Spoiler Alert: I’m staying in Denver!

For the past 10 months I have been working at Metro Caring. I have talked about it on a few occasions here, but to bring you up to speed, Metro Caring is the largest hunger relief organization in Denver that directly serves people. I love it as it’s the perfect balance between direct service to others and solo office time which my introverted self often craves.


Metro Caring’s new facility has been open for just over a year.

When I started back in September my responsibilities were not unlike those of a regular Metro Caring volunteer, I would spend our open hours volunteering at the Welcome Desk, Community Navigation, the Market, and the Warehouse. After we closed our doors I took to my desk and entered data. During this time I learned many things I thought I would never learn including how to use a pallet lift.


Food from one of Metro Caring’s nutrition classes.

Due to staffing changes and new programs, my responsibilities have changed significantly over these past months and I currently find myself coordinating two of our self-sufficiency programs and helping to lead our community navigator volunteers.


Weighing the food before it leaves Metro Caring’s Market.

But I’ve learned that working in a non-profit does not always mean that you are doing things that are apart of your job description, most notably, the hours I spent trying to make cheese fondue for a fundraiser using wine (yes, I drank the leftover wine and left work a little tipsy that day) and special cheese. Those of you who know my picky eating habits know that I’m not fond of melted cheese unless it’s on pizza so this was a difficult task for me.


Metro Caring is committed to reducing food waste–here are our compost bins!

There are days when Metro Caring is a difficult place to work. There are times when the stress of living in community causes small stresses at work to overwhelm me. There are times when I’m not kind and communicative with my coworkers. There are times when I’m not feeling very hospitable and compassionate and do not feel all that bad when I tell someone I cannot give them food that day for whatever the reason may be.


Metro Caring is committed to providing nutritious food to families in need.

But I am so lucky to have been placed at Metro Caring. From the very beginning, I was made to feel like a member of the team and not just a temporary intern. I have had supportive supervisors and coworkers, many of whom have become my friends and mentors. And I am so excited to report that I have been asked to stay at Metro Caring following the end of my YAV year and that I have accepted the offer! So, I will be staying in Denver for the foreseeable future.


Here comes more food to sort!

If you had asked me at the beginning of this year, or even at Christmas, if I wanted to stay in Denver I probably would have said no having felt like I didn’t fit in to the culture of Denver, but I love my work and am learning to hike more and have started adding more greens to my daily diet as well as, planting some roots through church involvement and friendship procurement. I think with the addition of Claude and Louise (my shih tzus) to the dog population of Denver I will be very happy here! Unfortunately, I might be homeless because the housing market in Denver is pretty insane.


From the blessing of one of Metro Caring’s gardens.

I know I have proven to be a terrible blogger, but I do want to thank everyone who has supported me financially and emotionally over the last ten months—I could not have done this otherwise. I’m looking forward to finishing the last (!) month of my YAV year strong and then officially making myself a Denver transplant.


One of my cooler (and more stressful) work assignments from this year!

Other fun pictures from the past few months:


Taco John’s was in the dining hall at IU my freshman year and they have it in Colorado!


Views from a hike in Nederland, CO


Views from a hike in Nederland, CO


Views from a hike in Nederland, CO


Northminster came for a DOOR trip!


Northminster peeps volunteering at Metro Caring

Many of the pictures of Metro Caring in this blog post came from Metro Caring’s Facebook page.


Update from Denver

First of all, I apologize for not posting  in such a long time but I’m trying to be conscious of the messages in my blog. I want to post realistic blogs about YAV life here in Denver because I know when I was applying to be a YAV and going through the discernment process, I looked to the blogs of then-current YAVs to see what was happening in each city and for the most part found very little that actually described the day to day of being a YAV in that particular city.

And while I am learning a lot about myself during this year and would love to post blogs that have thought-provoking messages, I do not want this blog to be yet another reflection from a white, privileged person finding herself while living on the margins. So here’s just a little bit of what I’ve been up to these past few months since I last blogged:

I now share a room with a very squeaky bunk bed.

