Stories are light .
Light is precious in a world so dark .
The Voice of La Puente Winter 2014
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 www.lapuente.net.
La Puente endeavors to meet immediate needs and empower people to live independently, with dignity. We provide emergency shelter, food assistance, transitional housing, self-sufficiency services, homeless prevention, community outreach services, and job training for the homeless and other communities.
www.lapuente.net 911 State Ave 719.587.3499 Like us on Facebook!
Created and Edited by Nicole Fogarty Some names have been changed to protect individualsâ€™ privacy. Quote on front cover attributed to Kate DiCamillo
Table of Contents
Letter from the Editor.......................2 Mattresses, Loaves, and Fishes.........3 Holiday Prayer..................................6 Giving Hope When You Have Nothing.............................7 The Reason for the Gleaning Season...............................8 Working Together.............................10 A Difficult Goodbye.......................... 11 Photos of Christmas Past................. 12 What Happens Next?........................14 The Joy in What We Do.................... 16 Redefining Help................................17 Never Give Up.................................. 18 A Recipe for Success........................ 19 A Powerful Comment........................20 What Did You Learn?....................... 21 Profound Stories.............................. 22 Program Needs.................................24 Counting Our Blessings................... 26 Want to Volunteer?.......................... 27 Ways to Give................................... 28
Nicole Fogarty, Community Education
Letter from the Editor
The holiday season usually comes with a push for generosity and selflessness. In my native New York, for instance, people dressed in Santa outfits are stationed at every street corner, ringing their bells and imploring passersby to have some compassion and give to the needy. Giving is a wonderful word and an even more wonderful action- it replaces concern for the self for concern with others, and is truly a part of life's greatest work. What does it mean, though, to give? Surely it is not limited to giving money- while that is an incredible way to give, I wonder about the broader definition of the term. Individuals can give many things: money, clothing, toys, time, prayers, the list goes on. Sharing stories, too, is a form of giving. Stories can help to make their readers aware of issues and narratives that reach far beyond their own. It is a great service to tell a story, and perhaps an even greater service to truly listen to a story when it is told. Spreading awareness through storytelling, or even just talking about important issues, is a valuable gift. For instance, before I was exposed to their prevalence in my communities, I floated through the world relatively unbothered by issues like poverty, homelessness, hunger, and environmental justice. As soon as someone, something, or some experience made me aware of their existence, though, I was suddenly given the very basic tools I needed to begin to fight these injustices. Stories like the ones found in this publication are tools just like the ones I was given- tools to expose people to issues they may not be familiar with or may not be aware of. I encourage all of us to open our hearts to these stories, and to bring the awareness they offer to others so that others may turn and do the same, and we can truly give the gifts that matter this holiday season. â€œMy idea of Christmas, whether old-fashioned or modern, is very simple: loving others. Come to think of it, why do we have to wait for Christmas to do that?â€? - Bob Hope
Mattresses, Loaves, and Fishes
Lance Cheslock, Executive Director Late fall is the time of year that is most emotionally challenging for me. The needs of those we serve are at their greatest, yet our community has become weary of the constant drumbeat of requests for help. On November 1st, the “odometer” of the number of people we served surpassed 14,000. That, with dwindling donations, gave me an ache in my heart and a sense of desperation as to what to do. The following Monday, volunteer Pearl and I were working the office alone. While trying to get focused, I heard a bang on the door. Folks that know us usually walk right in, so I set my work aside to go see who was there. I greeted an older retired couple, small in stature, and invited them in. They had a very quiet demeanor and briefly explained that they had been evicted by family, had found a tiny apartment, and were hoping we had an old mattress to give them. We get about 80 – 100 mattresses donated annually, but give them away pretty quickly. I sent the couple with Pearl to see if we had anything left in our storage shed, and I returned to my work. Less than a minute later, there was another bang on the door. At first I thought it was the couple, but when I went to the door, I saw a tall man in a hunter’s jacket standing there, another unfamiliar face. I stepped out on the porch to say hello, and noticed Pearl and the One of the generous mattress couple returning donations that comes empty handed. through our doors. After exchanging greetings, the fellow explained that he
was double parked with his truck, and was just wondering if we “could ever use a mattress and bed frame.” “Really?!?” I was thinking. I smiled heartily, and told him I wanted to make an introduction. We walked to meet the couple in the alley, and everyone delighted in the coincidence. The gentleman needed no explanation in seeing that the couple could not possibly transport the bed and offered to follow them with his loaded truck to their new home and assist them. I truly needed a boost on that day, and it arrived in pure form, in an unexpected moment. The couple’s need was met by the compassion and generosity of a community member. All the details were worked out, from the timing, the transportation, and the mattress, which was queen size, just perfect for them! My job was just going to the door, turning the handle, and opening it up to the miracle of giving. On that morning, I was carrying a heavy weight of responsibility for finding a way to meet the enormous, growing need