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2015–What a year!

By | Homeless Youth, Job Training, Ministry, Ministry Update, Street Life | No Comments

This past April, Joe came up to me one day at work and said, “Katie, I don’t know how to read very well. Can you help me?” This was something I had noticed and observed over the past few months, but never wanted to push. We had been spending an hour a week on Joe’s math homework for college and the word problems were his least favorite; understandably so, they are so hard to understand even if you *can* read well. So, this request, “Can you help me?” was huge. I mean, these are words I hardly ever say myself. I jumped at the opportunity…except I didn’t know the first thing about teaching someone how to read. So, we called on some friends of Purple Door and over the course of the summer, Joe spent two hours a week with a volunteer tutor and other time here and there with me, practicing reading and spelling and writing.

And, the hard work and long hours of endless effort paid off! Joe passed the English accuplacer test required for community college this past October. This test is one that he had failed twice before and felt utterly defeated by. As you can imagine, we continue to celebrate! But still, even with the test behind him, reading has never been Joe’s thing. Ever. He just says, “No thank you. I have Google.” Don’t we all. Anyway, my surprise was great a couple of Saturdays ago at work, when Joe sauntered over and said, “Here”, as he laid down a book. “Mark thinks I should read this. But, I think it’ll be too hard for me. Can we read it together?” I look down and realize it’s one of my favorites: Tattoos on the Heart by Father Gregory Boyle, a Jesuit priest who started Homeboy Industries over 30 years ago. Homeboy is an organization that job-trains and employs former gang members in L.A. The book is incredible, but shares hard stories and unabashed opinions of God and his love. I was thinking to myself, ‘This book is not going to just be hard to read…but also hard to understand…we probably shouldn’t even try.’ But alas, I’m not in charge of deciding these things, so we began to read.

Joe started first. It was like reading with my favorite 6-year-old: steady, intentional, thoughtful. I felt myself fill with pride. I kept offering small encouragement, especially when he was uncertain. And then he stopped, “Can you take over for a while?” So I picked up where he left off. Before I knew it, we were both laughing like mad, while at the same time wiping away the tears that had popped into our eyes. Parts of these stories are so parallel to Joe’s; so many of the experiences are his own. We cried at this unspoken recognition of his story in the words and we cried in disbelief that ‘God is just too busy loving us to have time left for disappointment’. Wow. Could that be true?

And this is how we continued for the rest of the day – Joe would read a page or two and then I’d pick up and read a few until he was ready, confident, and prepared to go at it again. And then midway, in between the laughter and tears, it dawned on me: this is exactly how we do life. We get to walk alongside each other, so that when one of us gets too tired, too worn out, too unsure of ourselves, someone is there to pick up where we leave off. We get to: provide encouragement, laugh, cry, take a rest and sit in utter disbelief… together. And this; this is the heart of God. This is the divine. And that slow, snowy Saturday in which we read together all day, is forever etched in my heart.

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“A Homie named David who had sunk to homelessness and heroin addiction was beating himself up one day.
“Look, David,” I tell him, wanting to cut up his mean for him, “You have to crawl before you can walk, and then walk before you can run.”
David’s eyes soften with tears. “Yeah, but I know I can fly. I just need a gust o’ wind.” (Tattoos on the Heart, pg 9-10)

Joe read this and let out a roar of laughter. “This is me,” he says, “You are always telling me to walk before I run, ‘cept I know I can fly… I can fly ‘cuz Purple Door is my gust of wind.”

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:

 

11-9-15

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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People over Tasks. Relationship over Responsibilities.

