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An Unexpected Reunion

By | actions, collaborative ministry, Featured, Homeless Youth, Job Training, Ministry, Ministry Update, Non-profit, organization, Street Life | No Comments

When we opened Purple Door Coffee, we knew that it was way bigger than just a couple young twenty somethings opening a coffee shop. We knew in some part of ourselves that PDC was a dream of many coming to life that we got to bear close witness to. This story evidences that and tells of the people who have been doing Work in Denver way before we were ever here.


The last few years, Purple Door Coffee has been a part of the Denver Faith & Justice Conference hosted by Denver Community Church. Some years we have served coffee, some years we have spoken, some years we’ve done both. But, each year there was this volunteer named Bonnie who was always SO on top of things. She is that volunteer who literally never sits down and seems to get things done in half the time it takes the average person. Over the last few years, we have had these interactions with Bonnie and it became very clear that she is a servant.


A couple of days after the conference this year, she came into Purple Door with her husband and two friends who were in town visiting. When she came was walking toward the shop, I said, “Oh yay! Bonnie is coming in!” I was working this particular afternoon shift with Ricky. Ricky grew up in the neighborhood where Purple Door Coffee is located. He didn’t have much of a father figure growing up, so early in his childhood, his mom placed in the Big Brothers program.


When Bonnie and her husband, Paul, and their friends came in, I started introducing myself to everyone. Then, one of the men in the group looked at Ricky and said, ‘What is your name?” Ricky said, “My name is Ricky.” Paul, Bonnie’s husband, looked at Ricky and said, “Ricky Beck?!” Ricky looked back at him and said, “PAUL?!”

Ricky looked over at me and said, “Madison- Paul was my Big Brother for years and years! He taught me everything I know.”

(I would swear that at this point Ricky had tears welling up in his eyes, but he would tell you that he was having bad allergies that day.)


Paul, Ricky & Bonnie ended up talking for a large portion of the rest of the day. It was the most beautiful reunion. At one point, Bonnie and I were chatting and she said, “It is so good to see him and know he is here. It is a miracle that he isn’t dead.”


The experience impacted Ricky in such a big way. He couldn’t stop talking about it and texting me about it for the next couple days. It was so impacting to him that he wrote a little bit about it:



Today while I was working, someone walked through the door that I haven’t seen in 15+ years. It was my Big Brother from the Big Brother program that my mom signed me up for when I was a little kid. His name is Paul and his wife is Bonnie. Since my dad wasn’t around, Paul was there to teach me things that my mom couldn’t. Paul taught me how to read, write, play chess, tie my shoes, throw and catch a baseball and football, how to ride a bike, how to fix a bike, how to eat properly, and how to fish. He took me white-water rafting, skiing (I think), to Rockies games, nuggets games, WWE wrestling matches, monster truck shows, and he taught me how to type on a computer. A lot of feelings were going through me when I was taking their order because when I was fourteen I went to jail and lost contact with them for fifteen years. I was excited but nervous, happy but afraid of how they thought I turned out. But after a couple of hugs and a little bit of catching up, all of those questions and feelings were answered with a lot of love.

The funny thing is that he has a big interest in Purple Door Coffee and that makes me love my job that much more.

He moved to the city and retired and I cannot wait to see him again.



This whole story is so beautiful to me because it goes to show that we are not alone in the Work. We are all working together for good. There were people working for good before us and there will be people working for good after us. It is our job to show up for the good, slow work of God.

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How Did Purple Door Coffee Even Happen?

