The Voice of La Puente Winter 2015

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The Voice of La Puente Winter 2015

the most humble gif n e v t, E e, will be


ov n in l e v i g

accep t ab le.


The Gift of the Poinsettia A poor Mexican child on her way to church on Christmas Eve wept because she had no gift to place on the church altar. Through her tears, an angel suddenly appeared and instructed her to gather weeds from the roadside. When the child arrived at the altar, the weeds burst into starry crimson blossoms, “Flores de Noche Buena,�

Flowers of the Holy Night

The Voice of La Puente is a quarterly publication that is meant to provide readers with a glimpse of the day-to-day life at La Puente Home. It is a way to share the goals, dreams, and accomplishments of our staff, guests, and clients. La Puente Home strives to provide support and resources to the residents of the Valley experiencing crisis. We could not accomplish what we do without your support and commitment. If you would like more information or would like to join our electronic mailing list, visit

La Puente endeavors to meet immediate needs and to empower people to live independently, with dignity. We provide emergency shelter, food assistance, homeless prevention, community outreach services, and job training for the homeless and other community members in crisis.

Created and Edited by Chelsea Gray With much appreciation to contributors 911 State Ave 719.589.5909 This material is based upon work supported by the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) under AmeriCorps Grant No.15AC175057. Opinions or points of view expressed in this document/website are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official position of, or a position that is endorsed by, CNCS or the AmeriCorps program.

Some names have been changed to protect individuals’ privacy.

Table of Contents “Christmas, my child, is love in action. Every time we love, every time we give, it’s Christmas.”

-Dale Evans

Letter from the Editor............................2 A Justice Blessing..................................3 Throw a Little Love Their Way................4 The Excitement of Purple Carrots...........6 The Donation that Keeps On Giving........8 Appreciating the Warmth.......................9 A Season For Giving.............................10 Feeding a Valley in Need......................12 PALS at Zapata Park............................13 Working with Tiny Superheroes...........14 Finding Zen in the Kitchen..................16 What Did You Learn?...........................17 Simply by Being Herself.......................18 Program Needs.....................................20 The Simple Joy of Being Santa.............22 A Nigerian Parable...............................23 This Season’s Unsung Heroes..............24 Want to Volunteer?..............................26 Ways to Give........................................27 Legacy Fund........................................28

Letter from the Editor By Chelsea Gray Volunteer Services & Communications

“Teach this triple truth to all: A generous heart, kind speech, and a life of service and compassion are the things which renew humanity.” -Buddha

Community is important. That’s something that I’ve known for a while, but it’s been especially on my mind since moving to Alamosa. I see this community as somewhat of an anomaly. I first came to La Puente in college, with a volunteer work group from Fordham University. Our entire group felt an instant, intense, and honestly strange connection to the San Luis Valley and the people in it. It left a very strong impression on me, most clearly illustrated by the fact that I decided to come back and serve for a year as a full-time volunteer. Since arriving this past August, I have been constantly surprised at how easy it is to feel welcome and at home here. People know about La Puente, they are eager to talk about the work that we do and bring up ways in which they can get involved. Community members want to contribute in some way to making Alamosa a better place to live for everyone, and that makes me so happy. I had a humbling experience very early on at La Puente. Every year we put on a series of events for HOPE (Homelessness Outreach, Prevention and Education) Week. I took the lead on organizing the Candlelight Vigil, a staple in the week of events, and I was full of anxiety about people showing up and participating. I reached out to just about every local church, school, and organization that might want to attend, even walking around the neighborhood putting small flyers into peoples’ mailboxes. When the evening arrived, I still had no idea if more than a few people were going to attend. To my surprise and delight, over 100 people came, children and adults, to listen and reflect about homelessness in our community. I feel that this illustrates something about the people of the Valley, that they are always willing to show up for one another, to listen and engage and work together. I’d like to see what the world would be like if people across the globe were as kind and selfless as the people I’ve met here. 2

A Justice Blessing May God bless you with discomfort with easy answers, half-truths, and superficial relationships... so that you will live deep within your heart. May God bless you with anger at injustice, oppression and exploitation of people... so that you will work for justice, equity and peace. May God bless you with tears to shed for those who suffer from pain, rejection, starvation and war... so that you will reach out your hand to comfort them and change their pain to joy. And may God bless you with the foolishness to think that you can make a difference in the world... so that you will do the things which others tell you cannot be done.


