Feed My Sheep herding support
ASPEN ” The Bible quote of “teach a man to fish and he will eat for a lifetime” is a concept that parallels the mission of a local nonprofit that is attempting to meet the basic needs of the valley’s most down and out.
Feed My Sheep, a ministry outreach program of the nonprofit organization Colorado Baptist General Convention, helps the homeless in the Roaring Fork Valley get back on their feet by providing food, shelter and a sense of community.
On Aug. 3, Christ Church in Aspen will hold “Loaves and Fishes” Sunday as part of an effort at all Episcopal churches in Colorado. Local parishioners are asked to bring food and/or cash donations to benefit Feed My Sheep.
Christ Church, along with St. Marys Church, has been a sponsor of the program since it began in 2003 in a Glenwood Springs motel room, according to Feed My Sheep Director Karolyn Spencer.
At its humble beginnings, volunteers removed the beds from the motel room so they could accommodate as many people as possible. Volunteers also provided showers, breakfast and a carryout lunch.
The organization has come along way in five years. Through individual donations, church missions and grants, Feed My Sheep raised $30,000 in 2005, according to Spencer. The next year, revenue grew to $95,000, and in 2007 it reached $134,000, Spencer said, adding the organization also receives in-kind donations like food and camping gear.
That money has allowed the organization to expand its services from the motel room to a day shelter in the basement of St. Stephen’s Church in Glenwood Springs. The space has a kitchen, lounge, laundry facilities, storage bins, bathroom and showers, as well as the use of the Internet and long-distance phone service so individuals can stay in contact with loved ones.
The shelter is open six days a week and serves an average of 50 people a day. Feed My Sheep also has a winter shelter that’s operated out of the Silver Spruce Motel. Beds are removed and replaced with sleeping pads to fit more people.
Individuals who use the shelter are typically in crisis, meaning they were evicted or victims of a fire or domestic violence, for instance.
The purpose of the day shelter is to get people back on their feet. Many of them have jobs, and their employers don’t even know they are homeless, Spencer said.
“We have an emphasis on providing services to get a job and maintain themselves in a job,” she said, adding the homeless served by Feed My Sheep are different than those who live in the city. There are no signs of mental illness or drug use, and they aren’t chronically living on the streets and or transient, Spencer said.
“We try to create a sense of community and caring for each other, and provide an anchor in their lives,” she said. “That is what enables them to live their lives.”
Spencer said the organization has six months’ worth of reserve funds for operating expenses, with the rest going toward services and programming.
“We operate on a cash basis,” she said. “If we don’t have it, we don’t spend it.”
Feed My Sheep recently hired three paid staff members; the rest are volunteers, including Spencer.
Spencer’s call for help a few weeks ago at Christ Church resonated with parishioner Paul Kurkulis, who launched a grassroots campaign to raise $20,000. He started a website, feedmysheep.chipin.com, and made the first pledge of $50.
“I was thinking in the audience, ‘These guys need help,'” Kurkulis said. “Feed My Sheep doesn’t have a of lot resources to go out and fund-raise itself; it’s bare bones.
“They are trying to get to [the homeless] each and every day,” he added. “It’s a really humble organization.”
Since Spencer’s plea, parishioners have been sending money directly to the church via check. Kurkulis set up the website so people could use credit cards as well.
Spencer said Feed My Sheep would like to raise enough money for a year-round shelter but has had a difficult time growing beyond offering daily services and a temporary shelter.
“We’re not strong enough or large enough,” she said.
For more information, call Christ Church at 925-3278.
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