Marisol Family St. James experiences electrical fire – closed indefinitely

In February 2024, an electrical fire damaged Marisol Family St. James. Fortunately, no one was hurt, but the space was significantly damaged and diapers and other items burned. As a result, St. James is closed indefinitely.

But there is good news! We continue to serve clients through Marisol Miles and at our other nine locations. While the situation at Marisol Family Saint James is unfortunate, it has given us the opportunity to reflect on all the good Marisol Family St. James was able to accomplish since 2009.

In many ways, St. James has been the heart of Marisol Family. It was our first location, given to our ministry by the pastor at the neighboring parish. Since that time, more than a dozen amazing volunteers have worked tirelessly to distribute 150,000 diapers a month. Almost 400 families a week found the support they needed at St. James. The house may be small in square footage but the positive community impact that took place within those walls was vast.

Today, the Marisol Family team is focused on reducing the impact on our clients. In addition to the extensive damage sustained to the building, we lost $30,000 worth of diapers, wipes, baby items, and other crucial supplies. So, we’ve done what we always do: we’ve turned to prayer and faith as we work toward a solution. Our other locations are working together to serve families, Marisol Miles is jumping in with all four tires to travel to more locations than ever before and we’re turning to our amazing supporters to help us recoup our losses. Of course, we would be grateful for your support! A direct donation goes a long way to replacing the items lost in the fire so we can continue to be a vital resource to families in need. Your partnership is more important than ever.

If you would like to make a donation, please click here. Every dollar goes toward helping Marisol Family meet the needs of Colorado families struggling to provide essential items for their babies and toddlers.

Catholic Charities Kinship program is where families like Audrey’s find community and support

FINDING SOLACE AND STRENGTH AFTER UNIMAGINABLE LOSS

In Her Own Words: Audrey shares what the Catholic Charities Kinship program means to her family.
“My daughter, Arianne passed away unexpectedly on June 23, 2019, at the age of thirty-six, leaving behind three young children aged 4, 5 and 12 at the time.

In the wake of this devastating loss, my family embarked on a journey we never anticipated nor desired. We find ourselves yearning daily for Arianne’s presence to fill the void. In the midst of grief, we relied on Catholic Charities who offered us opportunities to connect with others in similar circumstances. Surrounded by fellow Catholic families grappling with similar grief, I’ve found solace and strength. Cooper, Joey and Cody are resilient, and I am grateful that we have resources now for them to deal with grief.

While we held a Mass and service at the time of Arianne’s passing, we have yet to lay her to rest. Plans for a Catholic Service at Mt. Olivet Cemetery this summer offer hope that our younger children will come to understand the concepts of death and heaven.

My days are devoted to caring for the children, leaving little room for work outside the home. However, through programs like the Kinship program offered by Catholic Charities, we find a sense of community and support. Monthly gatherings at Notre Dame Church provide a space for us to connect with families facing similar challenges, while the children benefit from religious education classes and community events.

A particularly poignant moment was a court ceremony (where full custody was granted to Audrey) conducted on October 23, 2023, in the same room where we held our Kinship family meetings. This event served as a significant step in our healing journey, made more comforting by the children’s familiar surroundings.

We eagerly participate in activities organized by Kinship, providing moments of joy and connection for the children. Despite financial constraints, these events offer invaluable experiences, like Cooper’s fond memory of meeting a Kinship team member at a ropes course event.

Looking ahead, Joey, the youngest child, plans to perform a skit from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory at an upcoming luncheon and talent show, a testament to his growth and resilience. We’re immensely grateful for the legal support we’ve received, including assistance with Special Needs Trust Funds and adoption fees, ensuring the children’s long-term well-being.

Throughout our journey, food has been a constant source of comfort and support, provided generously by our community. Volunteer teachers offer invaluable support for the children, allowing us adults to address our own needs during meetings.

As we reflect on the past year, the support we received during Christmas was particularly impactful. Gift cards and presents brought joy to the children, with our two youngest, Cooper and Joey, receiving brand new bicycles.

I’m inspired to advocate for grieving programs tailored to special needs children, drawing from our Catholic faith and the example of Mary’s sorrow. I use the Pieta image to explain the Blessed Virgin Mary’s sixth Sorrow – with the loss of Jesus. I have the goal to work with our Catholic faith and develop a grief program based on Mary’s experience. Our family remains profoundly grateful for the unwavering support we’ve received since day one.”