addressed by La Puente. In my place of being overwhelmed, I had overlooked the random guys in pick-up trucks, work groups, volunteers, business partners, our family of donors, and the wide shoulders of those who do what they can. Help does arrive, though sometimes unnervingly in just the nick of time. On the days where we have no idea what to do, occasionally it comes down to just stepping back and beholding the compassion and generosity of a stranger. I guess I would call this witnessing grace! Sometimes I feel like I’m living my life in the middle of the parable of the loaves and fishes. The parable tells of thousands of clamoring individuals who have come to a remote area to hear Jesus speak. There was an awareness of a growing hunger and restlessness among the crowd as the time of day moved forward. No plans had been made to accommodate their hunger needs. The parable tells how everyone was miraculously fed. “If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.” - The Dalai Lama
My interpretation of the miracle is not that some sort of magic trick was performed that just created food, but rather that the hearts of a people, one by one, were inspired to
share of what they had tucked away. Soon a chain reaction of generosity ensued, where people were sharing with strangers around them, giving from their need, without a worry of going hungry themselves. Compassion came face to face with need. In times like this I love being at La Puente. I get to stand in the front row and witness as heartfelt need meets compassion and generosity. I continually relearn that every small act of kindness builds our faith, helps our families, and strengthens our spirit of community. Thank you, Mattress Guy! May you and EVERYONE have a holiday season filled with the blessings of faith, family and community!
Guests and community members enjoy a Thanksgiving Meal at the Shelter.
As I am writing this, the Food Bank Network has committed to provide Thanksgiving baskets for 550 impoverished families, a fraction of the need. To maximize savings, we’ve ordered everything in bulk and in advance, and are simply trusting that the resources will arrive in time to pay the bill. I admit that this is not a “strategic” business plan of any sort! Yet, the day that followed our commitment to these families, I received a call from Joey’s Diesel Repair. Without knowing of our efforts, the owner asked me what he and his mechanics could do for Thanksgiving. At the end of the call, he said “You can put me and my guys down for 50 families.” I set down the phone, and smiled. The miracle of the loaves and fishes was at it again. I was once again filled with faith and for the days to come.
q O z
At this time of season, please open our hearts.
May we learn to be givers, not takers, for only then can we feel blessed. Make us instruments of your peace, that peace might f i ll our world. May your abundant mercy touch our lives. May our hearts so give and so receive as to expand to touch the stars. May we learn to live with love, that we might know of heavenly bliss while still here on earth. May the miracles of what the season means be miracles in our hearts.
Stephanie Card, Volunteer Coordination/ Community Education
Giving Hope When You Have Nothing
As a new member serving with La Puente, it didn’t take me long to notice the strong sense of community that comes with working here. We have so much to offer as an organization, and our most common compliment often relates to the impact we have on the San Luis Valley. However, we are often most touched by the clients we serve far more than the services we provide. One of my first tasks in the Community Education office was to prepare for the Candlelight Vigil, an event held during HOPE Week each year. The Vigil is a time to reflect on those who have or are currently experiencing homelessness, which is made possible by the people who offer to share their stories of homelessness. About a week before the Vigil I still hadn’t found anyone who was willing to speak, until I met Anthony. Anthony was a shelter guest who was graciously willing to share his story. When I initially met with him, we talked about his story and what he could focus on when telling it. Anthony had traveled all the way from Chicago, moving from place to place, until he finally ended up here in Alamosa. He explained how difficult it was for him to come by resources like those offered by La Puente, and most of the time he didn’t know that any were available. If it wasn’t for the people who showed him kindness or the thought of his son, he probably would have never made it this far. Anthony also told me that he had found a place to live and was supposed to move before the Candlelight Vigil. But that didn’t matter. Anthony was so dedicated to speaking in the Candlelight Vigil that he actually extended his stay at the shelter. He came to the Vigil, shared his story, and even though his disease makes it difficult to get around, he walked the entire route which was just short of a mile. Anthony showed so much “Hope is being able kindness and commitment, and I to see that there is cannot thank him enough for his light despite all of dedication to the Vigil. It just goes the darkness.” to show, that even when you have nothing, you can give everything. - Desmond Tutu
G K c
The Reason for the Gleaning Season
Rachel Woolworth, Food Bank Network of the San Luis Valley
In early September, I hit the gleaning jackpot. While searching for farm partners, I happened to call Galen Harrison, a potato farmer in Center, to inquire about gleaning his fields. Harrison explained that his farm was hit with a hail storm in July; he consequently filed an insurance claim on two of his fields. Since the insurance money came through, he couldnâ€™t sell any of the crop that ended up coming in nicely, so he invited us to harvest it. Over the following two weekends, with fifty volunteers we were able to collect roughly 5,000 pounds of Harrisonâ€™s potatoes from the fields in just a few hours. These 5,000 pounds made up more than half of the 9,600 pounds of carrots and potatoes gleaned throughout the season, helping the Food Bank Network keep up with seemingly insatiable demand. On my first morning at the farm, Mr. Harrison and I got to talking and realized he essentially donated the volunteer house I now call home. As we continued to chat throughout the day, Mr. Harrison taught me an incredible amount about agriculture in the Valley and was conversely able to hear about my love for the volunteer house and the ins and outs of our purpose at the Food Bank Network. Volunteers also got to discuss agriculture with the father and son, kids got to see a harvester machine in action, and both were able to A young gleaning volunteer understand the scale of what shows off his harvest. often goes to waste on farms 8
