Get Involved Posts

Use Your Gifts To Serve Others: Denver Rescue Mission’s Mentor Services Help Change Lives

MENTORING

When Steven talks about his mentor, Jon, you can hear the excitement in his voice.

“Why he is just the greatest man!” Steven says as he flips through photos of the two on his iPad.

Steven was paired with Jon as part of his program. Steven and Jon meet every other week, if not every week, to chat about everything from Duke overcoming his addictions to scripture passages.

“We get a lot of support here. But, I couldn’t do any of this without him. Jon really, really cares. He wants to make sure I’m successful. That’s what a classic mentorship is and everyone needs someone like that,” says Steven.

And, with the Mission’s mentoring, participants in the New Life Program, like Steven, do have someone. Last year, the Mission paired 61 NLP participants with mentors, also known as Change Makers.

“When he cries, I cry. When he’s happy, I’m happy. He is a blessing,” says Jon. “Steven has inspired me. It’s a blessing to be a part of his life and see his testimony unfold.”

Steven and Jon’s mentorship isn’t the only living testimony that shows the power of the program. Many of the mentees and mentors experience the same connection.

“I love being a mentor at Denver Rescue Mission because it allows me to give back and pay forward to individuals in my life that have inspired me to love God and respects others more,” says Johnnie, another NLP Mentor. “So, many people just need to know that there are people who care about them.”

You can also help change lives. Join Denver Rescue Mission in celebrating all of our mentors during National Mentoring Month by learning more about our mentoring opportunities.

College Students Trade Beach Towels for Lasting Experiences at Harvest Farm

March has never been my favorite month. Everything is brown, it’s windy, sometimes we get lots of snow, and all the fun holidays are over. It’s like this 30-day holding period before the real signs of spring and renewal start to show up. I’ve always just muddled through it with a grim determination to survive until the color comes back and the wind goes away. Then, I started working for Harvest Farm as their Northern Colorado Volunteer Coordinator and everything changed. Now, March is one of my favorite months of the year. Why? College students. Wonderful, inquisitive, hard-working, kind, amazing college students!

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Alternative Spring Break students and a New Life Program participant work together in the Harvest Farm green house

Harvest Farm offers Alternative Spring Break opportunities for dozens of students from universities all over the U.S. Instead of hitting the beaches, these students volunteer their time to live on the Farm for a week during their Spring Break. And they’re awesome! Every year I can’t wait to meet them. This year we got to host Vanderbilt University, Xavier University, Iowa State University, and University of California San Diego.

The student groups bring energy and fun to the Farm. They come with open minds and hearts, ready to learn and interact. They ask questions. Their perspectives are challenged. Stereotypes are shattered. Some of them even change career paths. Why is that? What is it about the Farm that is life-changing for these young adults? I could say it’s our unique program or the actual volunteer work they’re doing, but as great as our program may be, that’s not what makes people re-asses their lives. Honestly, it’s the men in our New Life Program that changes things.

We have 72 men living with us on the Farm who are working to turn their lives around in our long-term New Life Program. These men come from all walks of life, some come to us directly out of prison, and others have experienced chronic homelessness and addiction. Students have open dialogue with these men and talk to someone they might otherwise never speak with. It’s about sharing stories and learning from one another. At the end of their week, I debrief with each group of students. Without fail, they tell me how our New Life Program participants have changed their lives.

One student volunteer said, “I had expected that we would be helping the men and learning more about addiction and homelessness, and experiencing a bit of how it feels to be in that position. We helped them, yes, but they helped us as well.  The Farm was a place which helped everyone – even us – to discover [more] about ourselves.”

 

Students from Xavier University pitch in at the Farm

Students from Xavier University pitch in at the Farm

Alternative Spring Break groups bring something to our participants as well. These groups give our men the chance to share their personal journey with people who want to learn from and understand them. Getting to interact with people when they’re sober, in an environment that feels safe allows something cool to happen. Suddenly, our men have purpose. They’re teaching people how to do things like milk cows, build fences, and start a garden. They’re gaining confidence and starting to feel that they have value and something to offer.

Another student said it well: “One day at lunch, Tim asked me what my favorite part of this trip had been.  My answer was, ‘getting to know you all!’ He looked a bit shocked or confused with my answer.  So I asked him, ‘Were you expecting me to say something else?’  He responded, ‘I thought you were going to say the animals…’ I could tell by his facial expression he was pleasantly surprised with my answer.  I was telling Tim the honest truth; my favorite part of my time at Harvest Farm was simply getting to know the guys. Their laughter and silliness was contagious. Their stories and life experiences were captivating. Their determination for sobriety was inspiring.”

