDenver #VolunteerAppreciationWeek.

Kyle Gjersee

Kyle Gjersee

You can find Kyle serving breakfast five, sometimes six, days a week at our Lawrence Street Community Center (LSCC) in downtown Denver over the past year. Kyle recently became a mentor for a New Life Program participant at The Crossing as well.

“I enjoy giving back to the community and being part of something bigger than myself” -Kyle.
Thank you Kyle for your servant heart!

Scott Farleigh

Scott Farleigh

Scott has been a volunteer with us for nine years! He volunteers primarily in the Denver Broncos Youth Center at The Crossing tutoring kids. Scott donates his money as well as his time, working to organize projects with the Eagle Scouts. They most recently replaced some fencing and put in a new flag pole in front of The Crossing.

“The greatest experience I’ve had so far was teaching one of my third grade kids in the Bronco Room how to read. He started at a 1st grade reading level and is now almost up to a 3rd grade reading level.” -Scott

The kids are blessed to have had your help in the Denver Broncos Youth Center over the past 9 years, Thank you Scott.

Carroll Dannettell

Carroll Dannettell

Since 2008, Carroll has been tutoring our kids at The Crossing in the Denver Broncos Youth Center.

“I enjoy knowing I am making a difference in a child’s life,” Carroll says.

Carroll also loves working alongside the Interns in the Denver Broncos Youth Center because she feels she has been able to mentor them as well. She enjoys watching both the interns and the children grow and mature. Carroll believes that her life has been changed by volunteering at the Mission.

Thank you Carroll for your ten years of service with Denver Rescue Mission!

Jenelle Wilson

Jenelle Wilson

Jenelle has been a Youth Mentor since November. “Serving my mentee and her family brings me a joy I cannot express. She reminds me that God is alive and present even in the youngest of lives and being part of something so much bigger than just me, it’s humbling and exciting,” Jenelle says.

Jenelle brings her mentee with her to church every Sunday morning. She loves how her mentee sings during worship even if she doesn’t know the words and always holds Jenelle’s Bible when the pastor speaks to follow along. “It’s amazing how much she retains! She is thoughtful and connected to the message. God is doing great things in her!”

Thank you Jenelle for bringing God into the lives of your mentee and her family at The Crossing!

Rylee Bennett

Rylee Bennett

For the past year, Rylee has been mentoring one of our STAR Transitional Program participants. “I knew that when I moved to Denver about a year ago, that I was craving a deeper, more meaningful relationship with someone in need.”  Rylee was thrilled to find Denver Rescue Mission and applied to be a long-term volunteer immediately.

Rylee’s most impactful experience as a Mentor has been watching her mentee persevere despite adversity and stand as the determined, selfless, God loving woman that she is today. “When I first met her it almost felt like our time spent together was a one way interview as she would only give short little responses to my pleading questions to get to know her. Since then our relationship has done a 180 and she’s been able to open up her heart to me and allow me to encourage her and just love on her.”  They’ve tackled topics that she initially wanted to stay so far away from, like going back to school to get her GED, building a resume and applying to jobs, getting her permit, and seeking a deeper relationship with Jesus. Rylee is so grateful for this opportunity and wants to help others be able to have the same experience as a Mentor at the Mission!

Rylee, we thank you for showing God’s love and grace to your mentee. We are blessed to have you.

Laura Skladzinski

Laura Skladzinski

Laura is a Mentor to one of our STAR Transitional Program participants. She also tries to serve meals at our Lawrence Street Community Center at least once a month. Laura loves how easy it is to serve meals even when she has a busy schedule. “Although the line moves quickly, I try to at least say hi and give a smile to everyone who comes through.”

Becoming a Mentor for the STAR Transitional Program has made her feel like she is truly making a difference in someone’s life by getting to interact and help someone one-on-one. Laura really enjoys meeting with her mentee and is grateful for the opportunity to not only help but also make a new friend. “I often think my mentee has helped me more than I have helped her, in that my time with her has given me a different perspective and made me appreciate the many blessings I’ve been fortunate to receive.”

Thank you Laura for serving with us over the past two years!