Alex’s Pursuit of Stability Leads to Samaritan House Fort Collins

Throughout his entire adult life, Alex poured himself into his profession. His career brought him across the country, constantly on the move. This instability and lack of community, paired with the stresses of work, left Alex seeking something to help him feel better, more in control. He turned to pills to self-medicate, but the pills didn’t bring the help he needed.

Eventually, he decided he had enough, began turning his life around and became sober in 2014. Alex’s journey to sobriety was bumpy and he continued to seek out support for his mental health. He was still traveling for work but was able to stay sober even when times were rough and temptations were challenging.

Traveling so often meant many people came and went in Alex’s life. He usually found himself in the company of decent, kind-hearted people who would be happy to lend a hand to one another. When he was in Utah, Alex found companionship in a friend who also traveled for work. Alex’s life took a sharp turn when his friend began taking advantage of him, going so far as to steal his car, most of his money and several personal effects. He ended up stranded in Salt Lake City with only $200 to his name.

Alex saw two choices – return to pills to ease his pain or call for help. Fortunately, he chose the latter and a phone call to his brother, who is from Colorado, led him to Catholic Charities. He made the trek from Salt Lake to Samaritan House Fort Collins where he sought refuge. For the first time in many years, Alex had the support he needed to focus on himself. During his stay, he was able to start fulfilling several unmet needs: he found a new full-time job, saved over 50% of his income and rebuilt his community.

After everything Alex went through with his friend in Utah, he easily could have chosen to see the world through a jaded lens. Instead, he decided to pour love and kindness back into his community. Outside of his work hours, he found time to volunteer. He was so grateful for the changes in his life that he chose to give back to multiple organizations. His time as a volunteer at these different agencies brought new friends, ones he can count on.
In his four months at Samaritan House Fort Collins, Alex had the opportunity to heal from decades of pain and a tough life on the road. He feels that he has a life worth living for again and shared that “Catholic Charities is a godsend. If you are willing to help yourself, they are willing to help you.” He is happy to be back on his feet, renting his own apartment and have the security to face future emergencies. For the first time ever, Alex is setting his roots, and he is blooming where he’s been planted.

Nancy: The Silent Warrior Nurturing Three Grandchildren, Supported by Catholic Charities Kinship

For over a decade, Nancy has been attending the kinship caregiver support group at Catholic Charities, a resource she clings to and calls a lifesaver. Nancy is raising her three grandchildren, all of whom are on the autism spectrum.

When Nancy’s grandchildren unexpectedly lost their father when they were four, six and ten, Nancy was already an active family member to the children, giving them a sense of security as they navigated life as a single caretaking household. After the death of her husband, the children’s mother asked Nancy to help her raise the children. They later would all live under the same roof to best suit their needs.

As expected, there were many challenging days for Nancy and her family. Navigating tailored care for each child to meet sensory needs and addressing their grief continues to be difficult. To find all possible resources for the three boys, Nancy found the Kinship program at Catholic Charities, a ministry that supports caregivers who are relatives, friends and neighbors.

The support group meets monthly for caregivers to share their triumphs and tribulations, offer advice and understanding, as they all face uncharted territory together. For Nancy and dozens of other caregivers, it is a sanctuary where they can unload worries and fears, knowing they are among those who truly understand.

In addition to support groups, the Kinship group also gathers for social outings including trips to the movies, roller skating and talent shows as reprieves from their daily duties. One year they went with kinship to the White Fence Farm in Lakewood for Thanksgiving. “It was so special for the kids because we wouldn’t have been able to afford to go or to have a big Thanksgiving meal that year,” said Nancy.

The oldest of her grandchildren, Dominic, now 23, remembers that he always had gifts under the Christmas tree. The family has been “adopted” by Catholic Charities Adopt-A-Family every year since that very first Christmas without their dad, over ten years ago

A Home with Catholic Charities Housing’s St. Valentine’s Apartments in Loveland celebrate our grand opening

“A Home with a Coach”

Catholic Charities Housing’s St. Valentine’s Apartments in Loveland celebrate our grand opening

In July of 2016, Daniel lost his 4-year-old to an accidental drowning in Fort Collins. It was a life-altering event that would change the course of his path throughout Northern Colorado.

After a bout of couch surfing and living out of his car in Windsor, Daniel eventually became unhoused in Loveland. He utilized many of the services the city provided for the unhoused community, which led him to a blank application and a pen. Daniel would soon be approved to be one of the first residents of St. Valentine’s Apartments in Loveland and would not have to spend another cold winter night outside again. “I call this home. For me, it is home. And I am so glad to be here. If it was not for Catholic Charities and the City of Loveland and other contributors, we would still be outside.”