And something must have clicked for Tim. I can safely say he felt special. I wonder when the last time was that he felt special. I wonder when the last time was that someone considered it fun getting to know him. I wonder how many of our men believe, when they first get to Harvest Farm, that they are not worthy of being known and that they have nothing to offer anyone. When, in reality, they offer so much.

Simply put, Alternative Spring Break is about so much more than students volunteering. It’s about connection, and seeing the beauty in the brokenness that we all carry inside us. It’s about understanding, accomplishment, laughter, learning, and hope. We get some work done, sure, but the real “work” is in the lives of the students and the men as they interact with and impact each other.

One of our New Life Program graduates said “We so desperately seek to redeem ourselves that our souls spontaneously connect.” How beautiful is that? Yes, it’s about souls connecting and the healing that comes from that. March is now a really great month for me. I will continue to welcome fresh faces, open minds and willing hearts and I will be blessed by their time with us.

To learn more about our 2017 Alternative Spring Break program at Harvest Farm, contact me, Heather Pulley, at hpulley@denrescue.org.

Rachel’s Lens // Traveling Generosity

Julie!

Julie with a car full of donations!

My friend Julie is two things: extremely organized and extremely generous. I mean, she is much more than two things, but these are the two qualities that come to mind whenever I’m with her.

She lives in California and is an Executive Director with Thirty-One Gifts, charged with leading a team of almost 150 women. One of her favorite things to do is travel and blog about all her adventures. She was visiting Denver last week for the company’s national conference and it was so good to catch up with her again.

Julie contacted me a couple months ago, asking if there was anything she could do to serve Denver Rescue Mission while her team was in town. She came up with a brilliant idea to give personalized Thirty-One diaper bags to the single moms living at Champa House. She and her team filled the bags with all the things a mom could need. It was so unbelievably thoughtful and I know they stayed up until 2:00 a.m. the night before to assemble them!

The women at Champa were thrilled to receive the bags and I was so encouraged to see the attitude of generosity that Julie fosters in the people around her. It takes a special person to think outside of themselves and reach into the world around them, even on vacation.

Thank you Julie and Thirty-One for thinking of Denver Rescue Mission and showing the amazing women at Champa such kindness!

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Amy Fletcher, Champ House Director

Amy Fletcher, Champ House Director

Rachel’s Lens // Farm Trip!

I headed up to Harvest Farm this week to write a story and had the best time walking around, meeting the new animals and asking the staff a million questions. It baffles me that after a year and a half of working here, I can still learn something new about Denver Rescue Mission every single day.

The history, the programs, the day-to-day operations…this place is continually surprising and impressing me! I got to chat with Kelly Ballantyne, the Farm’s Garden Supervisor, for just a little bit. Stopping to pull weeds as we walked and talked, he showed me all the plants that are starting to come up.

9B9A8033We talked about the CSA members and all the different foods they will get and when I should come back to get everything in full bloom. At the end of our talk, he said, “Have you met the baby goats?” I hadn’t. So he showed me and I couldn’t resist including a picture!

9B9A8079I urge all of you to make a trip to the Farm this summer or fall to see all the amazing things it has to offer! It is such a special place, not only for visitors, but for the many men working on hard life change!

Sign up to serve a lunch meal at the Farm: serve.drmvolunteers.orggo to serve a meal and choose Northern Colorado – view May’s avaliablity to serve lunch at Harvest Farm.

 

 

Guest Blogger // What makes an awesome mentor

Written by Dani Neal, Mentor Coordinator

My Top 5 characteristics of an awesome mentor :

  1. Consistency: Our participants are in a constant state of flux, so consistency from a mentor can help provide a sense of normalcy.
  2. Servant’s heart: Loving people well is hard work and sometimes the best asset a mentor can have is putting their own objectives and goals aside and focusing solely on our participant, without reservation.
  3. Perseverance: Again, loving people like Jesus does is hard.  A mentor who doesn’t give up on our participants are an incredible asset.
  4. Flexibility: Gotta roll with it around here at Denver Rescue Mission! Every day brings something new in our world!
  5. Commitment: Even when life gets complicated, mentors who stay the course are my heroes.

Mentoring has the power to change lives. Period.

Mentoring is an incredible avenue to empower, encourage and support our participants where they are, with what they have. The funny thing is that most of our mentors end up drastically changed too. We are INCREDIBLY blessed to have countless mentors who exude the above characteristics. It’s very humbling and inspiring and I learn something new every day. Won’t you sign up to change lives, including your own? And if you already mentor – THANK YOU!