Dan Polizzi

Dan Polizzi

Dan combines his love for music and kids by teaching the children at The Crossing guitar and piano lessons, over the past eight years! “I feel a part of the community/family when I’m there.” – Dan

Dan has always volunteered for causes he has felt strongly about and giving music lessons at the Mission was a perfect way to show his gratitude for what people have done for him. “Knowledge is power and can open doors to opportunities you otherwise would never have access to” said Dan. His hope is that the kids he works with will have a better quality of life having gained some ability to play an instrument.

Dan, thank you for sharing your passion for music with the kids and with us at the Denver Rescue Mission.

April is Alcohol Awareness Month

Did you know that April is National Alcohol Awareness month? Substance abuse is something we see frequently in Denver Rescue Mission’s New Life Program. Addiction can be all consuming and can drastically affect every area of someone’s life. However, our goal at the Mission is to ensure that every person who enters our New Life Program knows deep down that their addiction does not define them and that there is always hope for renewal and recovery.

This idea that “our mistakes do not define us” is important for us all to remember, especially those struggling with addiction. This verse from Psalms is one that our program participants reflect on often…

Psalm 25:7

Participants in our New Life Program often come to us struggling with addiction, without hope and without any connection to a stable community. They also struggle with maintaining employment and finding a stable place to live. Their abuse of alcohol and other substances is often a pathway used to cope with deeper issues. Our program provides them with the chance to deal with those deeper issues head-on, reestablish positive relationships, maintain a stable living environment, give them a sense of purpose through work readiness, and, ultimately, lead them into a spiritual connection with God.

No one knows more about teaching others the love of God and the power of His forgiveness than our New Life Program staff. I sat down with some of our program staff to get their perspective on alcohol awareness.

“[Our] staff embraces the Mission’s mission statement of ‘Changing lives in the name of Christ.’ We tell our New Life Program participants that they have a purpose in life and that they are gifted to accomplish many things.  The guidance of the Holy Spirit gives us the advantage to help our participants uncover and rediscover their gifts and guide them into becoming what God created them to be,” says Patrick Mary, Counselor & Clinical Supervisor at the Mission.

Every day in the New Life Program, which can last up to one and a half years, our participants are encouraged and counseled by our staff. One participant recalls life before the program, “Before, alcohol was killing me; today, I am really enjoying life, my wife, family sunrises, and sunsets. Finding God in the New Life Program has changed my life. Before, my work day was mundane; today, I am enjoying the work readiness program in the program.  I have rediscovered the truth of enjoying work.”

Our New Life Program recognizes the wisdom of Alcoholics Anonymous and the 12-Step Program, which, in a way, become a part of what we do. A Recovery Support Group – facilitated by Patrick Mary – meets weekly to inspire discussion, mutual encouragement, bonding, and sobriety. Along with elective groups, each participant is required to attend individual counseling and group sessions. These sessions are designed to “dig deeper” into childhood trauma and other issues related to present-day addictive behavior.

“It is a joy to see the transformation that occurs when freedom from bondage is realized,” says Steve Swihart, New Life Program Graduate Chaplain.

“A misconception exists that addiction or homelessness is simply a matter of will-power or choice. This is not always the case. Each participant that we come in contact with has a story. Each story comes with layers,” says Austin Morrow, Next Step Community Coordinator.

“The first step in correcting these misconceptions is to listen. Not just listening to someone’s problems and immediately trying to find a solution but truly listening to someone’s story and understanding that there are more layers than what may be seen initially. Addiction and homelessness can be difficult to understand.  It can be messy. But, through the love and grace of Christ, lives can be changed and misconceptions can be corrected,” adds Morrow.

“The Mission’s approach to helping people struggling with alcoholism isn’t going to be the right fit for every person who walks through our doors. But, over the years, I have seen so many lives change – fathers who reconnect with their children after years of being estranged, men who find newfound self-confidence and energy in their sobriety.”

This month, as we acknowledge Alcohol Awareness Month, it’s an important reminder that rehabilitation is a journey and it’s different for everyone. May we all listen a little more and judge a little less.

 

 

 (Contributors to this article include Austin Morrow, Zach Titus, Patrick Mary, Stephen Swihart.)