Before these gleaning outings I also led a discussion on hunger in the United States, food waste, and how our food pantry system works. This led to fruitful discussion about such issues in the fields and inspired one church group to lead a similar discussion at their church later in the month. The interest and dedication of these volunteers to not only come glean, but to take what they learned and share it with others, creates an ongoing impact across the state that surpasses any conventional measurement. My experience gleaning at the Harrison Farm truly showed me how gleaning can strengthen our agricultural community and local food system. Though the United Statesâ€™ modern food system distances people from their food and their farmers, gleaning reconnects the dots. And it does so in the most powerful way of ways -- through a return to agrarian roots: sun beating down, hands in the dirt, and the endless San Luis Valley sky above.
This harvest season, the Gleaning Project collected 9,600 lbs of carrots and potatoes with the help of 6 different farms and 117 volunteers.
Volunteers collect carrots in a field outside Alamosa.
â€œThis is what we are about. We plant the seeds that one day will grow. We water the seeds already planted, knowing that they hold future promise. - Oscar Romero
John Reesor, Outreach Services
One day Amanda, a mother of three young children, came into our office to seek assistence. Jake, Amanda’s husband, works seasonally during potato harvest and thus does not have a stable income to sustain his family throughout the year, a situation many of our clients experience. Amanda and her family left their home in March when their electricity was shut off. Since then, they have been living on the couches of family members’ homes. The amount on Amanda’s bill was far too high for us to be able to help with- grants stipulate that we may not help individuals with a bill over $1000. I had to tell Amanda that we would be unable to help her with the bill unless she was able to pay down her bill. Several days later I received a call from Amanda’s case manager from another non-profit in Alamosa. She informed me that their agency would be able to help with a portion of the bill, but still not the necessary amount. I spoke with Amanda and informed her that she’d need to pay a portion of it herself, something that was going to be very difficult given her financial situation. A week later Amanda informed me she had come up with a payment, and the bill was now under $1000! I called her utility company and make a commitment to pay the remaining amount, and her electricity was reconnected. This was a special story because we were able to help bring Amanda and her family out of homelessness and back into stable housing. When I talked on the phone with Amanda several weeks later, her spirits seemed high. After thanking me for all Outreach had done, she said something that really struck me: "You wouldn't believe how my kids' behavior has changed since we moved home," she revealed. With the children back in a stable environment, they were much more relaxed and well-behaved. It is truly a success story when we are able to work together with a family and different organizations in the community to help move the family out of a crisis situation and back into a stable home life. It is outcomes like this one that encourage and motivate me to continue serving the people of the Valley as best I can. 10
A Diff icult Goodbye
Paige Rutkowski, PALS
A few weeks ago the PALS program had to say goodbye to two very special young people. This brother and sister duo brightened my day as well as the days of the other PALS staff members every time we saw them. It is hard to fathom how such personality, energy and love could be packed into such small bodies. The kids were placed in foster care after reports were made of the children being abused at home. Both of the children had experienced a great deal of trauma in their lives, and PALS became a safe haven for self-expression and learning for them. Their faces lit up every time they saw a PALS staff member. Both of them had a presence that would light up the room. Despite everything they had been through, they maintained positive attitudes, which served as an inspiration to myself and the rest of the staff. The children were sent to Mexico to live with their biological father whom they had never met. I cannot imagine having to leave everything familiar at such a young age. I cannot fathom the struggle of having to go to a strange place with a new language to meet a man who they are expected to call father. I was scared for both of them. I was overwhelmed by this crippling fear. After an evening of feeling angry and fearful at this situation I realized that my fear did these children absolutely no good. All I could do was know that I did what I could for them when they were in the program. Now it was my turn to be supportive and optimistic, for their sakes. Saying goodbye was one of the hardest days at PALS I have ever experienced. The Department of Human Services threw them a going away party with balloons and ice cream; the impact of these two children could be felt throughout the community. At circle time in PALS that afternoon, all of the children went around the circle and shared what they wished for the two children. Most of the kids wished that they would not have to leave. There were many tears shed that day; most were tears of sadness but some of joy. Joy in the hopes that the kids will have a new start. A hope that they will find happiness and stability in Mexico like they have never experienced before. 11
of s s eâ€™ st o t nt Pa o Ph Pue as La stm i r Ch
A young community member has a moment with Santa.