By | Featured, incubation, organization | No Comments

Purple Door is just now really starting to materialize, but it has been in the works for a long time. Dry Bones Denver has always been about not reinventing the wheel. They have wanted to be an organization that is about meeting unmet needs for the Street Kids of Denver. As they were ministering among friends, they realized that employment and job training was one of the greatest unmet needs present on the streets. This is so key in helping our friends transition off the streets. Some might be able to get a job, but holding it is very difficult for many. Others are not even able to be employed because of mistakes in their past.

image credit: purple door by David Christian

Dry Bones started dreaming about a café to employ and train friends that were ready for employment and ready to transition away from street life, because of the transferable skills that working in a café environment provides. They have had this dream since 2007. This effort kept getting delayed until Madison started work on it.
When Madison Chandler started a year long internship with Dry Bones in 2010 the dream resurfaced. She had decided to take on the dream of starting a coffee shop that will employ and train homeless youth seeking to rebuild their lives. As she started efforts she remembered a conversation that she had with Mark Smesrud when they were interns with Dry Bones in the Summer of 2009. They had discussed their love of coffee shops and how it would be incredible to combine work at a coffee shop with ministry among the marginalized–particularly Street Kids. While this conversation was very surface level and short lived it happened, and we believe for a reason…

Madison contacted Mark about coming to work with Purple Door Coffee a couple of times. He initially said “not now” simply because the timing was never right because of his life situation. Finally, in August of 2011 Madison talked to Mark again about joining the Purple Door Coffee effort and this time Mark had a peace about it. He spent two months praying and seeking if this is what he was supposed to be doing and in October of 2011 Mark committed to moving to Denver in January of 2012.

Purple Door took huge leaps forward in July of 2011 when Belay Enterprises began incubating the effort–granting Purple Door Coffee non-profit status and an incredible network of people that know what they are doing in efforts such as this. Belay is a ministry that partners with area churches to develop businesses to employ and job-train individuals rebuilding lives from addiction, homelessness, prison, and/or poverty. They have been around for 17 years and have had incredible impact in the city of Denver. Purple Door is so blessed to be a part of what they are doing.
The combination of Belay and Dry Bones has been remarkably beneficial to the progress of Purple Door Coffee, and is a great example of partnership in Kingdom work.

Mark and Madison are now working at raising funds for Purple Door Coffee, spreading the word about our effort and praying over this new ministry with the hope of opening in August of 2012.

As we continue forward we look at how God has been so incredibly present and faithful in the entire process, we know that this will continue. We are excited to be a part of what God is up to in the world, and we know that this is only the beginning of the journey. Join us as we continue expanding the story of Purple Door Coffee.

First Things First

By | Featured, Street Life | No Comments

“We are not starting Purple Door Coffee because we are better people or because we have a better approach to business than anyone else. We are starting Purple Door Coffee because we have experienced the overwhelming beauty of God’s love and we want to share that with others.”

Madison sent me this last week in an email. This got me thinking…

At Purple Door Coffee we’re about job training. We’re about helping people see their value. We’re about helping rebuild lives from homelessness. We’re about all these good things. But why we’re about these things is what is most important.

We’re about these things because of Jesus. 

Jesus is who we are trying to be like, and so, we care about the things he cares about. He cares about the poor. So, we at Purple Door Coffee are trying our best to care for the poor as Jesus does. Jesus made a huge statement of the value of people when he sacrificed his life for all people. We are striving to make that same statement of value in this ministry and in our lives personally. Jesus cared about being the people of God, and so we are trying to be a community of followers responding to hurts of this world.

While all of these things separated from Jesus would be positive for society, they would be lacking something–they would be incomplete.

I think of the image of one body and many parts found in 1 Corinthians 12. We have many roles in the Kingdom, but the reason we are all working together is because of Christ being the head, the source of it all. If we are acting independently from Christ we’ve lost the rest of the body and all the good that they are doing. Christ brings fullness to the work of His people, to His body. 

As we continue as Purple Door Coffee we proclaim Christ as why we are doing this.  And in doing so we find ourselves working together with the Kingdom at large, which is exciting, powerful and beautiful.

We have experienced the love of God through Jesus, and so we share it, just as others in the Kingdom have experience that love. And that love has motivated us to act. We hope that Purple Door Coffee is a place that proclaims the love of Jesus first and foremost.  We pray that all we do flows out of that love as a portion of what Christ is leading His body to do in this world.

An Update on the Needs of the Ministry

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Purple Door Coffee is starting to gain some momentum. We are making connections, praying as we make decisions, spending time on the streets meeting people, and moving closer and closer to the vision becoming a reality.