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Be a mentor and change a life: denverrescuemission.org/mentor

Guest Blogger // We love our volunteers

Written by Jenn Darden, Short Term Volunteers Coordinator

When I first moved to Denver, I drove by “Jesus Saves” downtown. I, like everyone else, saw the line, and thought: “Wow. There is so much need in this city!” And growing up in a rural southern Missouri town, I have to admit, I was a little intimidated. But the thought crossed my mind on more than one occasion: “How would I be able to make a difference, or help in even a small way? I’m just one person.”

When I started thinking about that experience the other day, in preparation for this year’s people that are selflessly giving of their time to make a difference? Those who were initially hesitant, but came down to serve that first meal…or jumped in and got involved volunteering on a regular basis? And that’s when it dawned on me: Volunteers are an INSTRUMENTAL piece of the puzzle! We could not do what we do in ANY of our programs or facilities without them. (And I don’t just say that because I’m one of the volunteer coordinators!…honest!)

At Denver Rescue Mission we have the BEST volunteers! It’s because of our amazing volunteers that so many of our organization runs so well! And for that we could never show enough gratitude.

So whether you’re reading this and you volunteer with us on a regular basis, or you’ve never volunteered with us and you’re thinking about taking a chance and getting involved… Thank you!!!!

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Rachel’s Lens // More than just a number

Rachel’s Lens // More than just a number

I went down to the shelter last week to take some updated photos. I walked between beds and stood on chairs trying to find the right lighting. Somewhere along the way, I started to envision what it looks like each night as men fill the bunks.

I tried to imagine sleeping there, with hundreds of strangers, and nowhere to go when I wake up in the morning. The feeling was overwhelming and scary.

But I looked outside and saw a flag whipping back and forth down the street. The wind was blowing strong even though the sun was shining. It was going to be one of those bright days that ended in bitter cold as soon as the sun set. I began to thank the Lord that the needy in Denver had somewhere to go that night.

Each bunk has a number on it. I understand why…it keeps things organized. But I want each person who sleeps at the shelter to know that they are more than just a number. I want them to know that when they go to sleep at night, there are people praying for them.

Last night, Denver Rescue Mission housed 932 people in all of our facilities. That is almost 1,000 people that would have nowhere else to go.

When you crawl into bed tonight, would you be intentional? Pray for the man sleeping in bunk 64. Pray for the family who is living together in a room at The Crossing. Pray for a single mother and her children as she tucks them in a room at Champa House. Pray for the homeless women sleeping at Fort Collins Rescue Mission who are trying to piece their lives back together. Pray for the father at Harvest Farm who is trying to overcome an addiction.

Let us, as a community of believers, pray for the people in our city who need hope tonight. Let’s look beyond our homes and onto the streets. Thank you for your diligence in service, support and prayer.

Inside the Lawrence Street Shelter

Inside the Lawrence Street Shelter

Welcome to America // The Refugee Program

Can you imagine having to flee your own country, leaving everything you love and are familiar with? Now imagine that you are forced to leave because of race, nationality, religion… Doesn’t sound fun. Like at all. In fact, it sounds terrifying!

Hundreds of refugees come to Denver seeking new opportunities to start a new life with their family. The problem is that most refugees don’t speak English, or know how to find housing, or simple things we take for granted like grocery shopping and using a dishwasher!

Denver Rescue Mission partners with Lutheran Family Services to help provide stability and friendship to refugee families but we do this with your help. How you ask? By matching mentors with refugee families who are making America their new home. By fostering meaningful relationships that cross cultural barriers. By giving refuges a friend to walk through this new life with.

So, what do you say? Will you help a family who was forced out of their country find peace and hope right here in Denver? Will you become a mentor and friend?! Let’s WELCOME these men, women and families into our country and into our lives.

refugee welcome

Interns welcoming a new family to America!

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How to help: Become the first U.S. friend to a refugee family relocating to Denver. Join this amazing opportunity to guide a family from a country such as Burma, Iraq, Sudan or Somalia in their adjustment to life in the U.S. For more information, please contact Tom Leavitt at TLeavitt@DenRescue.org or José Kabeya at JKabeya@DenRescue.org.

Going Somewhere // Family Rescue Ministry

(Post is from a Family Rescue Ministry email)

Leia had a team of 14 people surrounding her, ready to help at a moment’s notice. They have adopted her into their church family, and she finally has support.

Leia had a team of 14 people surrounding her, ready to help at a moment’s notice. They have adopted her into their church family, and she finally has support.

For three months last fall, Leia and her two children moved from home to home, borrowing space on couches or beds from friends. She’d left a dangerous situation involving domestic violence during the summer and was doing her best to provide a safe space for her kids.