The best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear!
Santa makes a trip to Rainbowâ€™s End.
Two former volunteers get in the holiday spirit.
Santa arrives at the annual Outreach Services Community Christmas Party in 2005
A Mr. & Mrs. Claus greet a young guest.
B "I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach!â€?
- Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol
What Happens Next?
By Mary Ellen Huss, Alamosa Food Bank Director
One day, about an hour and a half after the Food Bank opened, a gentleman came in and explained he wanted to use his points. Because of a new grant, we had to ask him how much income his household brought in and he explained $1,100 a month. After having him sign some paperwork, he was off and shopping. Throughout the entire seven minutes he was shopping, you could tell it was for his family - his girlfriend and young three year old son. He checked our “2-for-1 area” - a place where we can put granola bars and smaller food stuffs - and grabbed a ton of single serve cereal containers. He continued, excited about flour, tomato product, canned fruit, and raisins that we had in stock because of a community food drive. As he unloaded his food for our AmeriCorps member to help him check out, every single thing he said echoed his dedication to his family. He explained his son had a newfound taste for cereal and couldn’t get enough of it and he was thrilled we had them. He got three dozen brown eggs as opposed to the white ones that were in dozen packs and more preferable and familiar for some clients. He said, “We can have eggs and potatoes for breakfast! No problem.” He picked out yogurt as a fridge item - again - because his son loved it. His meat choice was a pot roast with vegetables that we had gotten from a donation at Walmart because, as he said, “That’s a meal right there! Two, actually, with leftovers!” After he was finished, he took his box outside to his mother-in-law who was driving him and then came back with the yogurt and asked if he could trade it. His mother-in-law had just purchased some for her grandbaby and the father decided to get coffee creamer - a true luxury. With fair market rent being $639 for a two-bedroom in Alamosa County, over half of his income would go to just paying rent - utilities and heating of course adding even more. Oftentimes, individuals who walk through our doors are not looking for handouts- they’re looking for the tools to help “Hunger is not a problem. It is an obscenity. How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.”
- Anne Frank
improve their situations, or they’re just looking for a little help here and there. It’s clear this gentleman wants the best for his small family and utilizes the Food Bank to try to put some of those pieces together. It is an incredibly soul-filling honor to be able to provide people with the tools they need to put those pieces together. Over the past few years, though, there has been a shift in thinking. What happens after that bag of salad we gave out is gone? What happens after that loaf of sliced bread is finished? When we had to cut the amount of times clients could come through our doors in 2011 due to an increase in clients and stagnancy in funding to purchase food for them, we had to come to terms that the food we provide is wonderful but what happens next? Those questions, combined with an opportunity to dream a little and apply for a grant with the Walmart Foundation, allowed us to be able to start addressing some actions and sustainability with food access. With funding from the Walmart Foundation in 2013, we started to explore a container gardening program. Container gardening is perfect for those living in apartments, mobile homes, or for families who don’t have consistent access to land beyond a sunny windowsill. Many nutritious plants – such as tomatoes and greens – are even suited to growing within a container. John Whalen, an AmeriCorps member last year, took this project under his wing this past summer. Using containers from the shelter that would’ve otherwise ended up in the recycling center, we cut predicted costs. A partnership with the city allowed us to be able to build a structure with money saved to act as a mini greenhouse to provide an even better opportunity for our clients for successful growing. Over 250 containers were given out within a short window of time! With our clients, we hope to encourage people to grow even a little bit of their own food, regardless of access to land. By providing food to meet immediate needs as well as a container, soil and seeds, we hope the process is contagious and they want to grow more - continuing to put all of the pieces together to become more self-sustaining and optimistic in making positive choices about their food, their health, and their way of living.
