They asked us to grab a token as we walked into the Holly Center. The token was made of wood and in the shape of a circle, about the size of a dollar coin. The one I got had the number 50 stamped with crimson ink in the center of it.
I would guess that nearly 200 people attended the opening of the Holly Center that day, most of them were employees of Denver Rescue Mission and others were city officials and our compassionate donors. The ceremony included speakers, Brad Meuli (President/CEO of Denver Rescue Mission) and Michael B. Hancock, to name a couple.
Toward the end of the event, Brad told us to look at the wooden piece we grabbed when we walked in. He said that each number on the token represented a bed at the Holly Center. My piece represented bed 50.
I remember walking over to the bed, bed 50. I sat down on it and rested my hands on the smooth mattress cover. I felt the urge to pray out loud. I can’t be sure what I said–I don’t remember. But I remember envisioning a man who was probably hurting—physically, from being outdoors in the weather on his feet all morning and afternoon. But also, maybe emotionally hurting too, from not having a family or friends to help provide for him. I prayed to God that whoever the man was that slept on bed 50 would experience restoration and a new life.
It must have been two or three days later when Kevin came to the clinic for an appointment (I’m the Clinic Supervisor at the Lawrence Street Shelter). Kevin is a conversationalist, so as he was waiting in our lobby he began chatting with me, telling me about his day and what was going on in his life. The first thing he spoke of was his experience at our new Holly Center. “It’s so big and nice,” he said. He went on and on about it. “The showers are so spacious. They have huge restrooms and storage during the day. I just can’t believe it!”
Just out of curiosity, I asked him what bed he was assigned to, and he said “bed 50.”
My eyes lit up; he must have been startled at how surprised I was at his response. I carried the wooden token with me in my pocket every day as a reminder of why we do what we do at the Mission. It’s not about us or me; it’s about people, helping people who are experiencing homelessness and poverty. I reached into my pocket and showed him the token with his bed number on it. I hugged him and told him I’d been praying for him.
I’ll never forget the smile he had on his face. But it really wasn’t me who put that smile on his face. Sure, it was a response to the words I said to him. But, it was our donors’ that built a shelter for Kevin, and men just like him. And more than that, it was the generosity of amazing people in this city that provided a life-changing experience for Kevin.
You see, what’s great about the Holly Center shelter is that it is located just one block away from The Crossing, where our New Life Program is held. When men stay at the Holly Center, they often interact with men in our program, and they begin to form relationships with staff members who are familiar with the program. It’s those connections that help inspire people to transition from emergency shelters, like Holly Center, to long-term rehabilitation programs like the New Life Program. And, in Kevin’s case, it’s working.
Kevin has transitioned from living in a shelter into our New Life Program, and he is on his way to finding affordable housing. His change didn’t start with my prayer, although I’m sure that helped. His change didn’t begin in the program. It started with our donors’ decision to give, to make a difference in the lives of people experiencing homelessness. I think Kevin said it best, “I don’t think I would have thought about joining the program and taking steps to further my life had it not been for the Holly Center.”