Amen. -Elaine Menardi


Throw A Little Love Their Way

By Bethany Howell Communications Director

“People make bad choices when they’re mad or scared or stressed, but throw a little love their way and you’ll bring out their best.” -“Fixer Upper” from Disney’s Frozen


I’m a mom to two younger children, so I’ll need some forgiveness for referencing an animated movie in conjunction with the serious issues of poverty. We listen to the Frozen soundtrack on almost every long car trip, and every single time I hear the trolls sing this verse, it’s a poignant reminder to me that our clients fit right into this philosophy. No one can be on their best behavior when they’re scared from losing their home, and struggling on a constant basis with the fear of eviction, the fear of not being able to feed or shelter their children, and not having support from friends or relatives. I’m not on the “front lines” of client services every day like most of my co-workers, but I do have the honor of speaking to churches and community members on a regular basis on behalf of La Puente. If I only have the chance to reiterate one thing, it’s that I know I’m not at my best when I’m stressed out, angry, or upset at my circumstances. I can lash out at the people I love the most and be a jerk to others when I’m having a hard time. Realizing that others are naturally having that reaction also can temper our inclination to withhold compassion.

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A family waits in line at our annual Outreach Backpack Drive.

Around this time of year, it’s also pretty natural to count our blessings. I think that’s a difficult place to get into when we know that the holidays are some of the hardest times that our clients experience. I recently had a little perspective change when I visited a church that hosted their charities, mostly local, and La Puente. Listening to the stories around the table after the service, I was struck by how very fortunate we are to be located in a rural area. This is a rare feeling for those of us in the Valley, especially compared with the amount of attention received by urban non-profits. But as my fellow non-profit workers shared their struggles of feeding those who utilize their community food pantries, I realized that at La Puente, we have been incredibly blessed with our community partners and the possibilities afforded by our location “out in the middle of nowhere.” Our grocery stores are often able and willing to donate fresh meat. Our local hunters and ranchers donate game or livestock to our shelter. We recently had an entire hog given to us which enabled us to make pork sausage among other things. In the summer and early fall, we have fresh produce from our community gardens and literally tons of squash, potatoes, carrots, spinach, and mushrooms donated on a weekly basis. We live in a community of caring beyond what urban areas often experience and that warms my heart as we head into this holiday season. 5

The Excitement of Purple Carrots


By Autumn Setzler VEGI Imagine a pot- the biggest pot you can think of. Imagine that inside the pot there is soup made from an assortment of vegetables and herbs of all sizes, shapes, and colors; cream-colored potatoes, deep purple beets, and bright green cilantro, to name a few. Imagine that this pot of vegetable soup is boiling over a fire, and that this fire is right next to the elementary school garden. Every fall for over a decade, community members have come together to celebrate the fall harvest of the elementary school garden with the students in Alamosa. This year was no different. Community members from the Police Department, the Public Library, local Students all contributed to the soup! farms, as well as various La Puente Programs came together to make Stone Soup happen. The day of Stone Soup, there were community members reading the story of Stone Soup in each classroom, others helping cook the soup, and others, still, working behind the scenes to make sure everything was running smoothly. “Ms. Autumn! Mr. Cody!” I heard this countless times that week. “Look! My carrot is purple!” the students would shout at me, holding their carrot about two inches from my face. “I’ve never seen a purple carrot!” 6

However, the best part of Stone Soup this year took place the week before the students listened to the story or tried the soup. The week before, each kindergarten through second grade class met Cody (VEGI’s interim director) and I in their school garden for a mini harvest lesson. We talked about what the word “harvest” means and then used the word in action- each student got to harvest their own carrot for the soup. Each student expressed the same surprised delight as they pulled out their carrots and found that they were many different colors- shade of purple, yellow, and orange. Their excitement was contagious. I found myself energized as the students expressed how excited they were to try their carrots in their soup the following week. When the day of Stone Soup finally came, between the frantic hours of running around making sure everything was running smoothly, I found time to sit down on the hay bales by the garden with the students as they were trying the soup. I asked them how they liked it, and what their favorite vegetable in the soup was, and I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised when they all replied, “Purple carrots!”

PALS Director Tim Dellett reads Stone Soup to a classroom

Students enjoy the soup they helped to prepare!

