changing lives Posts

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

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:



A Group Effort // Tim’s Story

Six years ago, scared and alone, Tim spent his first night at the Lawrence Street Shelter. It was winter and the city was blanketed with snow. He had just stepped off the bus from Grand Junction, drunk, hoping to find solace in his mother’s home.

“I called my mom from the bus station, and she said, ‘This is the bed you’ve made.’ It was tough love, and it was exactly what I needed,” Tim says. She directed him to Denver Rescue Mission’s Lawrence Street Shelter and instructed him to speak with a chaplain about the New Life Program. He did exactly as she said and found himself packed into the lobby with many other men who needed shelter from the cold weather.

Tim's mother was an advocate for his sobriety from the beginning. They have finally restored their relationship, thanks to Tim's success at Harvest Farm.

After a few nights as a guest, Tim enrolled as a Program Candidate. Three months later, he moved to The Crossing to begin the New Life Program. Phases 1 and 2 went well for him, but Tim says: “I was stubborn. I kept telling myself that I could handle drinking.” He wanted to manage his alcohol intake instead of eliminate it. After breaking the Mission’s no-drinking rule, Tim had to leave.

Once again, Tim’s life spiraled out of control. He spent his nights alone, drinking. He didn’t have a place to live, and he lost his job. The program at Denver Rescue Mission had helped him find a semblance of peace the first time, so he decided to give it a second chance.

He breezed through Phases 1 and 2 just like the first time. But the nagging temptation that he was strong enough to drink moderately got the best of him. “I still wasn’t dealing with my issues. I wasn’t giving myself to God. I still wanted to do things my way, not praying or acknowledging that I had to give up some of the things I wanted in order to get some of the things I needed,” says Tim. One night, he tested positive for alcohol and had to leave…again.

After another year of tumult, Tim prepared to spend his first night on the streets. It was snowing, and as he downed whiskey to keep warm, he had a sudden thought: he didn’t want to be there. He called a friend he made at Denver Rescue Mission who had graduated from the program. “He picked me up and put me to sleep on his couch,” Tim says. The next morning, hungover, Tim tried to put up a fight when his friend drove him to the shelter for the third time.

He didn’t want to go back into the program; he didn’t want to fail again. But this time was different. After
two weeks at the shelter, he was allowed to join the New Life Program at Harvest Farm.

Tim flourished there. “The simplicity and the beauty of nature and animals and farm living provided a setting where I could quiet my mind and start over again. I could relearn what was important in life: the simple things,” says Tim. He learned how to open up for the first time, allowing other people help him heal.

Tim graduated the New Life Program on January 17, 2013. He has worked as a Yard Loader Technician at Insurance Auto Auction since July 2012, and he is already moving up in the ranks. “If I have a loader job for the rest of my life, I’m excited about that. I’m optimistic about that. My goal right now is to be good at whatever job I have. I want my mother to be proud of me and not have to worry. I want to find a way to serve other people,” Tim says.

He has chosen to stay in the post-graduate program at The Crossing for the next nine months, surrounded
by his community: “I desperately don’t want to relapse, and I need accountability. I need godly people around me to solidify my sobriety as part of my normal life.”

Tim’s success is a result of the group effort of many people God placed in his life over the past six years.
It was his mother telling him to make things right, his friend pushing him back into the program, the chaplains giving him three chances to find sobriety, the men he walked alongside at the Farm, and donors like you who believe in the power of community!

(Posted in the Changing Lives Newsletter – April 2013)

Rachel’s Lens // Losers & Miracles

Written by, Rachel Greiman, Writer/Photographer

A few weeks ago, I was brought in on a super-secret project here at Denver Rescue Mission. We were having an all-staff meeting and our Senior Leadership team decided they wanted to have a little fun.

They asked a handful of employees to do on-camera interviews about why they love their job. What these participants didn’t know was that our group of senior leaders danced behind them the whole time.