“It was really frustrating, and we were living with people and in circumstances that weren’t healthy. They deserved better. I felt really stuck and scared. I felt like a mother bear with her cubs. I was very defensive. My number one goal was to protect my children. I didn’t like the instincts that were coming out,” she says, her face furrowed remembering those difficult emotions.

She continues, speaking her next sentences with tears: “I felt scared and disappointed that my children were in that place. If I had made different choices maybe we could have prevented it.”

Leia fought through her disappointment and was calling every resource she could find: more friends, transitional housing places, homeless shelters – but no one had space available. She needed help. Immediately.

Finally, in September, she decided to make one last call and it was to Family Rescue Ministry. They did an interview and approved her in the first phone call. Leia remembers that conversation: “I spoke with Derek – he is amazing. I was nervous about asking for help but he was really welcoming. I wasn’t uncomfortable with him – I felt like he genuinely was going to help me.” And he did. Within weeks, she was matched with a mentor team.

She met with a group from Bear Creek Evangelical Church in October. The group consists of almost 15 people, all from different stages in life and who come bearing unique skill sets. They lovingly refer to their group as CAYA – Come As You Are. It was a perfect fit. “I remember meeting Leia that first time, getting coffee at Panera. We just fell in love with her,” says Marjorie, one of Leia’s many mentors.

The feeling was mutual. “The mentors were very excited to meet me and learn about me instead of pushing me and making me uncomfortable. They really just let me know what they would be able to help me with. They made themselves available,” says Leia. Last year, she lost her grandmother, who meant everything to her. She breaks into tears again while talking about her: “My grandma raised me, and things have been hard since she passed. She had been my support system my whole life. But Ann [another CAYA mentor] reminded me of my grandma a lot.”

Her mentors became her new support group, enveloping her with love. “The biggest benefit of having mentors is having new family and a new church. I love the feeling that I have somewhere to go to pray now. I have a whole new group of people to talk to about God and about life. The mentors invite me to everything, and it’s nice to have positive things to go to and get out of the house,” says Leia.

The group offers so much, from relationship advice to job searching to home furnishing. Marjorie explains, “I can’t imagine not mentoring. It helps you identify your own gifts and gives you the desire to share that with someone else. It could be just loving, or finances, or counseling, or being a friend. I think you get a greater blessing—you’ll receive far more than you’ll ever give.” She also sees the benefit in mentoring as a group: “In a group, it’s healthy to take their eyes off of just themselves and help somebody else. It’s healthy to be thankful, and to be truly thankful, you need to share what you have with someone else.”

Leia moved into her home at the beginning of December. They are only halfway done with their mentoring sessions, but she is already adopted into the CAYA community, coming to church and parties almost weekly. “Before, if I had a question or was struggling, I would feel lost…I didn’t have any idea what to do. But now, I have someone I can talk to and ask questions to, and get advice from. It’s empowering and motivates me to conquer personal battles every day,” says Leia with a smile.

Marjorie nods her head as Leia is speaking, and closes their meeting with affirmation: “I think this woman has got an incredible amount of talent and wisdom and knowledge. As difficult as it is to work and have kids, I think she is very focused, and I see success in so many areas of her life. There is a lot of energy and focus and power here. She’s going somewhere.”

Thank you to everyone who diligently serves as a mentor! If you or your congregation would like to join Family Rescue Ministry in its fight to end homelessness in our community by mentoring, please visit DenverRescueMission.org/familyrescueministry.

Your donation today to support Family Rescue Ministry will help working families, who are homeless, secure stable housing.

The Real Christmas

November and December seem to be the busiest times of year for me and I am assuming many others. People are busy running errands, planning parties, going to parties, and the endless gift shopping. Sometimes, I get so busy at Christmas that I forget I am celebrating and remembering the greatest gift – Jesus.

Last year, my small group decided to do an outreach together for  Christmas and it just so happened that Denver Rescue Mission had the perfect outreach: Adopt-A-Family. We signed up.

We were matched with a family, read their story and received their wish lists!

My friends and I picked a group shopping date and picked out gifts for the family. There was something so special shopping for someone I have never met. Choosing gifts for him was far better than shopping for some people on my own list.

A few weeks after we dropped off all the gifts at the family’s home. They were waiting for us and I hate to think that the children in the family wouldn’t have a gift to open on Christmas morning. I know that Christmas isn’t really about gifts, but the gifts we gave represented community, love and hope – all things that represent Jesus.

I am telling you about my experience not to receive a pat on the back or recognition, but to inspire you to gather some friends and bless another family this Christmas! You won’t regret it!

Right now, we NEED 200 sponsors to adopt families! Sign up here.

((photos taken by the Mission’s photographer, Rachel))

young boy

hug

family girl pointing  presents coming