Karleen Pepper, Store Manager Rainbow’s End Monte Vista
The Joy in What We Do
One day, a mother and daughter came into the store. Their mother/grandmother had recently passed away, and they were looking to donate her belongings to Rainbow’s End. It seemed as though there was a slight disconnect between the two- the daughter appeared to be quite attached to her grandmother’s things, and the mother was eager to complete the task and donate the items for us to sell. We were grateful for their generosity, but I could tell that this was upsetting to the daughter. She made it clear that she had wanted to try to salvage some of her grandmother’s embroidered linens in particular, but her mother was intent on donating them. After they left, we set the items they donated aside. Many of the employees were anxious to go through the bags and determine what to sell and where to put it, as we get quite a lot of donations and like to organize them as soon as we get them. I thought about the daughter, and how anxious she seemed about giving away some of her grandmother’s memories, and decided to ask everyone to wait to go through the bags. The daughter seemed to have an intense emotional attachment to these items, and I had a feeling she would be back for them at some point soon. Several days later, my feeling proved correct. She returned to the store, and I immediately recognized her. We showed her where we had set her items, and gave her free reign to look through them and take whatever was important to her, free of charge. Her face broke into a smile, and she began to look through the pile. She was able to find a few bags of items she wished to keep. As she left the store, memories in hand, she paused for a moment to thank us. She then surprised us all by writing a check for a $100.00 donation to our cause. We, in turn, thanked her just as much as she thanked us, reminded of the joy in what we do.
Karleen truly embraces the joy in what she does.
Lindsay Toman, Shelter/Outreach Services
Redef ining Help
Working at the shelter offers us the opportunity to meet interesting people from various backgrounds. Whether they have just moved here and are looking to start a new life or just lost their job in Alamosa, they all have one thing in common: they need our help. "Help" at the shelter comes in many different forms. One of the services we provide at the shelter is case management. Each guest is paired up with an AmeriCorps member to meet with regularly and come up with plans for obtaining employment, a stable housing situation, or scheduling doctor's appointments if needed. I have always really enjoyed this part of my position because it allows me to understand the people we are serving; it is the whole reason I joined AmeriCorps. Brian had checked into the shelter knowing he would be under strict supervision, because he had stayed before and was uncooperative. I remember being a little nervous that he was a guest because of what I had heard about his previous stay here. He talked to himself often and did not seem to be recognizing the same reality as me. Nevertheless, a few days later I decided to take on his case. After speaking with Brian, I found out that he is bipolar, schizophrenic, and manic depressive. I began questioning my ability to help him because I do not know much about his illnesses, nor have I ever worked with someone like him before. One night, he came into the office and we got to talking. Brian and I must have spoken for forty-five minutes. I asked him questions about his hallucinations and he answered honestly and openly. He told me about growing up with an abusive father and how he was told that he is a worthless cripple that nobody wants around. He told me about how hard it is to know that this mentality will always hold him back. As he spoke, I stopped being self-conscious about how I could help him and I simply listened. Slowly but surely, that lack of confidence began to disappear. He thanked me for listening and told me that it makes him feel better just knowing he can come and talk. I learned that night that sometimes all people need is for another person to listen to them, without judgment and without interruption. I now know one way I can significantly help Brian: to hear his story and let him know that I care. 17
Francis Song, Veteranâ€™s Advocate
Never Give Up
I was told my service member position in Alamosa would be to combat veteran homelessness and promote the needs of our veterans, but I never knew how much it would affect me on a daily basis. While I never received any professional training or education in case management I believed my time in the military would give me enough of a background to assist any veteran in need. Soon after meeting Joseph, one of my clients, it became clear my time in the Air Force could only provide a limited scope in how I could help him. Joseph served in the Army, grew up in rural Texas, and spoke with a long drawl in his accent- the polar opposite of an Air Force veteran raised in New York City. He suffers from spinal stenosis, and as a result has had to deal with constant physical pain during his work as an electrician. His prescription painkiller medication kept him able to do his work and when that ran out, he turned to alcohol. A vicious cycle ensued as his addiction made him unable to make a living for himself. He found himself at the doors of La Puente with a fierce determination to get back on track. I thought he would be the easiest veteran I ever had to take care of, until the day I was told that he was taken to the Emergency Room because he had been found unconscious outside his truck and smelling of alcohol. Joseph checked back in the shelter safely but I was confused how to proceed. Had there been warning signs I ignored or were there any indications that I was just oblivious to? People told me it was not my fault but I still could not help but feel guilty. Guilt turned to anger, and I began to doubt my approach Francis Song (center) participates in a Veteranâ€™s Day Retreat Ceremony at the Shelter. to veteran advocacy. But I remembered what my supervisor told me: All we can do is provide the services to our clients; it is not our place to judge. Then I wondered how I would want to be treated if I made a mistake the second or third time around. Eventually I was able to pick up where I left off but I learned an important lesson in the process: failure or success is not measured in percentages on a piece of paper, but the determination and conviction we all carry to never give up on our goals. 18
