Posts by Josh Geppelt

Josh's Bio

Josh Geppelt

Josh is the Senior Director of Emergency Services, overseeing the Lawrence Street Shelter, Lawrence Street Community Center and Fort Collins Rescue Mission – which is not always an easy job. But he feels surrounded by a community of individuals who desire to support him in the work. He also feels that he has a unique privilege to work for an organization that maintains such a high level of support from the community. He truly enjoys coming to work on most days, but it’s hard to focus when it’s cycling weather. Josh grew up quite nerdy: first he was home-schooled his whole life and second, he is a very proud Eagle Scout. He has been a cyclist for more than 18 years! If he could be any famous person he would be the Pope because at least he is liked or disliked for his views on things that matter. He admires his father most in life because he embodies the dying art of prayerful consistency: suit up, show up and God will use you where you are.

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.

Break The Cycle III :: A Final Reflection

Just two weeks ago, Denver Rescue Mission’s Rescue Riders rode into Denver, completing our 750 mile tour of Colorado. Our tour took us through some of Colorado’s most scenic areas, stopping in some of her most prized towns, crisscrossing rivers and streams, and up and over one TOO many of her high passes. We experienced so much of the beauty our great state has to offer, met many of her fine residents, and reveled in her natural wonders.

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The goal for Break the Cycle III: A Colorado Tour was to raise $100,000 to provide 52,083 meals for our homeless and needy neighbors. Through the generosity of our many sponsors and donors, we blew that goal out of the water, raising over $120,000 – enough to provide 62,500 meals!!! Like everything we do at Denver Rescue Mission, we could never do it without our generous community!

For those of you who were not able to follow our tour through Colorado, here’s a brief recap of our days in the saddle (based on my personal GPS data):

  • Day 0, 25 Miles / 781 ft. Gained:  Top of Wolf Creek pass down to Pagosa Springs
  • Day 1, 75 Miles / 2,881 ft. Gained: Pagosa Springs to Durango
  • Day 2, 109 Miles / 7,776 ft. Gained: Durango to Telluride
  • Day 3, 105 Miles / 7,644 ft. Gained: Ridgeway to Crawford
  • Day 4, 83 Miles / 4,686 ft. Gained: Hotchkiss to Glenwood Springs
  • Day 5, 104 Miles / 8,704 ft. Gained: Glenwood Springs to Steamboat Springs
  • Day 6, Day off with family and friends in Steamboat Springs
  • Day 7, 78 Miles / 4,810 ft. Gained: Steamboat Springs to State Forest State Park
  • Day 8, 93 Miles / 4,108 ft. Gained: State Forest State Park to Fort Collins
  • Day 9, 75 Miles / 2,255 ft. Gained: Fort Collins to Denver

Countless people have asked me about this trip over the past two weeks; questions about the route we took, to what hurt(s) the most. However, the most asked question has simply been what was the hardest part? I could talk about the early mornings, or long climbs, the hot days, or a certain person’s bad jokes…But when I really stopped to think about it, the hardest part was getting beyond the voice in my own head telling me that I wasn’t going to make it. There were several days that I would have easily succumb to this little voice had I not had someone next to me encouraging me to keep going. On some days, I was this person for someone else on our team. The image below is a great lesson for what we all need in life when the going gets tough — when the days are long, hard and hot. When I had nothing left to give, someone else had a little extra they could offer me. Regardless of our circumstances in life — homeless or housed, hungry or fed, weak or strong — may we each long for these types of friends in our lives and strive to be this type of friend to others.

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Brian Newman, our 145lb. Harvest Farm Agriculture Supervisor, pushing my 245lbs. up the Lincoln Street Climb, just South of Toponas, CO

This has been an adventure of a lifetime and I will forever treasure the close friendships that we formed. Thank you to everyone who supported us through this crazy ride!

Until next time, keep it wheel side down…

Adventures of a Rescue Rider :: Day 6

As we neared the end of Day 5, having just finished our big climb of the day, and powering through the Yampa Valley at an ungodly pace – we were all beat. Beat because we had ridden 475 miles over 5 days; beat because the heat was only marginally more relentless than the wind; beat because while we had trained for this, nothing could quite prepare us for actually doing it.

Being physically beat impacted each of us emotionally too. We spoke more negatively about the day; about wanting to be done; and wanting to eat; to sleep beyond 4am…We were all “done.”

My family met our motley group at mile 85 with cookies, cold water, signs and cowbells fit for the Tour de France, and some welcome encouragement. Something odd happened after that stop. After seeing my boys, wife and parents there on the side of the road, I was energized. I was more ready to spend the following day off of my bike and with them. I felt a boost in both my spirit and in my legs.

