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Getting To Know Erik

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Erik Kirby was born in Aurora, CO and spent time on and off the streets from the time he was 18 until now, at the age of 32. Erik joined our team in late February. This elusive and quiet character, that prefers to not be photographed, brings a lot of entrepreneurial passion to our space. Read more about his story below.

IMG_1309How old are you and how did you become interested in working at Purple Door Coffee?

I will be 32 in August. I heard about Purple Door through a Dry Bones contact and we both thought that it would be a good orientation for me to evaluate some of my previous actions at other jobs while learning fundamentals on budgeting and other topics that I didn’t get a really good grasp on when I was younger.

Well, we’re so glad to have you here. What is something that people might not initially realize about you?
I don’t know…I’m a bit of a softie, I guess. I’m an extreme spiritualist and polytheistic.

Are you originally from Denver?
I was born in Aurora and travelled a lot in my early childhood.

Can you share your favorite memory of working at Purple Door so far?
Meeting many new people and just getting strangers to smile.

How do you get strangers to smile?
Casual conversation and a lot of jokes.

Who is someone you look up to?
Will Smith.

He is a very well-known actor and music artist and overall he does more than just movies. He has businesses and supports causes that are life changing. He is an all-around entrepreneur. I learned when I was younger that he did music and movies and I was really inspired by that. Plus, he’s really good at what he does.

Do you desire to be an entrepreneur?
Yeah. There are a lot of things I would like to do. From tattooing to artwork to building motorcycles… making coffee… all sorts of things. And I’d like to one day write a program for a video game.

Do you have favorite spots in the city?
As far away as possible. I’m not really a big city person, but I do well enough. One day, I’d like have a retreat house, a little shack, but ultimately, I’d like to live where there is a lot of sand and a lot of heat.

Getting to know David

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Summer is quickly upon us! We wanted to take some time to highlight, David, our stoic and compassionate program employee (who also happens to be WICKED smart). He has been with Purple Door Coffee since the middle of October. David took some time to sit down with us and answer questions about himself. His answers were genuine. We are thankful to have him on our team.

David during espresso training at Corvus

David during espresso training at Corvus

How old are you and how did you become interested in working at Purple Door Coffee?

I am 26, just tuned 26 on April 20th! I became interested in working at Purple Door because a good friend of mine, his name is Kevin, he was working in the program at the time. He essentially invited me to apply. I know some of Dry Bones, so I was mainly a word of mouth thing. At the time, coffee wasn’t necessarily on my radar. You know, when opportunity knocks— you answer. Purple Door interviewed me they seemed like really nice people. They seemed like they were honestly trying to help. So, I went for it.

What sort of things might people not initially realize about you?

Sometimes I don’t think people realize that I can be expressive about my feelings and who I am. I can be sensitive. Especially when I was on the streets, it was sometimes hard for me to show all my emotions. Sometimes people get a little a muddled to how I am actually feeling. One of the things that made life difficult from before was that I didn’t know how to express it or share it with people. Purple Door has helped me do that. If people around me are kind, I feel safe enough to talk to them. I don’t have to hide my true self. So, I am is coming out more.

Tell me more about the real you.

The real me is somebody who does not always have to present an image to the world. When you are homeless presenting a face is one of the most important things you can do. You don’t want people to sense weakness. When you are homeless, you want to look strong at all times. But nobody is a rock. So you get in this rut where you cannot lose the mask in company because it is so much easier to protect the the deeper part of yourself from the outside stimuli. You aren’t sure how they are going to respond or what they are going to do. So being able to allow how and what I am feeling to be there and be wholly honest about it is wonderful. It is liberating.

David was excited to open the shop on a beautiful Denver Friday morning

David was excited to open the shop on a beautiful Denver Friday morning

Wow, thank you so much for sharing that. Are you originally from Denver? 

Well originally I am from Thornton. Denver, I moved to when I was 19 years old. I spent seven years here and six of those where on the street.

Can you share a favorite memory from your time at Purple Door so far?

So when I was going through the harder time of trying to figure out where to live my manager, Madison Chandler, came to me and said that if I needed to share anything with her that I could. She said that she may be my boss but that she also was my friend. That was mind blowing to me because up until then bosses had always been the enemy. They are the people who look for the things you do wrong but she actually cared.

Another memory that is my favorite is when I pulled my first successful shot of espresso. I realized that I was actually going to be able to do my barista job. I said, YES! It is possible to do this.

How long did it take you to dial in for the first time after espresso training?

About three days! My first day was just rugged frustration with that machine.

If you could name our espresso machine, what would you name it?

Probably Old Faithful because it does its job consistently day in and day out.

What is your favorite drink to make?