I joined the Chancel Choir at Central Presbyterian Church causing me to feel closer to God than I have since high school.There’s just something about singing that makes all the difference in my spiritual life! Central is an amazing congregation rooted in their long history while making great strides to bring the church into the future with unique worship and programming. I’m making an effort participate in the 20s/30s group that Central has whenever time and stipend allow.

My responsibilities at work have changed from being focused on providing Metro Caring participants with identification to providing Metro Caring participants with utilities assistance meaning I now spend a significant amount of time on the phone. I’m enjoying the fact that I feel comfortable with a lot of my coworkers now and love building community with coworkers while inside and outside of work.

I’m at the about half-way point in my year where I’m starting to think about what happens next but it’s still too early to make concrete plans which I find anxiety inducing. I also gave up pizza for lent :/

Most recently, we had a Snow Retreat at Rocky Mountain Mennonite Camp. This camp was a beautiful place covered in snow that offered opportunities for worship, singing hymns (did you know that Mennonites LOVE to sing Hymns?), playing broomball and human curling, and building community with my house as well as other young adults in similar places in their lives.


Broomball on a very slippery, frozen lake. 




My almost-wipe-out during human curling.


 Check out the rest of the pictures for other things that have been happening since my last blog post!


Turkey Trot–Thanksgiving in Denver. 


DOOR Board Christmas Party! 


Martin Luther King Jr. Day 


Corporate Marade Takeover




Community Day affirmations. 


Got to see IU alum (and future husband) Cody Zeller take on the Nuggets! 


Past and present Denver DWELLers/YAVs rooting for the Broncos!


The Broncos won the Super Bowl!!!!!!!!!

If Donald Trump Knew…

A few weeks ago, my housemates and I piled into our green Honda Odyssey (nicknames include: the swagger wagon, el Diablo verde, and OBD [old broken doors]) and drove south to take part in a border delegation through Border Links in Tucson, AZ, Douglas, AZ and Agua Prieta, MX.


Making Pupusas at Border Links in Tucson.



If you’re as big of Presby-geek as I am, you probably heard that Donald Trump claimed to be a member of the Presbyterian church, and that Stated Clerk of the PC(USA), Gradye Parsons responded with a letter stating what the Presbyterian church actually believes about immigrants (spoiler: Presbyterians disagree with the Donald) With our border delegation trip, I got to see these beliefs being put into action by amazing people.

You see, if Donald Trump knew that Southside Presbyterian Church in Tucson, AZ and Rev. Alison Harrington offered Sanctuary  to migrants at risk of deportation, most recently, Rosa Robles Loreto for over 15 months, he would not be calling himself a Presbyterian.


Southside Presbyterian Church

If Donald Trump knew that Frontera de Cristo, a Presybterian border ministry, exists in Douglas, AZ and holds a prayer vigil every week for those who die in the desert surrounding Douglas every week, he would not call himself a Presbyterian.


The border wall taken from the US side. 


Prayer Vigil in Douglas, AZ. 


If Donald Trump knew that Frontera de Cristo, through its different partnerships led us to:

C.R.R.E.D.A., a drug and alcohol rehabilitation center in Agua Prieta whose residents help deliver water to the desert for migrants on their journey. We got to walk in the desert with them one day, and that combined with our knowledge of how cold it was getting at night, let us see the brutal conditions migrants face as they make their way to the border.



Water in the Desert


Walking in the desert.

C.A.M.E., a migrant shelter in Agua Prieta, offering shelter to men, women, and families on their journey. We shared a meal with some of the migrants who were staying at C.A.M.E. while we were in Agua Prieta. The man I sat next to had been deported from Canada where he had lived with his wife, children and grandchildren for the past 27 years! That’s a whole lifetime! He also explained so many of the people getting deported back to Mexico and other places have lived in the US for so long that they no longer have family in Mexico so they have to stay at shelters like C.A.M.E.