Kelsey Moody, Shelter/Volunteer Coordination
A Recipe for Success
At the Shelter, the incoming staff for this year were fortunate enough to have several members of last year’s Shelter staff stay on to train for a few weeks. Instead of feeling rushed in to the task of managing the Shelter and everyday issues that might arise, we were able to watch others skillfully handle difficult situations, then consult with them about what they had learned over their year of service and absorb their experiences. I grew to value their input and familiarity with work at the Shelter. Most of the new staff, myself included, were perhaps most worried about the daunting task of cooking a meal all by ourselves. The first Sunday morning shift I worked by myself, I realized that meant I had to cook lunch. By myself. For 60 people. I began to, for lack of a better term, freak out, hurrying around the kitchen making a quick inventory of the ingredients I could use. My mind spinning, I couldn’t think of a single dish to cook, or even something I could just throw together. Time was passing and I needed to make a decision. I decided the easiest and quickest dish to prepare and have ready in the next few hours was potato soup, and I went about starting to peel the many potatoes I would need. While this was happening, I also began to realize the most difficult part of cooking at the Shelter: the fact that the regular hustle and bustle of the day continues. There I was, frantically scrambling to put a meal together and completing my Shelter tasks, all by myself as a brand new staff member. Kevin, a guest who was staying there at the time, saw my distress in the kitchen and asked if there was anything he could do to help me. I gladly took him up on the offer, and in a couple of minutes three other guests had joined us. While preparing the meal, I grew to know more about them. Their help turned a stressful situation into an enjoyable activity. I could not have finished the soup in time for lunch had I not had the help of the Kevin and the other guests. Early on in my service, I recognized the importance and support that existed within the Shelter community, and became grateful and proud to become a part of it. “Sometimes, reaching out and taking someone's hand is the beginning of a journey. At other times, it is allowing another to take yours.” - Vera Nazarian
Felix Holubek, Volunteer Coordination
A Powerful Comment
One afternoon at the Volunteer Coordination office, I found my supervisor working with a young man to fill out his volunteer application. She introduced us and I took over the application process. As I began working, I realized it was taking quite a long time-not that I was really busy at that moment, it was just out of the ordinary to see him scrutinizing every line that he had to fill out. For each section of the application he had at least two questions and an elaborate story to follow. After what felt like at least another twenty five minutes, we completed the application; I thanked him for his commitment and sent him on his way. As soon as I sat back down, the door opened and there he was again! I could not possibly imagine what else I could be of service for him at this point. I asked how I could help him, and he said, “I would like to leave a comment on my application.” I was wondering if I was under any moral obligation to let him know that no one else but me would be reading his comment, as I was the only person who processed applications. However, I figured that as long as it made him happy, there was no harm in accepting his feedback. He finished writing his comment, handed me back the application and left, this time for good. Intrigued, I started reading the comment he had written. What I read moved me in a way I certainly did not expect. What I read made me grateful that I had not uttered my previous thought about the chance of hardly anyone reading, actually reading, his comment. I realized I was wrong when I said that; now, many people will be able to read his comment: “The shelter has helped me in so many ways: emergency food, shelter, and transportation (bikes) and most importantly, positive energy. I am honored to volunteer to help the community and improve the habitat to encourage life – positive community morals and relationships.” This line of work might not always be the easiest. However, is about bottomless getting amazing feedback like this “Love empathy, born out of the validates all of our work and gives heart’s revelation that us power to keep going. This another person is every experience taught me to continue to bit as real as you are." be as supportive as I can be, even if someone is testing my patience. - Jonathan Franzen 20
Every work group that comes through our doors has the opportunity to provide us with feedback.
What did your group learn from the service experience?
Compassion, understanding, acceptance. Stereotypes about homelessness are 100% broken down.
A sense of understanding, humbleness, realization and bonding over a common goal.
I learned how vital organizations such as La Puente are to the community at large.
We learned a lot about homelessness, that it can affect anyone, and they're people too and deserve our respect.
A whole new perspective on homelessness, AmeriCorps, service, and life.
I didn't expect to be so moved by work projects.
I learned not to judge the homeless right off the bat.
We took away a sense of gratitude and humility.