Any latte. Because I like to draw. Trying to draw is always a good time for me.

Oh really, what is your favorite thing to pour? 

Well really I can only consistently pour a heart. It has to be the heart. I get excited when I draw a really great heart. I look at it and say, wow I did that!!

"WOW! I did that!"

“WOW! I did that!”

What drink would you recommend to others to try?

A vanilla latte. Caramel is too much and chocolate is too heavy. Sipping on a vanilla latte is where it is at.

Who is someone you look up to and why?

There is man who is referred to as the Chinese Schindler (who during WWII saved thousands of Jews). Not a lot of people know he existed. He made the call to do a good thing. That is really cool to me. I aspire to do the right thing even when it doesn’t benefit you.

Where are your top three (T3) favorite places to eat in Denver?

  1. Benihana
  2.  Shangri-La in Littleton
  3. Sam’s no. 3 in Glendale


For the remaining Saturdays in June, David will be taking over Purple Door Coffee Instagram account to share pictures and a few thoughts on his favorite places in the city. Be sure to follow us at @purpledoorcoffee and look for the #purpledoorstories hashtag!

Roaster Update!!

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Hello all! If you have been following our journey, then you know that we are trying to open a coffee roaster to employ more homeless teens and young adults who want to leave homelessness behind! We need to raise $100,000 to get this project going. As of right now, thanks to your generosity and a $14,000 matching campaign, we only have to raise just under $3,000 before we can open the roaster. The audio below is an interview about where we are now and where we are headed from Good News with Angie Austin. Check it out and DONATE HERE.


Christmas Gifts!

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Want to give gifts that make a difference this holiday season?  Sending gifts from Purple Door Coffee helps to create jobs for homeless teens and young adults who want to leave homelessness behind! Place your order online and we will ship them out before the Holidays! The final day to Order will be December 13th. The final shipment date will be December 18th. Each order will include a Christmas card! Use the coupon code: ROYALTY at checkout to receive $5.00 off shipping!

This coffee is a blend roasted by Corvus Coffee here in Denver. The label tells about who we are, and what we do. This is a great way to spread the story of Purple Door to your loved ones, as well as give them the gift of a great cup of coffee.

*Royalty Blend* from Purple Door Coffee

These mugs are printed with the Purple Door Logo on them. They’re a classic diner style mug. They make a great gift this Christmas season.


Thank you for supporting the mission of Purple Door Coffee as we continue to expand the services we offer, and the number of positions we have to job train individuals coming out of homelessness!

Merry Christmas!

The Community of Purple Door

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Purple Door Coffee is a community. A group of people centered around a cause, a mission.

Without the community Purple Door would be nothing. We would never have had the funding we needed to get going; we wouldn’t have a customer base; we wouldn’t have individuals giving us advice on the coffee program, job training, theological framework, and anything else we need advice on. We would simply be a coffee shop struggling to get by.

We would not be who we are without you.

As we continue to gather around this thing called Purple Door, we want to really articulate who we are as a community.

  1. We are about embracing and communicating dignity. We believe that every person has unsurpassable worth and value as made clear by the person of Jesus Christ.
    From that we believe all people have the capacity and need to contribute using what they have. Purple Door is a community of dignity, worth and mutual contribution.
  2. We are about equipping and teaching skills. We believe that so frequently people are unable to be the best version of themselves because no one has walked with them, and helped them become that. We believe that each person can contribute, can learn, can be more, and so together we strive to help one another be that best version of self.
  3. We are about doing things well. We want to call people to be their best, have standards and expectations. This is because of our belief that all people can offer something, and that they deserve to be the best version of self. And that’s what we ask, that everyone involved be the best version of self that they can be at that time. With Purple Door we do this because of our faith, and so we must put forth our best effort out of our love for God. There are days when we won’t be our best. The vision and goal of Purple Door is that the community will surround one another when we are not at our best, and when we are we will surround those that are struggling. Each of us can and will be givers and recipients of that support.

Thank you for being a part of the Purple Door Community in 2013 and helping make it such a beautiful year. Thank you for buying into the mission and vision of Purple Door.

We are excited to continue to be a community of love, acceptance, dignity, equipping and quality.

Standing In Awe, Not In Judgment

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The population we work with has a lot to deal with. They frequently have difficult family situations, lack of training in job skills, minimal education on social norms, sometimes they have addiction as a part of their life, abuse and neglect are not uncommon. So many issues, situations, and difficulties to overcome. If I was in a similar situation to most of my friends on the streets, I’m pretty certain I would crumble. Give up. Decide it’s pointless. My friends on the streets are so much stronger than I am, and so frequently their situations have arisen not from their own decisions, but from the decisions of others that have placed them in this situation.

