Volunteers are integral to the success of Samaritan House. We wouldn't be able to open our doors to our neighbors without tremendous community support. A great example of answering the call is the Peltes family, who began volunteering at Samaritan House with Saturday morning meal service and expanded their efforts in many directions.
Terry Peltes is now on a mission to help women experiencing homelessness get the best-fitting shoes. He recalled seeing women with orthopedic injuries and “ladies walking around in the cold with men's leather dress shoes and no socks.”
Peltes has since created a traveling shoe store that visits Samaritan House shelters run by Catholic Charities of Denver.
He started years ago buying as many shoes as he could to give out during the winter months. But it expanded into a much bigger opportunity after a conversation with Ken Gavin, a colleague certified in orthotics, who sourced over 400 pairs of shoes in many styles and sizes. They also brought along trained volunteers to help the cause.
“We got help from orthopedic technicians, physical therapists and athletic trainers to fit the shoes,” said Peltes, who is currently CEO of a healthcare company.
They would properly size and fit the shoes and add proper orthotics where necessary to make sure the ladies had the comfort and support they needed to be on their feet and moving around all day.
“It was so incredible. I would stand at the door with a box of hats and gloves and a bowl of candy saying, ‘Welcome to the shoe store.’”
These women “were shopping for shoes, maybe for the first time in a decade,” said Peltes. “'Do you have this in blue? Do you have this in a tennis shoe?'”
They are planning the next traveling shoe store for this summer and hope to continue at least twice each year. Providing footwear to women in need is just the latest outreach from Peltes and his family to those served by Catholic Charities.
Years ago, he had an inkling that there's “something I'm supposed to be doing.” He went to the Catholic Charities website and saw an opportunity to serve breakfast to women staying at the overnight shelter at Samaritan House in downtown Denver.
“I'll do it once a year or so,” Peltes recalled thinking. “And then I'll feel good about myself.”
Thus began a journey in 2013 that has since captivated Peltes, his family and friends. Peltes went from serving breakfast once a month on Saturday mornings to serving on most Saturday mornings. His wife, Caroline, worked behind the scenes. She gathered socks, gloves, hats, walkers, rollators, toiletries and beauty supplies to provide to the ladies at Samaritan House—and eventually she helped start diaper drives with a group of friends through their parish.
When their daughters, Maya and Emma, were old enough, they joined Terry on Saturday mornings.
“They began to experience the impact of serving others, which reinforced their personal joy and fulfillment,” said Terry, noting that it really took hold for his daughters when they invited their friends to join them in service.
For Peltes, it is all a confirmation of who Jesus Christ is and what the Catholic faith stands for.
“The king of the universe came not to be served but to serve,” said Peltes. “The antidote to all the problems in our world is in serving others. If you're depressed, if you're bored, if you're angry, if you feel hatred, if you don’t know why you’re here or you’re wondering what life is about, go serve someone in need. It is then that we experience our natural state of love and it is then that we are doing the work we are meant to do. Serving others brings us closer to the person we are created to be and that brings true fulfillment to our lives. That ability is within all of us. We just have to find a way to get started.”
That message was driven home for Peltes in the late 1990s in the Atlanta area, where he lived at the time and was challenged by Monsignor Pat Bishop, a priest at The Catholic Church of the Transfiguration.
“I was fortunate to find a priest who really opened my eyes,” said Peltes, who recalled receiving this message from Father Pat: Do you think just being a good person is enough? I have some doubts as to whether you may be as good as you think you are. There are people all around you who need you. You have an obligation to them.
“I think we all have servant hearts,” summarized Peltes, whose family are parishioners at St. Thomas More Catholic Parish in Centennial. “For many people, it's just natural to serve. For the rest of us, we need to be hit over the head with a two-by-four”.
In 2019, at the Sam's Supper event that supports Samaritan House, Peltes and his family were honored with that year's Courteney Saeman Volunteer Award. Peltes was asked at that event to discuss his experience at Samaritan House.
“On Saturday mornings at the Samaritan House...I know that we are in perfect harmony with the call from Jesus Christ to extend his love to those who are less fortunate than us,” said Peltes, adding later, “This isn't about what the Peltes family, or any of us, do for the Samaritan House. It's about what the Samaritan House has done for me and my family...We're supposed to be the givers, but we are actually the receivers.”
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A mom tries shoes on her daughter at Samaritan House at a prior family event.