By | Homeless Youth, Job Training, Ministry, Ministry Update, Street Life | No Comments

Madison and I have been stretched fairly thin this past year. We are two very different people, but one of our key commonalities is that we are kind of perfectionists. Because of how difficult and complicated running a business that happens to be a job-training program is, we have felt that we are in perpetual need of sacrificing quality on this thing or that, or leaving something not done to our standards. This has been draining. Most days I leave thinking I could have done more, or done something better, and my mind is focused on all the tasks that are yet to be done, or the the things that I didn’t do as well as I would have liked. This is a tiring, unsustainable way to live. So I’ve been working on it, by shifting my focus from what is undone to what is done. I have also made (or am trying to make) an incredibly important shift from thinking about tasks and responsibilities to people and relationships.

Robert Lupton in his book Theirs is the Kingdom has an excellent quote concerning this:

The fundamental building blocks of the Kingdom are relationships. Not programs, systems, or productivity. But inconvenient, time-consuming, intrusive relationships. The Kingdom is built on personal involvements that disrupt schedules and drain energy. When I enter into redemptive relationships with other, I lose much of my (efficiency) ‘capacity to produce desired results with a minimum expenditure of energy, time, money, or materials.’ In short, relationsips sabotage my efficiency… I know I am called to love people, and, in a special sense, poor people. Since it is impossible to schedule their calamities, I must remain open to their interruptions. The seductive appeal of order would draw me away from my call. God’s peace much be learned in the midst of disturbance. Disruptions are his reminders that people are more important than programs and that the ordering of my life is His business.

So, my idol of efficiency and achievement is daily being sacrificed. I am constantly striving to see the humans behind the tasks. Go has given us this task of running this beautiful thing called Purple Door Coffee, and there certainly are tasks and responsibilities to be taken care of, but more importantly there are people to be taken care of. The tasks must support the people. Tasks and projects are not the point. I have to daily remind myself of this.

Christ did not come to help us have more “good” tasks and responsibilities. Christ came to love, redeem and set us free. It is our “task” as his followers to help others know that love, redemption and freedom. If we can focus on that, I think our other tasks become much less stressful and draining. But that is the challenge–to stay focused on the love, redemption and freedom. When we can focus on Christ and what he offers, life can be so much more full!

Meet Jenna!

By | Employee Bio, Homeless Youth, Job Training, Ministry, Street Life | No Comments

We wanted to introduce our other new employee to you! Jenna started working for us a month ago, and we are so have to have her working behind the bar with us! She is a fast learner that is very personable and helpful!

photo 1-2

Where are you from? Denver, Colorado

When is your birthday? September 19th

Why did you decide to work at Purple Door?
I’ve been dealing with homelessness on and off since I was 16 years old. Running on the little amount of faith I had, I applied to Purple Door to work towards my goal of self-sufficiency and to keep myself from returning to the street life.

What is a dream you have for your life?
I plan to on day open up my own coffee shop. I start business school August 2014

What’s been the most fun about working at Purple Door?
Learning everything, helping customers, and being productive.

What’s been the most difficult about working at Purple Door?
Being Quiet. I am a very loud person and I have a hard time keeping the volume of my voice down.

What’s something you’re good at?
I am good at singing and helping others.

What was your favorite cartoon as a kid?
Rugrats

Where in the world would you most like to visit?
Ireland, to better understand my heritage.

What’s your favorite movie?
Wall-e

What’s your favorite food?
Chicken

What’s your favorite coffee drink?
Caramel Mocha

 

 

Come down to the shop and meet Jenna! We love having her here, and she has a very bright future ahead of her!

Meet Marcus!

By | Employee Bio, Homeless Youth, Job Training, Ministry, Non-profit, Street Life | No Comments

Today we wanted to highlight one of our new employees, and we hope to do this as we move forward!

Meet Marcus! Marcus started working for us a little over 2 weeks ago!

afterlight

When is your birthday?
 April 3rd

What were your favorite cartoons as a kid?
Pinky and The Brain, Rocket Power, Sonic

Where in the world would you most like to visit?
Tokyo, I love the sights. It looks amazing to visit.

What’s your favorite food?
Pizza and Chinese

What is something you’re good at?
Art, Music, and learning new things quickly.