He invited the rest of the residents in attendance to join him at the podium as they stood with pride in front of their beautiful new apartment building.

City of Loveland Mayor Jacki Marsh and other city officials also attended the ribbon-cutting event on Wednesday, February 28, 2024. She spoke about a resident of the building who she had gotten to know prior to the building’s opening. “I would see the signs of frostbite on her fingers when she showed me pictures of her family. It was devastating. She came up to me at a city council meeting a few weeks ago and I told her to “go home” in the nicest way possible. She looked shocked by the word ‘home.’ That night was the first one she would be residing here,” said Marsh. “I can’t thank you enough for providing homes to our city.”

The new and innovative supportive housing complex in the Sweetheart City, located at 915 E. 10th Street, provides housing for people who are exiting homelessness. The building has 48 one-bedroom and six two-bedroom units with 54 units. Importantly, St. Valentine is not just a housing complex; it’s a comprehensive solution to address the challenging issues faced by the homeless population.

“This project is more than just a building, it’s a testament to love, support and community. It’s about offering a hand for healing and creating a space where everyone can find a home and hope,” said Justin Raddatz, vice president of Catholic Charities Housing. “We’re proud of our team, our partners and the Loveland entire community who came together to take this project from dream to reality.”

From Blanket to Blessing: Women Find New Beginnings in Upgraded Shelter Pods

Clark grabs the pink butterfly blanket her daughter gave her and carries it across Samaritan House 48th. Excitedly, she makes her way to the Rose neighborhood, a new section of semi-private cubes called “pods” within the Catholic Charities shelter and settles into her new home. “This changes everything for me. I am a quiet and independent person, so to have this private place where I can mind my own business and focus on myself is amazing. I feel very blessed and know God is looking after me.”

After Clark’s divorce, her sense of self changed, and it took a toll on her financial situation. Samaritan House 48th is her chance to start over as a single person in a safe and healthy environment.

For Clark and the 96 other women who moved into the first round of pods, a new chapter begins.

The newly designed sleeping quarters consist of semi-private cubes equipped with a bed, a lockable wardrobe, electrical outlets and aisle lighting. With three sides enclosed, residents enjoy enhanced privacy within these spaces. These sleeping areas are also modular, allowing flexibility for rearrangement or reconfiguration as needed by the Samaritan House staff.

In addition to the sleeping quarters, the modular units create lounging spaces furnished with comfortable couches for residents to relax further. Samaritan House 48th also introduced upgraded restroom and shower facilities, along with a medical services center. It is expected that by the end of 2024, all of the pods will be complete, and every guest will have a pod and a “neighborhood” to call their own.

“These are more than just structures. They represent symbols of hope, dignity and progress. For too long, emergency shelters have been living in challenging spaces, ranging from mats on the floor, to bunk beds with very little amenities or supportive services. Our vision is a future where every individual in our shelter has access to safety, security, and a dignified emergency shelter experience.” said Eli Allen, the director of strategic initiatives for Catholic Charities

As part of the move-ins, each pod recipient received a welcome bag complete with skincare, body wash and other toiletries to celebrate their new space. Many of the women started decorating their spaces to make it their own, with artwork and little subtleties that are near and dear to them.

“We want to try to make it someplace where people feel like they can come, but they also know that there is a goal to live in a community environment. We do think that this will drive some more interest in coming inside because it does have a more dignified feeling,” said Allen.

From Samaritan House to Early Childhood Education, Diega and her family embark on a new chapter

In 2019, Diega and her family arrived in Denver from Honduras. The adjustment to a new city, new language and new culture was challenging, but thanks to the support from the Samaritan House team, they were soon able to find stability and a place to call home.

It was at Samaritan House where Diega first heard about the Early Head Start Home-Based Option, a Catholic Charities program that provides early childhood education and support for families with young children. She jumped at the opportunity to enroll her children, knowing that it would provide them with a solid foundation for their education and future success. With the help of the program, her family secured a long-term residence through the Denver Housing Authority, and her children soon began attending the Mariposa Center for additional support and learning.

Diega also became involved in the Early Head Start Policy Council, serving as a Parent Representative and advocating for the needs of other families. Through her involvement, she learned about the plethora of resources available to families in Denver and made connections with other parents who were going through similar experiences. She also received invaluable support and guidance in preparing her children for kindergarten, something impossible without the program’s help.

Diega knows there might be some bumps along the way, but she’s sure she’ll create a great future for her kids. With a smile on her face, she’s ready to dive into the next part of her family’s adventure, full of excitement and possibilities.