Cafe Justo, a grower owned coffee cooperative that was created in response to NAFTA. Before NAFTA, coffee growers were able to earn a livable wage from their product but after, many coffee growers joined the hoards of migrants going North to work in US-owned factories in Mexico as well as other jobs in the United States. Café Justo allows families to stay on their farms.



Cafe Justo coffee

If Donald Trump knew about any of this, as well as the other places we went where Presbyterians have left a mark, he would not be calling himself a Presbyterian. But I am proud to call myself a Presbyterian. And I am so grateful for the opportunity to meet so many people who are serving migrants on the border both directly and indirectly, and I am so grateful for this amazing, educational opportunity.

I hope that as debates continue in relation to our borders when it comes to undocumented migrants or refugees, we can have a spirit as welcoming and hospitable as I witnessed on the Arizona-Mexico border.


Some of the hospitality we received–tamales!


Tamales with homemade salsa! 

Fat Girl in Gym Class

So I haven’t blogged in a while. I’ve thought about blogging about a day in my life at Metro Caring or about the experience of church shopping (which I might do someday) but these blog topics were all a way of avoiding what I really needed to blog about—so I’m finally going to do it.

Denver has been filled with challenges. I expected the challenges that came along with my agency placement, the challenges that came with applying for food stamps, and I even expected and felt prepared for the challenges of living off of a small stipend each month. But I did not expect the physical challenges that have come with being a Denver YAV.

The first big challenge came with the 14er hike that we did as a house. I would not have made it up if it weren’t for Michael coming slowly along with me and would not have made it down if it weren’t the only option. I felt accomplished afterwards, but also felt like I did not need that experience to make my time in Denver memorable. (I also lost a toenail due to the fact that I was in denial about the size of my feet when I bought my hiking boots).



The second came with my staff retreat to a high ropes course where I was forced to confront my fear of heights, but also the fact that it does require physical fitness to actually do the challenges once you get up to them. And as someone who works at a wonderful place with very physically fit people who have made it their mission to make a difference in the health of Denver, I didn’t want them to discover how out of shape I am. Due to a wonderful coworker, I was able to complete one of the challenges even though it was terrifying from a height point of view as well as physically. I was glad I did it, but would have rather not been confronted with the challenge in the first place.




And the third challenge came on another community day where the plan was to complete the Manitou Incline—a 2,000 foot elevation gain in less than a mile. This time I did not make it to the top like the rest of my housemates. There are no pictures of me smiling triumphantly as I reached the top.


I have never been a physical person—the only time I have ever exercised consistently was when I was trying to lose the freshman 15 the summer after my first year at IU. I was always the girl who dreaded the mile run in gym class and would even find ways to avoid other gym class activities (I once cleaned the weight room instead of playing kickball one day—Thanks for that opportunity Mr. Reed).

I would do anything possible to avoid confronting the fact that I was non-athletic and even overweight at times. I would do anything to avoid feeling like the fat girl in gym class.

Increased age and maturity has taught me to be comfortable with my body the way that it is and to enjoy certain physical activities, but ever since moving to Denver and taking on these physical challenges, I cannot help but feel like the fat girl in gym class again, especially in comparison to my housemates. And when the thoughts start coming, they do not stop and I cannot help but wonder what the point of these physical challenges are?

While being in nature is always a good way to remind me of the beauty of God’s creation, I don’t feel closer to God on top of a mountain or strapped into a harness or when I’m looking at all the uphill steps that need to be taken, I just feel really bad about myself. I hope that by the end of my year in Denver this will change but for now I will continue to be at the mercy of my housemates and employer and all the physical activities they plan for me.


Food Stress

Much of my time at my agency placement, Metro Caring is spent in the Community Navigation offices. Every person who comes through the doors of Metro Caring meets with a community navigator, a volunteer who has been specially trained to know as much as they can about Metro Caring so that they can offer all of the other services that Metro Caring provides. These services include nutrition classes, health services, financial couching, ID vouchers, and job training programs to name a few. If the participant needs something that Metro Caring does not provide, the navigators have the resources to point them to a different organization that does provide it. One of the questions that I ask every participant that I see as a community navigator is: “After consuming food from Metro Caring do you notice any improvement in your stress level?”