“The question of bread for myself is a material question, but the question of bread for my neighbor is a spiritual question.” -Nikolai Berdyaev 7

The Donation That Keeps On Giving l By Jaspar Abu-Jaber, Volunteer Coord. The San Luis Valley is not known for its trees. Yet a large number of the families living in the area rely on firewood to heat their homes in the winter, as temperatures dip below 0. La Puente’s Outreach Services provides emergency firewood to families when there is a gap in their supply of fuel. We generally rely on donations, which results in us having an unpredictable amount of wood to give away each year. I got to collect firewood up at Forbes Park, near La Veta Pass, with my coworker Chelsea four times over the fall. This was made possible by Bruce and Carol McElmuray. They are an incredibly kind retired couple, living in a house they built themselves with four giant German shepherds up in the woods. The area they live in is full of standing dead trees, largely beetle kill, and with more people moving to the park all the dead wood has become a fire safety concern. Bruce invited us to come up and help clear out trees from around his house and property. He and Carol have been industrious about clearing their land; everywhere you turn on their property you see stumps that show how crowded the forest used to be. We would head up in the morning, down a few trees and load them in the U-Haul, then break for lunch while the two would tell us about living in the mountains, the bear cubs that would come and watch them work, families of deer that would grow up in their backyard, and trying to protect their home from the threat of fire. Then we would get back to it, and pack the truck to the gills before lumbering back to town. We got to work in the snow a couple of times, getting a last few loads before the roads became too dangerous. We will give away over a dozen cords of wood this winter, the equivalent of about 1500 gallons of fuel oil. Thanks to Carol and Bruce’s help, our ability to keep families in the valley warm has been greatly expanded. They even donated a chainsaw to La Puente, greatly improving our ability to cut and split the firewood for those who need it. There are hundreds more trees on their property alone, and so it seems that we have two new friends to work with for years to come. 8

Appreciating the Warmth By Carrie Meeder Outreach Services


With the winter months approaching, thoughts of glowing fires, twinkle lights, aromatic delicacies, and family flood our minds. They are seemingly simple luxuries that many, including myself, have taken for granted. But for those on a fixed income, keeping the home warm and bright is a challenge during the colder months. In the winter energy expenses can skyrocket, which can be a challenge to afford. The San Luis Valley gets much colder than most of the state of Colorado and this exacerbates the vital need for warmth in the winter. Having access to power is very important, but an often overlooked necessity for those who have never gone without it. Winter’s harsh weather can be unrelenting for those in vulnerable situations. In line with the holiday spirit, I feel it has been a gift in itself to serve at Outreach. I have been able to work with all different people from all walks of life, providing something necessary and comforting. Before becoming close to these families, I did not see energy for what it truly amazingly is. It is life sustaining, light shedding and soothing. While we thoroughly enjoy our cookie baking, fire blazing and game viewings this holiday season, let us not be blind to the reality of those living without heat or light this winter. Enjoying the simple pleasure of warmth is something to be grateful and truly thankful for. Here are some tips for the upcoming frosty months! -Set your thermostat between 68-70 degrees -Run full dishwasher loads and let air dry -Unplug small appliances, turn lights off -Wash laundry in cold water -Set your refrigerator temp to 36-40 degrees

Community members load wood to haul to Alamosa. 9

A Season for Giving

The problems of poverty and its symptoms, homelessness and hunger, are not new to our times and certainly aren’t left out of the holiday season. Feeling discouraged or helpless to make a difference is one way to react. Another is to embrace this season totally. The Victorian Era ended over a century ago, yet mirrored modern times in that there was both extreme wealth and extreme poverty. The Victorians honored Christmas by recognizing that it was a time to celebrate family with gifts and festivities, but also that charity, hope, and good deeds were very much a part of the holiday season. Let’s take a lesson from history and celebrate Christmas with both joyous good cheer and heartfelt service.

Not only did the Victorians exchange gifts with their family and friends-they shared what they had with those less fortunate. Charity often took the form of delivering dinners or gift boxes to the poor on Christmas Day, or pledging money to help the needy. 10

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Good King Wenceslas 19th century Christmas carol

1. Good King Wenceslas look’d out, On the Feast of Stephen; When the snow lay round about, Deep, and crisp, and even: Brightly shone the moon that night, Though the frost was cruel, When a poor man came in sight, Gath’ring winter fuel. 5. In his master’s steps he trod, Where the snow lay dinted; Heat was in the very sod Which the Saint had printed. Therefore, Christian men, be sure, Wealth or rank possessing, Ye who now will bless the poor, Shall yourselves find blessing.