What are some dreams you have for your life?
Become a better man.
Have my own clothing line, bring the old school hip-hop flavor back.
Provide something better for my daughter, and show her the best things in life.

Why did you decide to work at Purple Door?
It’s a good opportunity, and to better my life as a man.

What’s been the most fun about working at Purple Door?
Employees and people I meet and interact with.
Learning how to make coffee and learning where it comes from.

What’s your favorite coffee drink?
Mocha with vanilla. Mmm mmm mmm.

Other thoughts:
Purple door is wonderful and gave me a shot to work in a place I never thought I would ever see myself in. Warming and calm, a place I call relaxation and peace. It is a place for improvement and visions. A place that makes me feel home and family.

 

We love having Marcus on the team! Come meet him at the shop, and be looking for a post about Jenna as well!

This Work Isn’t Glamorous, But It’s Good.

By | Job Training, Ministry | 2 Comments

Working in a coffee shop is cool. It’s fun. You get to meet interesting people. You help people start their day. You get to help people feel welcome. You can get to make something that is really delicious that makes a lot of people happy. It’s pretty great.

Running a coffee shop is tiring. You get to the shop early and leave late. You have to pick up the slack if someone can’t come in. You get to work the bar, but also run and buy furniture, pay bills, fix things that are broken in the shop, order new cups, market the business and anything else that might pop up.

Running a coffee shop really isn’t glamorous. And it certainly isn’t always fun.

Running a ministry isn’t glamorous most of the time. It can be stressful.

Running a ministry is hard work. Fundraising is not the greatest fun one can have.

So, with Purple Door the story is pretty appealing. Lots of people have told us that they would love to do what we do. We love what we do. We’re very committed to what we do. What we do is difficult, tiring and, at times, frustrating.

To be successful we must be faithful. We believe in order to be faithful to this call we need to:

  1. Have faith that we are doing what is right.
  2. Work hard in the areas that we can control.
  3. Ask for help in areas of our deficiency. (Photography, web development, telling our story, etc.)
  4. Help others become their best selves.
  5. Trust that our needs will be met in the areas we can’t control.
  6. Simply keep going.

So, we love what we do because it’s right, good and meaningful. We don’t do what we do because it is easy or simple. We are very tired after a day of work, but we know it’s good. We know it is close to God’s heart. We know that we are helping in a small way reshape Denver for the Kingdom of God.

This isn’t a super appealing career path in the realm of finances, hours worked, or stress levels. It is an appealing line of work when looking at how it helps our employees, how we can create a community surrounding this mission, and how it fits so well with the skills and passions that we have been given. It’s is also an incredible blessing to be a part of something that is significantly bigger than any one person.

Backflushing an espresso machine, scrubbing toilets, and mopping floors is not glamorous. But it’s necessary. We need to do these things so that we can be a viable business. We also need to model to our employees what it is to do what is necessary when you are working a job. As we mop, sweep, deal with angry customers, show up early, and leave late we lean into the fact that lives are being changed, growth is taking place, and we are playing a small role in the Kingdom of God.

This work isn’t glamorous, but this work is certainly good. Our employees, and our future employees,  are worth every bit of the effort that we put in. We believe that deeply. We wouldn’t be doing this if we didn’t believe it.

Week 3!

By | Job Training, Ministry, Non-profit | No Comments

We’re in the middle of week 3. Wow! It’s been amazing. Our sales have been great! We’ve developed regular customers! We’ve been welcomed into the neighborhood! We held our grand opening party and were overwhelmed by the turnout! Things are going great!
Most importantly, our employees are awesome! Both of our employees are hard workers who are eager to learn, willing to jump in, and they take instruction very well! We’ve all been learning together.