The Power of a Story
Alaina Smith, Adelante
In my brief time at Adelante and with La Puente I have heard a lot of stories. These include life stories from families that we work with and from families and individuals who walk through our door or call our office looking for support and homes. Stories are incredibly powerful, and in many ways determine how we interact with and understand one another. One such story is from Lucia, a client who recently came into our program. Lucia was distant and hard to communicate with during her first few weeks as a part of the program. When I finally was able to get back in touch with her for a first home visit she was open and honest with me about how she felt being in the program and accepting financial and other supportive assistance from us. She told me she wants to be able to do things on her own and that she is hesitant to go to social services and behavioral health; she feels judged and that people don’t believe her when she tells them what she’s accomplished or what she’s struggling with. Lucia, like many of our clients, is slow to trust the systems of social services. Hearing her freely express this to me and be comfortable enough to trust me with this knowledge showed me how valuable it is to accept and meet people where they are. It reinforced the importance of approaching clients in a way that tells them that you are not there to judge them, to decide their lives for them, or to force them into something they don’t want to do. We are here to support their dreams, provide them with opportunities and resources, and ultimately it is up to them to choose where they want their lives to go. Lucia seemed relieved to be with someone who was not judging her, but instead listening to her story and saying “Okay, I hear you, let’s get to work, where do you want to go?”
“The purpose of a storyteller is not to tell you how to think, but to give you questions to think upon.” -Brandon Sanderson
Adelante clients make holiday cookies at a Life Skills class.
As I reflect on the stories that Iâ€™ve heard and in some ways been a part of, I am struck by the sheer power of telling a story. Storytelling in itself is incredibly complex work, with many different, valid points of view present in every story. In our line of work here at La Puente, it is very important to pay attention to not only the content of a story but how it is told, as everyone understands stories quite differently. In some cases, this can mean filtering a story with the audience in mind rather than the subject, which is tricky work. How do we strike a balance between appealing to the audience, who is a profoundly important part of the storytelling process, and remaining true to a story that may not necessarily be ours to filter? An important aspect of La Puenteâ€™s mission is to meet people where they are. How we tell their story can be a way in which we continue to meet clients where they are and maintain their dignity while shedding light on their experience. At Adelante we strive to support the stories and dreams of our families, and we work for them to be empowered to continue writing their stories, letting their voices be heard and living their dreams. It is life changing to recognize the validity of each story, no matter how different it is from our understanding of a valid story. Stories should bring to light the varied human experiences of this world, they should give voice and recognition to lives that are often overlooked, to the depth of the human experience. Stories inspire us, stories provide us with a deepened understanding of each other, and bring to light ways that we can all relate; stories bring us closer together.
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Adelante d Cars and bicycles for family transportation d Inexpensive/free car repairs d Phone Cards (Straight-Talk or Verizon) d Gas vouchers to attend work/school d Pro bono time for client legal issues d Toiletries for men, women, and children. d Size 5 Diapers d 3 Dining sets for families of 4 d Wal-Mart, Safeway, and City Market gift cards d Pro bono time for financial advice and legal services Admin Office d Volunteer Receptionist for mornings or afternoons d Office Supplies for all programs (copy paper, ink pens, staples, pencils, post-its) d 6 plastic anti-static floor mats Enterprises d Used Pick Up Truck For Milagros: d Chafing dishes & dish sets ReThreads d Dish soap & laundry detergent d Hygiene Items d Menâ€™s clothing (all sizes) d Silverware & dishware Food Bank Network d Plastic quart sized bags (to separate bulk items) d Canned Protein (peanut butter, tuna, chicken, beans) d Baking needs (flour, sugar, baking powder, etc.) 24
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PALS d Assistance with paying fuel costs d Sponsor a trip to Denver d Wal-Mart, Safeway, and City Market gift cards Outreach Services d Donated firewood d Safeway gas cards ($10) for client use. d Labor to help collect free firewood from the forest
Shelter d Hygiene kits gshampoo/conditioner gtowels/soap gtoothpaste/toothbrush grazors/shave cream gdeodorant/lotion gfeminine products d Diapers (sizes 4, 5, 6) d Basketball d New men’s underwear/socks d New U.S. flag for flagpole d Flag case d Men’s winter/work gloves d Towels d Women’s socks
V.E.G.I d Organic soil d Organic compost d Wood chips d Volunteers
Volunteer Coordination/ Community Education
For Volunteer Houses: d Lawn mower d Weed whacker For Office: d Crafting supplies d New or used tools d Event tent canopy
Counting Our Blessings Bethany Howell, Community Education Director