-John Mason Neale

cdcdcdcdcdcd Charity too was a major component of the middle-class Christmas. Newspapers printed Christmas appeals for donations for the poor, the sick, the elderly, and charities provided Christmas dinners for the poor. 11

Feeding a Valley In Need By Carly Olson, Development When the Alamosa Food Bank opens on Monday morning, Nick is usually the first smiling face we see. He can often be found sitting by the door reading a book up to an hour before the doors open. He is eager to be the first one in to select the fresh produce and breads that are stocked from local retailers each morning. Nick is pleasant to talk to, a pantry regular and always cheerful about the food he is able to take home with him. Recently, Nick came in to offer his services to us after learning that our freezers were in less-than-perfect condition. He is a retired heating and cooling technician and also one of our country’s respected veterans. He wanted to show us his appreciation for ourpantry and how much we have supported him during his tough time. After a few adjustments, our freezers were humming happily in the back room and Nick was on his way home with full shopping bags. La Puente’s Food Bank Network helps over 12,000 unduplicated individuals every year just like Nick.Whether it is an extended circumstance, or a rough patch Laura and due to an unforeseen emergency, we Virginia, long time provide citizens across the San Luis volunteers at our Valley the means to put food on their Food Bank in tables. It is important to us that we Center empower people to live independently with dignity. This means offering nutritious shelf-stable foods, fresh produce, and local donations of meat and dairy whenever we can. We offer low-sodium, whole grain and no sugar added items whenever possible to give our clients the options they deserve.

“No one has the right to sit down and feel hopeless. There’s too much work to do.” -Dorothy Day 12

PALS Sing in Zapata Park! “Christmas, children, is not a date. It is a state of mind.� -Mary Ellen Chase

c PALS provides a positive structure for kids, combating challenges and instability in their home lives, offering an exploratory learning environment and building trusting relationships.

In the fall, we told you about the over 260 community members who came together with Kaboom! to build a new playground at Zapata Park. You can see how much the children of Alamosa are benefiting from this amazing community effort! 13

Working with Tiny Superheroes By Shelly Tersolo PALS

“It takes strength to be gentle and kind.”

-Steven Patrick Morissey


I believe that trauma touches everyone’s life in some capacity, at some point in time. Trauma affects all of us. Having worked with the PALS Children’s Program for a few months, I’ve worked with children in the San Luis Valley facing incredible obstacles: homelessness, food insecurity, abuse, neglect, and histories of domestic violence. These are ordinary kids who come from all different backgrounds, who like to laugh and play and have hopes and dreams. But the common thread is their experience of trauma at a very young age. I love working for PALS because I believe it is a unique program that can provide the resources and support these kids need to address their experiences in a productive and healthy way. Almost every day, I am struck by the strength, resilience, and empathy of the children I work with. Recently, the PALS took a field trip down to Pike’s Stockade, over on the bank of the Conejos River. This was an exceptional field trip for us for a few reasons: first of all, we were short staffed that day and only able to go because a work group from Denver partnered with us for the day, and they had a healthy sense of adventure. Second, we had contacted History Colorado, who agreed to send out an interpreter to meet us on-site and walk us through the trails and tell us about the history and ecology of the area (for free). And finally, because of the kindness and good humor of one little boy and the strength and charity of one little girl. 14

You see, one of our PALS had an earache that day. It was a really bad one, which she was later hospitalized for, and she did not feel well enough to hike. Valerie waited on the bus in silent tears, comforted by one of our staff, as we set out on the first trail. We came back to the bus a while later for a water break, and when we set off again, a little girl named Erica carried Valerie on her back, so she could go with us (Valerie, by the way, is older and twice the size of Erica). Erica refused to let anyone else carry her, and trucked along with the rest of the children. Valerie was still in pain, but happy to be with the rest of the group. We stopped while our interpreter told us about a nearby mountain, Tierra del Ojito, as a little boy turned to Valerie and whispered to her, “Do you know why mountains don’t play hide and seek?” He paused, and I turned to overhear him exclaim, “Cause they always gotta peak!” Of course I asked him to repeat the joke so the rest of the group could hear, and everyone got a good laugh. But the joke was intended for Valerie, and was a gesture of Helping a work group during such quiet kindness that I’ll PALS Pride, where the never forget it. children learn about giving These days, I think of back to their community trauma as an opportunity. It may be unfortunate, but bad things happen. If we approach trauma with a sense of compassion, I believe we can become kinder, more generous, and more empathetic human beings. It is truly my honor to go to work every day with a bunch of tiny superheroes.