Right now we are continuing to roll and develop all our routines. We’re intentionally getting our story out to our neighbors. And dreaming and thinking about the future of Purple Door. Soon we will hire another employee. As our two current employs become more and more proficient behind the bar we will have room to train another employee. This will also free Madison and I up to do more of the running of the business and non-profit components, as well as lean even more heavily into the job and life skills training.

Our model so far has been that one of our employees and one of the management team is always on the bar. This has worked well, but with our overall mission of employing our friends off the streets in mind, we are looking for ways to employ more individuals. With that in mind, it makes the most business sense to have Madison and I always working the bar, so that we aren’t paying another employee, but we are more than just a business. We ask for your continued support as we move forward.

 

Needs of Purple Door:
1) Prayer
-Pray for the success of the business. That sales are great and that we develop great relationships with our customers.
-Pray that our employees continue to move forward.
-Pray that the fundraising that needs to be done happens naturally.
-Pray that Madison and I are given an extra measure of wisdom.
2) Customers
-Come see us. Come be a part of this community. We’d love to get to know you.
-Tell your friends about us so that they will come join the community as well.
3) Financial support
-While the business is reducing the need for fundraising we still need support. We don’t project self sustainability for a few years due to many factors involving the ministry.
-You can donate here. Please ask us if you have questions about our financial strategy and how the funds are spent.

 

Thank you everyone that has supported Purple Door so far. We thank you in advance for your continued support. We are blessed to have such amazing support. Prayerfully, your support will mean so much for our friends exiting street life for many years to come.

Why We Built a Beautiful Coffee Shop

By | Job Training, Ministry, Uncategorized | 5 Comments

Purple Door is now open! We have our first two employees! We’re working out the kinks, and have had some great business. It’s all coming together. And it’s a lot of fun.

We have really enjoyed showing the space to people. We have had people come pray over the shop, neighbors become regulars, and many people that have been following our story come take a look.The most common reaction to the shop is surprise at how beautiful it is. It’s a space that we are very proud of. It is a space that all can feel comfortable in. It is a space that can be taken seriously as a coffee shop.

It’s interesting that people find this surprising. I believe it stems from the fact that we are a non-profit and a ministry. Sadly in the Christian world many times we have failed to make things such as this beautiful and of high quality. We think that we can do something halfway and put the name of Jesus on it and it will be good enough. And because the name of Jesus is on it, no one can speak against it. This is sad to me. It’s a poor representation of our Savior, and it’s an inadequate approach to how we should live our lives for God. We never want

 

Here are some of the reasons we have a beautiful space:

  1. We are a ministry, but in order to be a successful ministry we have to be a successful business. We have to serve a good product, have a space that is accommodating, be competitive with other shops like ours. We have put the effort in to research what makes a successful coffee shop, and ambiance and decor is a huge component. If your space is one that people don’t want to spend time in–even if it is a great product you are serving–it becomes difficult to be successful.
  2. A huge component of our mission is to communicate dignity, value and love to our employees. We believe one avenue to do this is by hiring our friends to work in a space that is beautiful. They are valuable enough to work in a space like this. It is a space that they can be proud to work in. It is a space that anyone would be proud to work in. We never would want to provide a working space that is “good enough” for street kids, but not adequate for folks that right in the center of society, because we believe that people that all people, no matter their station in life deserve to be treated with dignity, honor, and respect.
  3. We believe that having a nice space is incredibly beneficial to the training process, not only does working in a nice space help one’s perception of self, but a huge component of successful training is expectations. The natural tendency of all humans is to live up to expectations when those expectations are: based in love, realistic, beneficial. We are able to help our employees live into a higher level of expectation because we have put the effort into the overall environment in which the expectations are placed. Asking people to live into something that you have not lived into yourself seldom is well received.
  4. We believe because we are a ministry–we are doing this because of our faith–it deserves to be done well. It deserves our best effort–from how we train, to the coffee serve, to how the space is put together. If we are doing this for God, we should be doing it to the best of our ability, using whatever resources we have to make the overall ministry the best that it can be.