As we move forward we hope that you can find a way to contribute.

We have 3 primary needs currently:

1) Financial Support

We are in the process of raising startup costs. We need $150,000 to cover start up costs and the projected needs of Purple Door for it’s first year of operation. This figure includes a full renovation and paying for furniture and equipment. We hope to find a location that will not need a full renovation and we would like to recycle some furniture to cut costs. Also, in the renovation phase, we hope to find people that catch the vision of Purple Door Coffee that would be willing to donate the skills of carpentry, painting, and general renovation needs that could save us a great deal of money.
You can head here to donate.

2) Prayer

We ask that you pray for us as we seek to meet the need of employment among Street Kids in the city of Denver. Pray for the Street Kids we employ, pray for wisdom for the leadership, pray for the love of God to be completely evident. Stay in touch as we move forward to find out about specific needs. Follow us on Twitter and like our Facebook page to get regular updates.

3) Awareness

We ask that you raise awareness among your faith community, your families and friends of the work that we are engaging in. Help promote us on the internet via social networking by simply sharing our Facebook page, tweeting about us or linking people to a blog post.

Please ask us questions about anything to do with Purple Door Coffee!

Just Business

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“It’s just business”. This is a statement people use when someone gets burned. Someone gets the short end of the stick. It’s become a qualifying statement for when someone has treated another individual as a business deal instead of as a human being.

Because of this it seems that business has become something that is incongruent with the Kingdom of God in many people’s minds. Business is viewed as something ugly completely driven by the almighty dollar, and The Almighty certainly can’t have anything to do with it.

Thankfully in recent years the “Business as Mission” movement is gaining some momentum. Business is being utilized as a way to spread the Kingdom. Instead of “It’s just business” it has become “It’s a just business”. A business that recognizes the value and dignity of all humans. While the business may generate revenues and the operators of the business will intentionally do things to generate more income, it is never at the expense of other people’s value and dignity.

As a follower of Jesus I believe that Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross is the strongest statement of the value of all human beings that has ever been. We, as people trying to daily become more like Christ, must recognize that and live into the value statement that Jesus made on the cross. This is not just when we are doing “Christian” activities, but in all aspects of life–friendships, work, interactions with a clerk at the grocery store, and yes, even business.

Purple Door Coffee is about being a Just Business. We will be a business that will hopefully be very successful. This will take diligence, hard work, learning the industry, adapting to current trends in the world of coffee, being responsible with all our spending and so many other things. We will be a business, but we will run the business with people being our first priority because Jesus’ first priority was to show the incredible love that God has for this world–for people. We hope to live into that–to show love as we sell coffee, train employees, create community, look for good deals on cups and chairs. Everything we do will be motivated by the love God has for the world–the dignity and value established by that love.

Purple Door Coffee…Why We’re Here

By | actions, Featured | 2 Comments

Every day that I am in Denver I am affirmed in that this is where I am supposed to be. This is what I am supposed to be doing. At the same time when I see how much needs to be done it is a bit overwhelming. We have a to-do list a mile long. But the to-do list is the least of our worries.

As I spend time at events with Dry Bones Denver and I see some familiar faces on the streets, and I meet new friends living outdoors in the winter that is what really motivates me to get the things done on the to-do list. A to-do list for the sake of a to-do list isn’t motivating. It’s overwhelming. That’s why it is so important for us to build these relationships on the streets now. To be present and see the need for employment. For mentoring. For a chance. A chance to start over and rebuild lives.

Daily I remind myself of the why I’m here by way of our mission statement:

Reclaiming and sustaining homeless and street connected youth through supportive and meaningful employment.

That’s why I am here. That’s why I am checking things off the to-do list. That is why we exist.

From there I remind myself of our 3 more specific goals:

1.  To employ homeless and street connected youth who have been deemed unemployable in a loving and grace-centered environment.

2.  To create a sustainable business where our employees can learn valuable life skills, work ethic, and the art of coffee.

3.  To foster and encourage life-changing relationships between employees, volunteers, costumers, donors and the local community.

That’s why I am here. That’s why we as Purple Door Coffee exist.