Finding Zen in the Kitchen

By Wendell Bliss Shelter/Food Bank

It’s been an interesting past three months at the homeless shelter. Slightly understaffed and heavily populated with guests here for the harvest season, La Puente has been a buzz of activity. As our new staff continues to learn new resources and ways to help our clients, one thing remains constant. As a kitchen, we serve lunch at noon and dinner at six. In all honesty there is an enormous chunk of time devoted to preparing meals. Enter Mark Guthrie. Let me start out by saying that Mark is amazing. As a retired military chef, he is not overwhelmed by numbers. He glides into the shelter nearly every day on his bike, comes inside and says hi, and gets to work. He is calm, thoughtful, and a master of rue and gravy. The shelter is often hectic, but the kitchen remains a Zen garden in Mark’s steady hands. In the last month Mark managed to put in over 100 hours volunteering with us. Working in the soup kitchen takes creativity. We strive to not only produce food but also to make the most of the donations that we are given. Reducing food waste is key, and Mark does a great job of incorporating dishes from previous days in new tasty combinations. The time that he dedicates to cooking meals in the shelter goes beyond putting food on the plates of our guests. Undertaking a meal to feed upwards of 60 people is a long, time consuming event that happens twice a day. Although enjoyable, it can easily take up the majority of your day. Having our community volunteers come in to cook allows our staff to focus on getting our clients medical insurance, jobs, and stable housing. Through my first 3 months working at La Puente I am consistently impressed by the amount of support we are always receiving from others. People like Mark make our job feasible and effective. If you’re ever in town please stop by for a meal; you will likely find Mark in the kitchen and hot food on the table. 16

Every work group that comes through our doors has the opportunity to provide us with feedback.


d e ask

What did your group learn from the service experience? a new perspective

to be more open minded we are all capable of helping others an awareness of worlds beyond our own a sensitivity to other peoples’ stories how to live my life as a better person compassion and empathy what it means to be a valuable volunteer in my community To learn more about volunteering, contact our Office of Volunteer Coordination at 719.587.3499 or click on “Get Involved” at 17

Simply by Being Herself By Elisabeth Tissell, Adelante “We have one more spot!” Rachel remarked suddenly as she talked with Amy, her new neighbor and a fellow young mother. Rachel understood firsthand Amy’s trouble of finding quality childcare. Working full-time at a local daycare, Rachel herself heavily relied upon her brother and mother to watch her two-year old girl. “I’ll bring you the application. It’s no problem, really,” Rachel insisted. And that is exactly what she did. With Rachel’s thoughtful help, Amy successfully applied for the last slot in Rachel’s preschool class. Before too long, Amy’s three-year old daughter Faith could not talk excitedly enough about Miss Rachel and her new friends at preschool. For Rachel, she gained an intelligent and friendly student in little Faith, as well as a new friend in her neighbor Amy.

dcdcdcdcdcdcd Shortly after entering the Adelante Program, Rachel impressed all of us with her kindness and thoughtfulness for us as staff and for all our families. Caring by nature, she has gone out of her way time and again to support others. I recall one night after our weekly Life Skills class, Rachel returned as we were locking up to see if Amy was still at the office. Rachel had spotted some free girls’ toys outside of Re-Threads, La Puente’s Community Clothing store, and thought Amy might want them. She had noticed when Amy moved into her new home that she had brought very little for her two girls, and Rachel wanted to help. Her small gesture touched all of us with its unassuming nature and genuineness. 18

As a parent, Rachel exudes a sense of calm and patience that other Adelante families have come to respect and admire. For her part, Rachel offers childcare advice as a preschool teacher and volunteers to help her neighbors whenever she sees a need. For example, one of her neighbors, Patricia, had been struggling with raising her curious one-year old daughter while being pregnant and attending school full-time. Rachel often arranged playdates for their daughters and gave Patricia moral support. Rachel even drove Patricia to the hospital when Patricia went into labor, and watched both their daughters during the delivery. At weekly Life Skills Classes, Adelante families have the opportunity to learn and grow together, as well as have fun!

It has never occurred to Rachel that she might be justified in not serving those around her so freely. Being a young single mother, starting a brand-new job, and working diligently on her goals with the Adelante Program, Rachel works tirelessly from sun-up to sun-down. One has to wonder where she finds the time to care for, much less serve, others. The beauty of her selfless spirit, however, refuses to be extinguished by the hardships she has faced or the challenges of her ambitions. Fostering community and supporting others are the very values that propel her forward as she builds a better future for her and her daughter. Rachel refuses to be defined by what has happened to her; rather, she chooses to love others no matter where she is or what she has. It is in this spirit that she will continue to foster community wherever she goes, simply by being herself. 19