Valentine’s Day Spotlight on Service

Thomas and Anita have been married for more than 20 years. They spend their Thursday afternoons volunteering together at Marisol Family St. Bernadette’s in Lakewood. Thomas and Anita have two children of their own. They chose to volunteer together at Marisol Family because they wanted to give their time to a ministry that helps young families take care of their children.

Anita tells us, “We both have a heart for families, and we wanted to work together where it is important.”

Anita and Thomas are retired and feel working with the team at Marisol Family is a great use of their time. They get to be a part of the positive impact the work Marisol Family has on thousands of parents and children.

Anita reflects on how volunteering has influenced her life, “It opens our eyes to seeing the broad need in the community for free diapers.” She describes volunteering at Marisol Family as humbling and rewarding work.

Marisol Family is helping more and more families every day meet the basic and essential needs of their children. Volunteers like Anita and Thomas are crucial to Marisol Family’s ability to execute our mission of providing material assistance, support service and family education to parents and children all over Colorado.

“I see it in their eyes as I pass out diapers. It is so powerful to see families that choose life when they didn’t have to. When it was hard these families still chose to have their babies, even though it can be hard to accept that they need help with diapers.” said Thomas.

If you would like to be a part of the work Marisol Family does to help improve the lives of parents and children please email ttrapasso@marisolservices.com. Thanks to volunteers like Thomas and Anita Marisol Family can extend the healing ministry of Jesus Christ to families in need.

St. Valentine’s Apartments in Loveland: A Light at the End of the Tunnel

St. Valentine’s Apartments, the latest housing project from Catholic Charities Housing, is providing a light at the end of the tunnel for individuals struggling with homelessness in Loveland, Colorado. The project, which began five years ago in partnership with the City of Loveland, began accepting residents in late December 2023, with full occupancy expected in mid-March.

The new and innovative supportive housing complex in the Sweetheart City, located at 915 E. 10th Street, provides housing for people who are exiting homelessness. The building has 48 one-bedroom and six two-bedroom units with a total 54 units. Importantly, St. Valentine is not just a housing complex; it’s a comprehensive solution to address the challenging issues faced by the homeless population.

Unique Vision

St. Valentine isn’t just an affordable housing project. It’s a supportive housing project, with the goal not to simply house residents, but to help lift them to their next chapter. The Catholic Charities Housing team has diligently worked to ensure that the project is heavily staffed, with five dedicated full-time service providers, including navigation managers, two case managers and a clinician who offers triage services for acute issues. In addition, the project is providing long-term support without imposing time limits on its residents.
“There is significant need for affordable housing of all kinds across Colorado,” said Justin Raddatz, Executive Director, Catholic Charities Housing. “But supportive housing – which provides the resident with stable long-term housing and supportive services in the same place –  is one of the most intense, challenging projects to develop and operate and serves the most vulnerable homeless residents in the community – exactly the type of mission we at Catholic Charities sign up for.”

Why Loveland?

For many years, Loveland was considered a “bedroom community,” with many residents traveling to Fort Collins, Greeley and even Denver for work. But with the explosion of development and an emphasis on growth in recent decades, Loveland’s population has doubled over the past 30 years, bringing with it complex challenges and problems that used to be faced only by larger cities. Thankfully, Loveland’s leadership recognized the challenges and proactively moved forward to address the issues of homelessness.
“I am profoundly grateful to Catholic Charities for stepping in and building the Saint Valentine Apartments,” said Loveland Mayor Jacki Marsh. “Housing and caring for those who have been chronically unhoused is a monumental endeavor. We human beings will see an animal, such as a dog or a cat, alone, abandoned, shivering in the cold and we will stop what we are doing and we will attempt to help the animal. Yet, we ignore, fear or even hate the human animal that is unhoused. Unlike the cat or the dog, we assign blame to the unhoused human. I suppose those thoughts and beliefs justify our looking the other way.”
The Mayor continues, “Or perhaps it’s merely a lack of knowing what to do? Or perhaps it’s knowing that taking in the unhoused, the suffering human being, will require more than we are willing to take on?  At the end of the day, healing the human being, may be possible, if we work together. If we step out of our comfort zone, reach across the divide that separates the house and the unhoused and if we extend a welcoming hand and say ‘I see you, you matter, come inside, rest, heal, let’s find a path, together.’ Thank you, Catholic Charities, for being the hand that extends the welcome, for providing the home, the safe haven for those who have lost their way. Thank you for restoring hope.”
Something for Everyone

The meticulous planning and execution of this housing project reflect the dedication of the team involved in bringing this vision to life. In addition, security is a top priority at St. Valentine’s Apartments, with staff ensuring 24/7 coverage to create a safe and secure living environment for all residents.