 

There’s something psychological within each of us to power through something when we feel we can’t make it; when we can see the light at the end of the tunnel; when we know something better awaits us, just over that next hill.

For many of our guests at the Lawrence Street Community Center, they don’t have anyone cheering them on or reminding them of what lies around the next corner. There’s no welcoming committee waiting with cookies and cold water. They don’t know where the end to their present circumstances lies or where to find it.

Today’s rest day has been awesome. Many of us enjoyed time with family or at least time doing something other than riding our bikes. The Plotinus of today’s rest allowed me to press beyond my limits as yesterday came to an end. What do you focus on when time gets tough? Are you listening to those cheering you on and focused on what still lies ahead? Place yourself in the shoes of our guest at the Lawrence Street Community Center. Who is running alongside them during the home stretch?

While we ride in Break The Cycle to raise money to help end hunger, I ask you to consider ways you might be able to encourage those on their own journey this summer. More than 900 men, women and children visit the Lawrence Street Community Center every day. Our staff works hard to offer them daily hope and encouragement but we could always use more “cheerleaders.” Consider learning more about our volunteer opportunities here and encourage folks whose real lives make my pain on this bike yesterday seem so trivial.

Preparing for Denver’s Fickle Weather 

As we prepare for a mid-spring winter weather advisory (can anyone say oxymoron?!), staff at Denver Rescue Mission’s Lawrence Street Community Center, Lawrence Street Shelter and Fort Collins Rescue Mission are preparing for increased demand for our services.

Guests fill the Lawrence Street Community Center dining hall during a March 2016 snow storm.

Guests fill the Lawrence Street Community Center dining room during a March 2016 snow storm

As you can imagine, bad weather brings a lot more people indoors during the day and overnight. Here is how our facilities are preparing for this weekend:

The Lawrence Street Community Center’s dining room will be open throughout the day Saturday an Sunday. Additional food is being prepared for our normal meal times. Warm showers are at the ready, along with emergency clothing supplies. Staff will work to ensure that everyone seeking overnight shelter has a confirmed place to go.

The Lawrence Street Shelter anticipates filling all 315 beds and mats, as well as 325 mats at the Emergency Shelter (operated in partnership with Denver’s Road Home). Area shelter providers are already talking, ensuring that each provider knows where to send people in the event they reach their capacity.

Fort Collins Rescue Mission is preparing for a very similar demand on its services: increased meals and utilizing all of their available beds and mats. Fort Collins Rescue Mission provides more than 100 people a warm, dry and safe place to spend the night, including overflow mats which will be extended through April 30th.

As you brave the looming elements this weekend, consider how you might help Denver Rescue Mission keep these vital services available within the community. We ask you to visit our Donations page to learn how your generous donations can make a lasting impact at our shelter facilities.

Snow Hysteria

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Snow hysteria that’s what Denver news agencies dubbed the feverish activity this weekend as Front Range residents prepared for one of the largest snow storms to hit Denver in several years. Groceries were purchased; gas tanks filled; weekend plans cancelled – all in preparation for the impending snow. Few seem excited for the weather: most put off by the inconvenience Denver’s periodic snow and cold brings to their lives.

At the Lawrence Street Shelter snow hysteria looks quite a bit different then what has been depicted in local media. Staff scrambled Friday morning to activate a temporary and larger emergency shelter location, with double the sleeping capacity of the current location. Mats and blankets were moved across town; logistics were worked out with partner agencies; procedures we adjusted – all to ensure that anyone looking for a safe place to be during the coming snow could find it.

Many Front Range residents watched the weather closely this weekend to see how their plans would change: hoping that school and work will be cancelled on Monday. At the same time, more than 500 men are simply grateful to have a warm place to get in out of the cold and snow: hoping that shelter capacity continues to stay ahead of demand, and praying that they never have to wake up on a Monday morning and dig out from where they slept the night before.

Home for the Holidays

home for the holidaysIt’s tough being away from family during the holidays. Actually it’s tough being away from family for all 365 days of the year, but the distance seems to sink in deeper around the holidays.

When my wife and I moved to Colorado neither of us anticipated the effect the distance would have on us, on our marriage, and now on our children. While there are a thousand and one great things about our life in Colorado, it’s always great to go “home.” When we can’t make it home for a holiday or family can’t make it to us, there’s always plenty of invitations from good friends, the kind that feel like family, to join their holiday celebrations.