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-Bicycles for family transportation -Permanent bike racks -Minor car repairs -Phone Cards (Straight Talk or PALS Verizon) -Sponsor a trip to see a -Gas vouchers to attend theater production work/school -sponsors for field trips -Life Skills speakers -Help with fuel costs -Toiletries for all genders and ages -All sizes of Diapers and Pull-Ups -Wal-Mart, Safeway, & City Market gift cards -Wal-Mart, Safeway, and City -Wooden Cubbies Market gift cards -Nursing Scrubs (all sizes) -Donations for Sensory Kits -Dish Soap Enterprises -Hand Sanitizer -Bathroom Tissue MILAGROS -New Children’s Underwear & -(2) Cambro Hot Boxes Socks -Table Linens -Children’s Hats & Gloves -Sturdy Cart -Snacks RAINBOW’S END ALAMOSA -U-Haul Truck Volunteer Services/ -XL Trash Bags Communications & -Rubber Bands Engagement -Lumber for Shelving -Crafting supplies -Quality Gloves -Event tent canopy RAINBOW’S END MONTE VISTA -DSLR Camera -Lumber for Shelving -Work gloves OVER THE RAINBOW APTS -Vehicle for full-time -Commercial Carpet Cleaner volunteers RETHREADS -Dish Soap “Do all you can for everyone -Laundry Detergent -Hygiene Items who deserves your help. -Men’s Clothing -Silverware & Dishware Don’t tell your neighbor to

come back tomorrow, if you can help today.”


-Proverbs 3:27,28

Needs List dcd Admin Office -(6) Plastic Anti-Static Floor Mats -Pocket File Folders -Donated Repair service for our Fax machine -Volunteer Groups for our Seasonal Mass Mailings


Food Bank Network -Plastic quart size bags -Canned protein -Baking needs -Kid-friendly food -Gas cards for food pick ups -Dry erase markers -Permanent markers -Interior informational signs

-Small metal chairs and tables for back yard VEGI -Coffee -Dairy Products -Organic soil/compost -Cooking Oil -Wood chips -Diapers sizes 3-6 -Shovels -Razors -Wheelbarrows -Tampons -Floating row cover/Agribon -Men’s and Women’s -Metal hoops for row covers socks -Volunteers -Work gloves -Cans of fruit & veggies -Ground beef -Drink mixes -Firewood Outreach Services -Gas cards -Donated Firewood -Rolling office chair -Paper Towels -Pasta -Bathroom Tissue -Rice -Safeway Gas Cards -Sugar -Labor to collect free firewood -Travel size shampoo -Wal-Mart & Safeway Gift Cards -Underwear -Labor to block and split firewood -Men’s gloves -Anything & Everything Christmas -Blankets


The Simple Joy of Being Santa


By Tona Ruybal, Shelter Director This is a story of a “grouchy old man” named Larry. Larry stayed at the shelter a couple of years ago, and as I have alluded, he was not the most pleasant guy to be around. There were reasons for his grouchiness: on top of being homeless, a recent medical diagnosis that was a bit grim with the attendant difficulty of navigating the medical care system, and just the stress of not knowing what his next steps were. But, just as we do with all guests, we welcomed grouchy Larry into the fold. It is a long standing tradition that the Shelter staff gets to choose the “Elf” that will play the part of Santa at our annual Christmas bash. I was quite a surprised when my volunteers suggested that Larry would be perfect for the part. It was a unanimous decision, so I could not say Larry as Santa no, although I had my doubts about it working out. I approached Larry and asked him if he would be interested, fully expecting him to decline. He was VERY excited and quickly accepted. The day of the Christmas party was soon upon us and as everyone was doing their part to make it a success, I slipped upstairs to see how old Saint Nick was doing. He had his Santa suit on and was joyfully practicing his “Ho Ho Ho’s.” He was so pleasant and excited for this day. As he made his grand entrance and began to do what Santa does, the children loved him! He sat each child on his lap, listened carefully, and gave them good advice on how to continue to be on the “nice list.” Lastly, he presented each with a gift. After the Christmas party, Larry was a new man. He was pleasant and happy and could not stop talking about what a great experience he had had playing Santa. In time, Larry’s medical condition stabilized and he was able to move out of the shelter and into an apartment. From time to time he returns to the shelter to see us, and he has asked each year since if he could be Santa again. My staff saw something in Larry that I was unable to see, and in giving him a chance to be Santa, they transformed his outlook and all of us were changed for the better! 22