While we can all understand at a basic level that being hungry and worrying about where your next meal will come from would be a cause of great stress, I had never experienced stress around food before. Sure, there were times in college where I had probably spent a little too much money on yet another pair of yoga pants so I was unable to get my weekly Pizza X, but I have never had to worry about food the way Metro Caring participants worry about food. And I still don’t have to, but I am experiencing very different, stressful feelings surrounding food since coming to Denver.

A huge goal of the Denver YAV/DOOR site is to not provide charity but to live in solidarity with the people that we serve. One of the ways that we exercise this is by living on food stamps. When we first arrived we were given a small food budget to last us until we could get our first stipend and apply for SNAP benefits with proof of our income. Needless to say, that food money did not last us very long and we found ourselves with at least a week, maybe two before our food stamps would come in.

Obviously no one at DOOR would actually let us starve, and we have not come close to starving or even being hungry at any point, but I’ve found the entire situation to be very stressful. I find myself worrying about little things like if I can survive without butter? I find myself getting territorial about community food, feeling the urge to hide bagels in my room just so I make sure that there is food around that I like to eat when I want to eat it. I find myself being extremely judgmental of the housemate who uses community funds to buy something unnecessary like ice cream.

During one of these in between weeks, we went to Metro Caring to get food. I got to see the place that I spend every day from the point of view of a participant. Because I work there, I was able to get us an appointment easily, something that, despite the best efforts of the Metro Caring staff and volunteers, is not always easy for our participants. We arrived and waited to see a navigator then waited to go through the market where we got excellent food and the produce we crave but does not grow in our garden. The whole experience was a huge stress reliever and I know we were all grateful for the food we got at Metro Caring and the kindness we were shown by all the staff and volunteers who stayed late on a Tuesday night to provide access to nutritious food for those who work and cannot come during the day.

The trip to Metro Caring was everything myself and my housemates needed after weeks of either unhealthy food or meals that involved too much zucchini and the trials of trying to get food stamps while having a full-time job which caused us to miss important phone calls, not to mention letters informing us of the interview date and time coming in the mail on the date of the interview but after the time. So yes, Metro Caring and other hunger relief agencies are more than just food providers to those who need it, they provide peace of mind to those experiencing poverty and have stress that I am only experiencing an ounce of.

One of our Zucchini meals--zucchini noodles, zucchini fritters, and zucchini bread.

One of our Zucchini meals–zucchini noodles, zucchini fritters, and zucchini bread.

Seeing God on the Bus

I have been in Denver for almost two full weeks now. The first week was its own separate Denver orientation where we got a chance to explore the city a bit. We visited all of the agencies where YAV/Dwellers will be working this year and my housemates will be putting their capable hands to work with the Denver homeless and refugee communities. If you remember from a previous blog post, my placement is at Metro Caring.

Metro Caring's new facilty--AMAZING!

Metro Caring’s new facilty–AMAZING!

We were shown wonderful hospitality by Antonio and Cindy, the city directors here at DOOR Denver as well as the rest of the DOOR family.


Denver YAVs outside Metro Caring

Denver YAVs in our Swagger Wagon

Denver YAVs in our Swagger Wagon

Our first weekend we escaped city life to Buena Vista for a weekend of camping and it was beautiful! I have to keep reminding myself that I live here now, this is not just an extra long trip, and  that this environment and these people are my life for the next year.





With Antonio, our City Director in Buena Vista.

Learned (kind of) how to chop wood!

Learned (kind of) how to chop wood!