One distinctive feature of the complex is its center courtyard, where residents can soak up the sunshine, find comfort in shade and engage in community activities. Building on that sense of community and providing a place to build camaraderie, the courtyard hosts an outdoor concrete ping pong table and plenty of tables, chairs and benches.

Partnerships Abound

The success of St. Valentine’s Apartments is attributed not only to the dedication of Catholic Charities Housing with the collaborative efforts from the City of Loveland, ShopWorks Architecture and KCI. Homeward Alliance and SummitStone Behavioral Health are our primary service partners. Working closely with local authorities, the project has seamlessly integrated into the community, becoming a testament to what can be achieved when public and private entities join forces to address critical social issues.

As St. Valentine’s Apartments continues to welcome residents and provide a supportive haven, it stands as a shining example of how compassion, collaboration and community engagement can transform lives and create lasting positive change.

At 92, Marie is still on her daily mission to “make someone happy”

At the age of 92, Marie Saavedra has spent the last 29 years working at the Samaritan House warehouse in downtown Denver, continuing her days offering her warm heart to those seeking it. Marie always believed that compassion was the key to a happy life.

“Every day, I wake up excited to go to work. And every night, I thank God for everyone I have encountered that day and pray that they know how much God loves them. He tells me, too, how much He loves me.”

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) only 4.4% of the workforce is 90 years old or older. If you were to shadow Marie on any given day, you would be floored to know she is a part of that 90 years or older percentage. Her heart for service and faith in humanity keeps her youthful.

Marie’s journey of service began at the young age of 16 years old when she entered the workforce, caring for babies at the baby annex at St. Joseph’s Hospital. She went on to give birth to six of her own children, a calling she’d been preparing for. Having a large family was always important to her. She takes pride in having most of her children in a close radius and beams at the five generations who call her mom, grandma, great-grandma and even great-great-grandma.

While raising her children, Marie also worked as a caregiver for seniors. Her gift of holding the hands of any single person, at any age, during any hardship never wavered. She shares a story of one woman she fondly cared for during her last years.

“I remember having a special bond with this woman, Grace. I’d sit with her, and she’d tell me all sorts of stories. She entrusted me with her wedding ring before she passed, knowing that I’d give it to her daughter. It was an honor I never took lightly. When I gave the ring to her daughter, she told me how much Grace loved me,” Marie said. She thought “If only I could make someone happy like that.”

Marie has added many stories of her own. After decades of caretaking, she joined a community center for older adults to spend the brief chapter of her retirement. She met someone at the center who connected her to the job at Samaritan House. It was part-time, close to her house and seemed like a Godsend. Her days of helping the vulnerable populations weren’t over.

In her everyday effort to “make someone happy”, she recalls an experience of a man who came to the warehouse, nervously seeking a suit to wear for an interview. As she had done hundreds of times before, she got him exactly what he needed and offered her advice. Two years later, that same man made the trip to the warehouse to share with Marie that he had gotten that job he interviewed for. He came to bring her a guardian angel pin, sharing with her that she had helped him get the job, with the confidence she instilled in him.

Of the many hundreds of stories she has to share, many triumphant, many challenging, she remains resilient. Her presence has kept the Samaritan House warehouse operation a staple in the Denver community.

“Marie’s faith is at the heart of everything she does…it comes out in her smile and her endless hours of service. She makes me smile every day she comes in to work,” said Mary Larsen, director of warehousing and kitchen operations.

For the past two years, the migrant population has come to rely on the Samaritan House warehouse as a lifeline. Some days, Marie and the warehouse team cater to 150 new individuals each day, giving them a sack lunch and clothing. There are days that are much harder than others, but the encouragement Marie shares with each person is always the same.

Her close colleagues feel blessed to spend their days with Marie. “She is an inspiration to all of us. I look up to Marie,” shared warehouse manager Dianne Montoya

During the days where she caters to hundreds of people, she shares that “if God keeps giving me the physical ability, I will keep doing it. I make sure to stretch every night and thank Him for the body I have to provide hope to people.”

As the years roll on, Marie continues to be an unstoppable force at Samaritan House. Her unwavering dedication and contagious enthusiasm have inspired thousands, a reminder that kindness has no age requirement.

“I thank God for the joy this life brings me and the strength He gives me to keep doing it.”