A Nigerian Parable One holiday season, a Nigerian tribal chief sent out his messengers to invite distinguished members of the tribe to a great feast. “All of the food will be provided,” they announced, “but each household must bring one jug of palm wine.” Ezra and his wife wanted to attend the great festival very much, but they had no wine. Ezra paced the floor trying to think of a solution to his dilemma. Finally his wife suggested, “We could buy a jug of wine. It is not too expensive for such a great occasion.” “How foolish,” Ezra cried, “to spend money when there is a way to go free.” Once again he paced until he came upon a plan. “Rather than wine I will carry water in our jug. With so many people attending the festival, what will it hurt to add one jug of water to a great pot of wine?” On the day of the feast the tribal drums began to beat early in the morning, reminding people of the great festival. The attendees came dressed in their finest clothes, gathering by midmorning at the home of the chief. As each guest entered the tribal grounds, they poured their jug of wine into a large earthen pot. Ezra carefully poured the contents of his container into the pot, greeted the chief, and joined the dancers. When all of the guests arrived, the chief commanded the music to cease and ordered the servants to fill everyone’s glass with wine. As the chief spoke the opening words of the festival, all of the guests raised their glasses and drank. Suddenly a cry of disbelief rose from the crowd, and they quickly drank again. What they tasted was not wine, but water. Each guest had decided that their one jug of water could not spoil the great pot of palm wine. Adapted from William White, “Stories for Telling”

Often, people think that a small contribution will make no difference, at La Puente we know that every bit counts. 23

This Season’s Unsung Heroes

Alfonso and his wife arrived at the shelter for a fresh start. They were both young, unusually ambitious, By Lance Cheslock super-smart, and ready to begin a Executive Director new life. Upon arrival, they were quiet and guarded, but after a few days they opened up, and their lively spirits and helpfulness around the shelter endeared them to everyone. Alfonso’s wife quickly found not one, but two jobs. We teased him that he had a “sugar momma,” and he laughed, vowing to have a job within a week. And he did. They were soon both working but that never stopped Alfonso from volunteering for chores-sometimes several times a day on top of his already assigned morning chore. He always did his chores willingly and with a smile. Alfonso always met up with his wife after her work shift to walk her back “home” to the shelter. On one of those occasions a man approached them and started harassing them. A fight ensued, and Alfonso was cut on the arm. He was taken to the hospital where his cut was cleaned, but the next day his elbow had swollen to the size of a baseball. In the emergency room the doctor found that a piece of the blade he had been stabbed with had broken off and lodged in his elbow. He had to have surgery immediately. After surgery he could not return to work for several days, but Alfonso did not let that slow him down. He spent every free minute helping out with chores at the shelter, one arm in a sling. As his condition improved, he returned to his job. Soon, Alfonso and his wife moved out of the shelter and found their own apartment. That could be where the story ends. But Alfonso returns to the Shelter daily--sometimes two or three times— doing chores and helping out. He is the perfect example of someone who is appreciative of the second chance La Puente has given him. Alfonso, you are an unsung hero for all of us! Thank you for your inspiring diligence, attitude, and generosity. Throughout the Valley, there are hundreds of homes whose only source of heat is firewood. When such a household hits hard times, a donated cord of firewood can make all the difference. Carl, a tree trimmer, lives three 24

hours away, and wanted to do something to help those we serve. On an earlier visit, Carl offered, “I’ll cut down anyone’s dead tree for free, providing they will donate all the firewood proceeds to the needs of LaPuente!” After a couple of offers came forward, he was down the next day. Carl brought his truck, saws, ropes, and a shining energetic spirit to get going. Staying with my family, Carl brought home-made jam, gifts and lots of fun stories to bless our lives. The next morning, working with a couple of shelter guests, he completed two big jobs, netting us several cords of wood. Carolyn was one of the people who had her tree cut down, a tree which had stood precariously near electrical wires and a building. She called afterwards with excitement and relief for the big project Carl had completed. “What an angel!” she exclaimed. I agreed. Carl is truly an angel who warmed our hearts with his spirit, and whose hard work will warm homes throughout the winter. Christmas Eve and Christmas morning are a time to be cozy in your home with your family, enjoying great food, and seeing what Santa left under the tree and in your stocking. But what if you are homeless? For those staying at La Puente Shelter we hope for much the same. When it works out, on Christmas Eve, the shelter’s “Elves” work hard to gift wrap the perfect gifts that we have picked out especially for each of our shelter guests. They are asked to give us a wish list and each guest receives pajamas and slippers to wear on Christmas morning. They wake on Christmas morning to full stockings, a festive meal prepared by volunteers, and presents under the tree. There is hot apple cider, fresh coffee, Christmas music and plenty of Christmas cheer to go around. It is a day of celebration, eating good food, keeping warm, enjoying each other’s gifts and a chance for those without a home to feel just as comfortable as if they were in their own living room. These special celebrations are the result of the generosity of a host of people like you, who have given of their time, creativity, money and love to bless those who are struggling. They are among our most treasured unsung heroes. Will you be one of the heroes who steps forward this year? The one thing we know for sure is that the gifts you receive will always be greater than those you give. Will you join us? 25

Want to Volunteer?