The holiday season is so fraught with contradictions. We love the glitter of tinsel, fragrant pine logs popping in the fire, and the shiny wrapping on gifts with the bows tied just so. But we know that these are just the outward trappings of a season set aside to spend time with our loved ones and count our blessings. I think the movie, “It’s a Wonderful Life,” neatly sums up this contradiction. I like to watch it snuggled up on my couch with my children, feeling cozy. But the message of the movie isn’t about the holiday ambience - it is about how our actions matter to others – even if we never see how they matter. George Bailey becomes suicidal, and can only be brought back from the brink because an angel shows him what the world would have been like without him. On the world stage, not much changed, but the little things – the daily things – those changed drastically just because of one man’s integrity and strength of character. Recently, I lost a modern day George Bailey - my -in-law. As I put together his obituary with my family, looked through old pictures, and heard past stories about his youth and adulthood, the same phrase was said over and over: “He was a good man who cared for others before himself.” That was his legacy to his children and grandchildren and to countless others who interacted with him – not money or possessions. Sometimes it’s difficult to count our blessings when we see clients who are hurting from lost jobs, hungry children, or other circumstances that are out of our control to remedy. Just when we seem to lose heart that we can make a difference, a miracle occurs that never loses its ability to amaze. It may be a donation that comes at exactly the right moment for exactly the right person. Perhaps it’s just encouragement from a client whose story has a happier ending than most. The legacy of La Puente is never more poignant than during the holidays. The stories in this newsletter reflect the generosity of spirit that is so prevalent in La Puente’s supporters. Whether it’s local farmers donating fresh produce, school children participating in a canned food drive, community members teaching a Life Skills class for Adelante families, or a mattress donation to Outreach Services, La Puente clients and staff count their blessings all year long.
There are many volunteer opportunities at La Puente for individuals or groups looking to give back! Much of what LaPuente does would not be possible without the support, love, and commitment of our volunteers.
Service opportunities include: Community Volunteer Accepts volunteers of all ages and abilities for onetime, weekly, or monthly intervals at many of the La Puente programs.
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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 kids
Full-Time Volunteer During a year of service, Full-Time Volunteers and AmeriCorps Members obtain firsthand experience working at a nonprofit organization.
A work group member splits wood for Outreach Services.
Work Group Service
Sort and hang goods at Rainbow’s End Create and distribute commodities boxes for the Food Bank Network d Prepare meals at the Shelter d Glean produce for the Food Bank Network d d
To learn more about volunteering, contact our Office of Volunteer Coordination at 719.587.3499 or click on “Serve with Us” at www.lapuente.net 27
We Need Your Support!
With your financial support, we are able to provide homes, offer renewed hope, and encourage families as they travel the road to self-sufficiency. The financial support of individuals accounts for the greatest portion of our program’s funding. We are proud that 85% of our funding is non-governmental and 93% of every dollar goes to direct services (2013 990). Also, by choosing where your tax dollars are spent, you are eligible for tax credits and deduction.
Let Generosity Reduce Your Taxes 1. Donate $100 or more. 2. Make the donation payable to “The Enterprise Zone” for a 25% tax credit or “PALS Program” for a 50% tax credit. 3. Mail us your gift. 4. We’ll send you a certificate of tax credit.* *To be eligible, you must be a Colorado taxpayer These tax credits can be carried forward to future tax years.
Consider these options as you plan: d Charitable Gift Annuities d Charitable Remainder Trusts d Memorial and Honorary Gifts d Bequests d Appreciated Stock d Beneficiary Designations
La Puente Legacy Fund
You can be a part of ensuring the financial strength and stability of La Puente for generations to come by donating to the Legacy Fund. Formed in 2012, the Legacy Fund is our endowment. We manage it separately from other donations, so that it holds and invests its principle value and contributes only the earnings to our work with the hungry and homeless. For Colorado taxpayers, gifts of $100 or more are also eligible for the 25% Enterprise Zone tax credit.
Contact Gena Akers at 719.588.5678 or email@example.com
Visit us online at www.lapuente.net/donate. 28
If there is to be peace In the nations, There must be peace in the cities.
If there is to be peace In the cities, There must be peace between neighbors. If there is to be peace Between neighbors, There must be peace in the home. If there is to be peace in the home, There must be peace in the heart.
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If there is to be peace in the world, There must be peace In the nations.
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P.O. Box 1235 Alamosa, CO 81101 719.589.5909 www.lapuente.net
Nonprofit Organization U.S. Postage Paid Alamosa, CO 81101 Permit No. 27
La Puente publishes The Voice quarterly to share our personal experiences and the stories of the people we serve.