This distance from “home” has had a compounded effect on me since beginning to work at the Lawrence Street Shelter. The things that I miss: the familiarity of family and traditions; the endless games of Spades; the leftovers. All of this seems to pale in comparison to the experiences that so many of my homeless friends and neighbors have during the holidays. The familiarity is gone; the traditions are left up to strangers; the games are few and far-between; and the leftovers – well, all they seem to get is left-overs. While my hope is that individuals feel cared for 365 days a year here at the shelter, I also want to give our them a sense of family – especially around the holidays.

As you prepare for your own holiday traditions this year; as you get together with family and friends; be mindful of those in your life that are distant from those they love – physically or relationally – and seek out ways to feel like family to them.

 

 Watch: What does Thanksgiving mean to you?

The Journey

Ryan, Jeff, Josh, Brian, and Brandon (Mission employees)

Ryan, Jeff, Josh, Brian, and Brandon (Mission employees)

On any given Saturday morning there are endless options along the Colorado Front Range to enjoy the beautiful communities in which we live.

This past Saturday morning a handful of Denver Rescue Mission staff met just as the sun was coming up at the Mission’s Harvest Farm in Wellington, Colorado to cycle to the Mission’s Lawrence Street Shelter in downtown Denver. While several in our group had experience with distance cycling, it was the first time some had tackled a Century Ride: 100 miles.

I’ve spent a good deal of time on my road bike the past few years – and in my experience, there are few better places to be challenged than on the seat of a bike. As with other aspects of my life, there are times when I need to ride by myself, times when I desire the company of a good friend and times when I’m happy to join with a group.

When I was training for a week-long distance ride last summer, I intentionally sought out a riding partner that was stronger and more experienced than I was and who would push me to be better. In life, when I surround myself with people who are more experienced than I am, I tend to improve my skill set faster. Likewise, when I’m always the “expert” in a particular arena, I find myself atrophying in that skill set – as I’m not being challenged externally to improve.

On a typical group ride it doesn’t take long before the cadence of the group falls in line, and the members begin working together. The ones who are better at climbing are found up front on long hills, pulling the others up behind them. Or in my case, sometimes they’re back behind me physically pushing me up the hill. J However, everyone stops once we climb the hill and waits for gravity to carry us down. My 250 lb. frame creates a huge slipstream for the other riders to fall in and effortlessly draft behind me. In both cases, one’s strength aids the others. While I’m not sure if my 250 lb. frame is a strength, I have learned what many of my strengths are – and try to find folks whose strengths look different than mine. In doing so, I benefit from a strength that I do not possess.

On long rides, one of my favorite things to do is slip in beside someone and catch-up on life. It doesn’t take a whole lot of intentionality, or any special effort on my part – rather simply deciding that as we’re both traveling along in the same direction, there’s probably some way that we can be mutually encouraging to each other. In life, some of the deepest encouragement that I’ve received has come from someone who simply slipped in next to me as we recognized our journeys were headed in the same direction.

I encourage you to find something that you really enjoy doing, and then find someone to do it with. Each of our lives is headed somewhere – and while I’m excited about the destination, I don’t want to miss out on what the journey has to teach me.

Won’t You Be a (Good) Neighbor…

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At Denver Rescue Mission’s Lawrence Street Shelter, we’ve always been successful meeting individuals who enter our facility at their physical and spiritual points of need.

As the needs of the homeless within the greater Denver community continue to change, we’re seeing more and more individuals in the downtown area that are resistant to traditional services like feeding, shelter, clothing and ministering. For years downtown Denver has been home to an open-air drug market in what is known as Triangle Park – directly across Park Avenue from the Lawrence Street Shelter. When that park was closed down by Denver Parks and Recreation last fall for redevelopment as an urban garden, the population that long called that space home was dispersed around the immediate neighborhood. Business owners and residents have fought to keep this collection of people from creating a new “home” in front of their businesses and residences.

In our attempts to be a good neighbor here at the Lawrence Street Shelter, we’re taking a new look at how we can better meet these individuals at their physical and spiritual points of need, outside of the walls of our facility.

What does it look like to assist someone who may not be interested in our assistance? What does it look like to build relationships with someone, and show them the love of Christ, when society consistently tells them they are unlovable? How do we assist addicts without enabling them? These are all questions that we are currently asking ourselves as we seek to respond to the ever-changing environments surrounding the Lawrence Street Shelter, and be the best neighbor possible to all of our neighbors: businesses, those who are housed, those who are not, and those struggling with deep-seated addictions and mental illness.

Pray for us as we tackle new terrain in our attempts to change lives in the name of Christ.

Blessings from “Jesus Saves,”

Josh