After Labor Day we started at our placements where I was forced to encounter a cause of great fear and anxiety for me—public transportation. We have bikes here and Denver has wonderful bike trails that can take me right to work, but they were in need of repairs that we were unable to get done before work started so rather than avoid public transportation like I was planning, I was forced to accept the fact that my only option for getting to work would be taking the bus.

Luckily, google maps and smart phones exist which made the whole process really easy, but that did not stop the anxiety induced dream I had the night before that involved me having to take a razor scooter to work when I failed the bus system.

But I made it the first day and every day after that and grew to really love the bus. Since I took the same bus at the same time every day I almost felt like I got to know the people who had the same routine as I did. I think in the sheltered life that I have led up until now, I had this incorrect idea that people who ride the bus are not kind people. But in a lot of ways, I saw more kindness in my week on the bus than I’ve seen in a long time.

From the people who made sure that the expectant mother and her three children got a seat, to the man who helped a woman in need pay her fare, to the woman who told me exactly what to do when I eventually did mess up the bus system—all beautiful moments of kindness. I’ve seen so much kindness from others these last few weeks directed at both others and myself. It does not mean that there is not work to be done or things to be educated about, but they have all been moments when I have seen God working in this world.

Now, off to figure out how to prepare six giant zucchini before they go bad!

Oh What a Week

I have spent the past week at Stony Point Center, a Presbyterian conference center that is located in Rockland County, NY, about an hour North of New York City. Stony Point is home to a multi-faith, intentional community dedicated to the study of hospitality, non-violence, and justice. They also have a one-acre farm where all of the vegetables that we ate this week were grown!

On the first day of orientation, YAV coordinator Richard Williams told us to rip off the section of or schedule that said “orientation” because it was time to get ready for disorientation. And it has been very disorienting—in a good way!

Highlights from the week include:

Bible Study—Rick Ufford-Chase led us in five different bible studies that focused on reading the bible as Liberation Theology through the liberation theology hermeneutical circle that calls us to look at every bible story and observe, reflect, pray, act, celebrate, and emulate. This bible study opened my mind to new ideas about the gospel. Stories that were seemingly one way were suddenly revealed to be completely different and a call, from God, to act.

Cultural Competency–Jessica Vasquez Torres from CrossRoads did a workshop with all of the YAVs that taught us about Centers and Borderlands—with the center being what is normalized, or good in our society and the borders being the minoritized. Lots of times we think about the borders as where privileged, white people go to find themselves as well as save those at the border. The workshop definitely pointed out the privilege that most of the YAVs have and that with this privileged role we have a lot of responsibility to not save the people on the borders but to walk with the people on the borders and advocate for them.

Visual of Center/Borderland.

Visual of Center/Borderland.

Sikh Gurdwara—On Thursday we had a day away! I was apart of a group that went to visit a Sikh Gurdwara in New Jersey. It was an amazing experience! While we were there, two young, confirmed Sikhs told us all about Sikhism like how they are a monotheistic religion that believes in a genderless God that is an energy. Sikhs support all religions because they believe that we’re all worshipping the same God in our own ways. We got to participate in a short prayer service and were shown radical hospitality in the form of a meal following the service.

Future Housemate, Helen enjoying our meal at the Gurdwara.

Future Housemate, Helen enjoying our meal at the Gurdwara.

The outside of the Gurdwara.

The outside of the Gurdwara.

Inside the Gurdwara.

Inside the Gurdwara.

This week taught me that the YAV program is about doing mission through partnerships and relationships. Everything that happened this week from community building to social media and photography demonstrations, to talks about advocacy with J. Herbert Nelson had the underlying theme of partnership.

We are headed out to our sites tomorrow where I will actually begin living this journey and I can do so now with the understanding that I am not there to do anything else but walk with the people I’m serving, to walk with my housemates in intentional community, and to walk with all of you so that you can experience and be educated from this journey as well.

This week has made me feel self-conscience, insecure, happy, angry, guilty, joyful, tired, excited, homesick, and anxious—all of the feels! But I’m so ready for this to happen. (Well, as ready as I’ll ever be).