There are many volunteer opportunities at La Puente for individuals or groups looking to give back! Much of what La Puente does would not be possible without the support, love, and commitment of our volunteers. Get involved today!

Work Group Service

Work groups come from all over the country to help La Puente complete projects and effectively serve our clients. -Chop wood for Outreach Services -Prepare meals at the Shelter Community Volunteers -Glean produce for We utilize volunteers of all ages the Food Bank and abilities for one-time, weekly, -Be a PALS Big Buddy or monthly intervals at for the day many of our programs. -Create hygiene kits for the Shelter -Lead Life Skill classes for Adelante -Work at the front desk at Outreach -Read to or lead a craft for the PALS


Full-Time Volunteers

During a year of service, Full-Time Volunteers and AmeriCorps Members obtain firsthand experience serving at one of our programs.

cdcd To learn more about volunteering, contact our Office of Volunteer Coordination at 719.587.3499 or click on “Get Involved� at 26

We Need Your Support!

Financial support is crucial for our efforts to address homelessness and hunger throughout the Valley. La Puente depends on individuals, churches, & businesses for much of our support. We are proud that 85% of our funding is non-governmental and 93% of every dollar goes to direct services! (2013 990).

Let Generosity Reduce Your Taxes

All donations are tax deductable. Cash donations of $100 or more are eligible for one of two Colorado tax credits: 1. The 25% “Enterprise Zone” (EZ) tax credit that supports all our programs. 2. The 50% “Colorado Childcare Tax Credit” (CCTC) that supports our PALS Children’s Program. Tax credits are direct payments towards the taxes you owe, whether or not you use deductions. For example, with a $1,000 donation you can: 1. Deduct $1,000 off both your State and Federal Taxes 2. Receive a credit worth $250 (EZ) or $500 (CCTC) towards your Colorado Taxes. 1. Donate $100 or more. 2. Make the donation payable to: - “The Enterprise Zone” for a 25% tax credit - “PALS Program” for a 50% tax credit 3. Mail us your gift. 4. We’ll send you a certificate of tax credit.* *Credits are only It can be used like a check available to Colorado payable to Colorado’s Dept of State taxpayers Revenue.

Here’s How:

Unique Gift Opportunities

Donate Land! You get the tax deduction and Colorado Realty will donate their services to sell it. The proceeds will help us serve more people! Donate a Vehicle! All of our programs rely on vehicle donations. Donate your car or truck and earn a tax deduction for the market value of the vehicle. La Puente handles the title transfer! Contact 719.589.5909 or email 27

The Legacy Fund is an endowment account, managed separately from other donations, that holds and invests its principle value and contributes only the earnings for the needs of La Puente’s work with the hungry and homeless. Legacy investment proceeds will help La Puente serve our community each year into future generations. Please consider giving to the Legacy Fund on behalf of yourself or a loved one. A gift card acknowledgement will be sent to the family you are honoring with your remembrance gift. For Colorado taxpayers, gifts of $100 or more are also eligible for the 25% Enterprise Zone tax credit.

Consider These Options as You Plan: -Bequests -Charitable Gift Annuities -Appreciated Stock -Charitable Remainder Trusts -Beneficiary Designations -Memorial and Honorary Gifts

Attention Federal Employees!

Last year, La Puente received thousands of dollars in generous support from our friends employed by the local U.S. Postal Service, military armed forces, Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, National Parks Service and other government agencies here in Colorado. Monthly donations are made through La Puente CFC Giving Code: 69410 federal employee pay La Puente Home Incorporated cycles and contributed significantly towards La Puente’s ability to meet the Valley’s needs. Giving is easy and we urge you to consider choosing La Puente as a recipient of your monthly and annual support through the CFC. Visit or work with your employer to choose La Puente as your charity recipient through your online payroll system and giving form. Your gift is always tax-deductible. To learn more contact our Development Department at 719.589.5909 or email 28

Charge to the People Go out into the world in peace; have courage; hold on to what is good; return no one evil for evil; strengthen the fainthearted; support the weak, and help the suffering; honor all people; Love and serve!

Change service requested

Alamosa, CO 81101 719.589.5909

La Puente P.O. Box 1235

Nonprofit Organization U.S. Postage Paid Alamosa, CO 81101 Permit No. 27

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