I edited the video down to showcase only their best moves and we played it for the whole staff at our annual meeting. It was a hit! If you’re interested in seeing it, click here.

Though the video didn’t play the audio, the staff was truly speaking from the heart and said some incredible things about their work. Yesterday, I was looking through the videos for some good sound bites and came across Brad Rhoda, the Manager of Operations at Harvest Farm, saying something that blew me away. The man is a poet. I mean, maybe not really, but he probably should be. He was answering the question, “What makes you want to come to work?”

His quote: “I really believe that I work at a miracle – I participate in a miracle every day that I come here – because these are ‘losers.’ These are people that are worthless according to what the world has told them. And that’s a lie. I defy anybody to challenge me on that because all you have to do is look at what we’ve done here, together with ‘worthless’ people.”

I think about all the people I’ve met since working here: staff, program participants, volunteers, donors – not one could ever be considered worthless. Each group is a thread running through this great tapestry, forming a beautiful picture of community. Like Brad, seeing this community come to life at Denver Rescue Mission every day is truly watching a miracle take place. It’s a miracle to watch our participants fight life’s hardest battles and come out smiling.

Staff Spotlight: Dan Dilley

Danielle Charbonneau Public Relations Intern

Each staff member at Denver Rescue Mission has a special blend of ingredients that make them uniquely capable of serving our community – personal experience, passions, tribulations, God-given wisdom. In an effort to recognize each other more often, we have decided to start spotlighting a team member we think our supporters will love as much as we do. This month’s spotlight is on Dan Dilley, chaplain at The Crossing.


Dan Dilley was a bit out of his element when he first arrived in downtown Denver, coming from Blanca Colorado, a rural town outside Alamosa with a population of just over 400. First positioned as Volunteer Coordinator at the Lawrence Street Shelter, Dan was greeted by the downtown buzz of the infamous Triangle Park. His new job: a far cry from his former as a pastor at a small church.

While he said pastoring a small church “was a wonderful experience,” one that taught him to wear many hats, Dan was “stimulated to minister more.”

He found those ministering opportunities “by the truck load” at The Lawrence Street Shelter and was surprised that he really “enjoyed the energy of downtown.”  Moving put him closer to his family (2 kids and 6 grandkids) and being in the heart of the city was eye-opening.

“Going into the fire and the gunsmoke downtown was really good for me,” he said. “I was really able to learn some of the foundation of who the homeless are — where they come from. I was able to rub shoulders with them.”

Proximity, however, didn’t automatically equal discipleship: Dan said it was a process to work his way into the lives of those he encountered.

“Most of them wouldn’t give me the time of day,” he said. “I think they were asking, who is this guy and does he really care about us at all? There weren’t many opportunities to sit down in the Word at first. But these opportunities started to arise after I loved them and served them and made friends with them. I saw opportunities arise that would have never happened had I not done that first. That was a big lesson for me.”

Dan pursued the role of chaplain at The Crossing in 2012 where he got even more opportunities to disciple in a more consistent role.

“Now I’m really getting to do what God has stirred in my heart for years and years,” he said. “My favorite part is literally pastoring these guys, face to face, so that we can fellowship around the Word of God.”

Yet Dan admits the rule he learned at Lawrence Street still applies: One needs to truly embody the love of Jesus before they’ll be effective teaching the Word.

“I can beat you over the head with the Word of God as good as anyone can, but to just live our lives in front of people with a true compassion and a love of Christ…it goes so far to show that Jesus is real — that he’s not just some dead religion.” He said. “I have discovered that relationship evangelism is bigger than I ever knew it was.”

It’s that old adage: People don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care. Dan clearly tries to live by this principle. The Mission is lucky to have him. And Dan feels lucky to have the Mission.

“I’m thrilled to be a part of the Mission team,” said Dan. “I love the camaraderie of our team — a team where every person is as important and critical as the other – a team that loves the Lord and shares the love of Christ.”