So, come see us. Come see the space. Come by and enjoy some delicious coffee. Meet our employees. Be a part of our community.

Quality Coffee and Quality People.

By | Job Training | No Comments

A little over a week ago we had the opportunity to lead a breakout session at the Denver  Faith and Justice Conference. This was a great opportunity for us to meet other people in Denver that are passionate about responding to areas of hurt in our city. We also got to tell our story to a bunch of people that really get what we’re all about.

We opened our session simply sharing about the issue of homeless youth here in Denver. It’s such a issue shocking to people when they hear how many young people are out on the streets in Denver. It’s tough to get a hard number, and it is always fluctuating, but we believe that 1500 is a fair estimate for a ballpark estimate of how many Street Kids there are in Denver. There is a lot of nuance to the culture of Street Kids that we would love to talk to you about. You can also read a bit more here and here.

After discussing Street Kid culture I got to geek out on coffee for a little bit. I talked about growing, processing and roasting. Finally I brewed coffee in front of the people in our session. I did a drip machine, French Press and Chemex (this is a pour over method that was developed by a chemist during World War II when there was no metal to spare).

With an inexpensive drip machine, if you have quality coffee you can get a drinkable cup of coffee, but it is no where near what it has the potential to be. There are some drip machines that do a great job, but they are not cheap.
With a French Press you put in a little more effort, but the end result is so much better.
With a Chemex, it takes a lot of attention, and you can attain a phenomenal cup of coffee with this method.

Not all brewing methods are created equal. If you have quality coffee, why wouldn’t you want to brew it in a way that helps it be the best it can be? Each brewing method is going to bring out different things with the exact same coffee.

At Purple Door Coffee we want to help coffee be the best that it can be. So many people have had a hand in getting this roasted bean to us, so we don’t want to mess it up right at the end.

More importantly, at Purple Door Coffee we want to help our employees be the best they can be. We believe that all people are “high quality beans”, and so they are worth the effort. So, our training (brewing) methods will be specific to each person (bean) to bring out all that they can be, because they are worth the effort. An inexpensive drip machine version of training isn’t going to cut it. We know that training methods for our employees will not be plug and play. Each employee will have strengths and deficiencies in different areas. We’re ready to work with each employee on an individual basis–striving to help them be who they were created to be.

When I pay as much as I do for a bag of coffee, it comes with the expectation that it will be delicious. It disappoints only when I don’t set it up for success. If I let it steep in the French Press for too long, or if my water isn’t hot enough, or the grind isn’t right…so many variables impact the coffee that ends up in my cup.

The coffee can live up to the expectations that I place on it when I do my part.

Similarly we will place expectations on our employees, because we believe our employees are valuable enough to have expectations placed on them. Something that we believe to be true is that people desire to live up to expectations, and they do live up to them when a few things are in place.

1. People Live Up To Expectations When They Are Able To.

-We want to provide the tools necessary for our employees to live up to the expectations that we place on them. Adequate training, encouragement, accountability, community, and so many other tools.

2. People Live Up To Expectations When They Believe They Are Able To.

-Many of our friends don’t believe that they matter, or that they deserve better. Some don’t believe that they are capable of leading a healthy, sustainable life. We want to help our employees see that they matter, and they have the ability to live up to the expectations that we set for them. We truly want to help our employees believe in themselves.

3. People Live Up To Expectations When the Expectation Is Based In Relationship and Love.

-We as humans don’t like to disappoint the people that love us. We like to reciprocate that love. At Purple Door Coffee we strive to communicate love at every moment. We believe that this will lead to success of our employees more than any other single thing. It is the mortar that holds all the bricks that are PDC together. Love and Relationship.

Excellent coffee comes with expectations. Excellent Coffee is worth the effort.

We place expectations on our employees because they are excellent folks.
We believe that our employees are worth the effort of: proper training, relationships and resources because they are excellent people.