Frequently, those of us who grew up in homes where all of our daily needs were met, homes where opportunities far outnumbered our setbacks, homes where we were encouraged to succeed and supported in the process, it is easy to stand in judgment of the lives lived by my friends out on the streets. Statements such as “just get a job”, “go to rehab”, “stop being lazy” fly with some consistency. We absolutely want some of our friends to “stop being lazy”, and we definitely want some to “go to rehab”, and we obviously want our friends to find their place in the workforce; but seldom, if ever, do these blanket statements actually move our friends to a more positive and healthy place, and they tend to perpetuate a “one-size fits all” approach to partnership and support.

Instead, we need to get close. Get to know the stories. Learn who the individual is, what their needs are. As we get to know their stories and struggles, judgement is replaced by love. Father Gregory Boyle puts it this way: “Here is what we seek: a compassion that can stand in awe at what the poor have to carry rather than stand in judgment at how they carry it.”

And so, as we engage with individuals on the edges, with the poor, we realize that we cannot be of any service to them until we cultivate a heart of compassion over judgement and realize the strength that is present among these individuals. Until we recognize that the struggle facing those on the edges of our society is unfair, unjust, and that partnership and compassion are what are needed, the hurts will never be relieved. When we cultivate a heart of compassion and partnership both their struggles and successes become ours and our struggles and successes becomes theirs, and together we can overcome, celebrate and simply be so much more.

Value. Worth. Belonging.

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This ministry is a beautiful thing. It’s really a fulfilling and good thing to be a part of. When I started working on this project I had a pretty idealized view of the community that would be created. I thought it would be pretty much just this beautiful and joyous and happy community with lives perpetually being radically changed, and all would be right in the world. I basically forgot that I was a part of it, and I’m pretty messed up myself. I also forgot that other people are a part of this community, and they are also messed up. And any time a whole bunch of people are in community, a whole bunch of messed up things happen, because, like I said, we’re messed up.

Here is the cool part–a perfect, joyous, happy, everything is fine community isn’t actually community. True community happens when everybody is aware they are messed up, and it’s okay. When the value of people, as proclaimed by Jesus, is the chief principle of a community, people know they are loved. People in such a community are free to take risks, free to admit when they are struggling with something, free to be held accountable, free to apologize, free to make mistakes, free to grow. Freedom is attained in community when each individual’s value is never in question, and each individual is encouraged to figure out who they are supposed to be! This is the type of community we seek to be at Purple Door Coffee.

We seek to not be about fixing; we’re not even fully about helping. We’re definitely not about making everything perfect, because we can’t. We want to be about compassion. Father Gregory Boyle describes, most aptly, how to be truly compassionate:

“The measure of our compassion lies not in our service of those on the margins but in our willingness to see ourselves in kinship with them–in mutuality.”

If we have a top down approach to serving those on the margins, we’re missing the point, and making true community impossible. We must be able to recognize that we’re no better than those on the margins, and make the conscious effort to enter into life with them. That is when compassion and community take shape.

Those on the margins have been told their whole lives that they are “no good” or “not worth it”. Our friends that find themselves hanging out in downtown Denver a lot of times think they don’t matter, and that the businessman that works in the building they’re leaning against is more valuable than they are–that his life matters, and theirs does not.

I think our employees are beginning to see that they matter. They are beginning to see that they count. This doesn’t happen over night. Just because our employees are in a much better place than they were a year ago, doesn’t mean that the lies they have been told their whole lives are out of the their minds. At Purple Door Coffee we are about standing against the lie that there are some lives that matter more or less than other lives. We want to build a community that is founded on the principle that ever person has unsurpassable value.

Jesus prayer for us was that we would be one. Sadly, in our world that “we” is typically reserved for a certain group of people. For those that are like us. We can certainly be one with those that hold the same values, enjoy the same hobbies, speak in a similar way. Certainly Jesus didn’t mean everyone be one, right? Or did he?

How is that possible? What does that look like? Why is it important?

It’s possible because of Jesus, and Jesus alone. It looks like a lot of things, but mostly it looks like loving people because they’re people (which is really hard). It’s important because when we actually live into the oneness that Jesus calls us to, every person has a place. Every person sees their worth, and their value. And when that happens–love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control can not only exist, but thrive.

In the oneness of Christ every person makes mistakes, hurts people, acts like a jerk, makes people laugh, helps someone else, learns a new skill, makes a fool of themselves, doesn’t get along perfectly with everyone; and that’s the beauty of it all. In the oneness that Christ calls us to all these things happen, but never once is someone’s value in question. Never once does someone have to fight to prove what they are worth.

At Purple Door Coffee we hope that everyone sees that their value is never in question. Every person is valuable, and worthy of love.