We are so excited to support The Gathering Place in the months of July and August for RMCC Gives! We spoke with Kelly Tobin, Business Relations Manager, and learned more about this wonderful organization and what we can all do to help.
Tell us briefly about The Gathering Place and how it started.
The Gathering Place (TGP) is the only daytime drop-in shelter in metropolitan Denver offering wrap-around services for women, children, and transgender individuals who are experiencing poverty and homelessness in the greater Denver community. TGP was established in 1986 by two University of Denver School of Social Work students as a day center to provide warmth, protection from the streets, and nutritious meals. While we refer to those we serve as members, no fees are ever charged for programs or services.
What drew you to be involved with The Gathering Place’s mission?
TGP’s mission is to be a community of safety and hope where positive relationships, choice, and essential resources transform lives. When I initially applied to work for The Gathering Place, I connected strongly with the concepts of positive relationships and choice. I wanted to be a part of a positive, respectful community of folks who are going to be there even if someone makes a mistake or is really struggling. Choice, whether it’s choosing which services to work with or having the option to choose if you want your lunch to be vegetarian or not, gives folks agency over their lives in a way that so many of us take for granted. It’s a small word with a big impact.
What specifically will our donations go toward?
The Gathering Place offers a comprehensive continuum of services meeting clients’ immediate through long-term needs. Immediate support services include hot meals, clothing, showers, laundry facilities, a phone bank, a rest area and quiet room, mail, and access to onsite food pantries. Our onsite whole-person wellness supports include physical and behavioral health care through community partnerships; housing assistance; insurance and benefits enrollment support; case management; education through skill development classes; and job readiness through job search and resume assistance as well as interview coaching. RMCC’s partnership and the donations from RMCC’s community will support The Gathering Place’s programming to support clients in exiting and recovering from homelessness and poverty to achieve long-term stability.
We’d love to hear a specific story that stands out to you that shows how The Gathering Place has helped someone in need.
Jennifer came to The Gathering Place from Alabama after leaving her abusive husband. “I was pregnant with my second child, Ulysses. He would try to poison me and my first son, Oliver.” She made it to Denver and found Samaritan House, where she was referred to The Gathering Place so she could have a safe place for her and her child.
While Oliver had a safe place to play, she was able to use our food bank and laundry service. Soon, she connected with our Jobs and Education program. Through this, she found out that the “diploma” she had from her homeschooling years was not accredited. She started studying for her High School Equivalency.
But the entire time, she was suffering. Her history of domestic violence resulted in trauma, and she would have mental breakdowns that affected her education. “I had so many triggers,” she said. The Gathering Place offered her a refuge where she knew she was protected. Even when her abusive ex-husband tried to find her in Denver, she knew her and her boys were safe. It took a toll on her education, but after 14 months, she earned her High School Equivalency. “That period was the first time I hadn’t worked, because I couldn’t,” she said. “I was restless, I didn’t know what to do with myself.”
Before, Jennifer worked as a secretary for an appliance company and as a project manager for a boat company. “I repaired boats, painted,” she said. Now, through our Jobs and Education program, she is able to find temporary work with the labor industry. She was also able to find help managing the trauma associated with domestic violence. Through TGP, she was able to connect with Mental Health Center of Denver (MHCD) to get treatment.
Jennifer has also been a vital part of TGP leadership. The TGP board opens spots to members, and Jennifer represented members’ voices and needs on our Board of Directors. She enjoyed being part of the overall vision and knowing she was making a difference for people like her. “This has been the most humbling experience of my life.”
What is the best way for people to help into the future?
Donations are the most impactful way to support our work. As a non-profit, we can stretch donated dollars to purchase more food for our food pantry, prepare more meals in our kitchen, provide one-on-one case management services, offer free programming for members, and more.
Another great way to support TGP’s basic needs programming is by donating in-kind. Donations of high-need items like toiletries, new underwear, and reusable bags can be made via TGP’s Amazon Wishlist found HERE or can be dropped off during donation hours. In-kind donation questions and drop-offs can be arranged with TGP’s Program Coordinator, Taylor Traub at email@example.com or (303)996-9046.
Volunteers make TGP’s programming possible! There are opportunities to get involved in most of TGP’s programs, from the kitchen to the Welcome Desk to the Jobs and Education program. During the COVID-19 pandemic, there are fewer group opportunities but as public health experts revise guidelines, more will be available. Individuals and small groups can reach out to Cortney Mabry, Volunteer Program Manager, at firstname.lastname@example.org or (303)996-9041 to learn more.
What do you see for the future of your organization in the next year or so?
The Gathering Place rapidly responded to the changing needs of this community during the COVID-19 pandemic. The biggest change is that for the first time in TGP’s history, staff are working out of two locations: our main location at 1535 High Street and a 24/7 auxiliary shelter location in partnership with the City of Denver and Catholic Charities. This location will be operational at least through the end of 2021, and provides the same wraparound services as our main location, but guests are able to stay overnight in their own rooms.
The Gathering Place is also excited to announce that we are now offering on-site case management services. TGP’s case management team works individually with members to connect them to essential resources and benefits and can help them navigate an often complicated system.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, TGP has prioritized getting testing, care, and vaccines to people experiencing homelessness and poverty in Denver. TGP has hosted multiple low-barrier onsite testing events, open to all members, volunteers, and staff. Recently, TGP has begun offering vaccination clinics to provide better access for underserved community members.
We hope you’ll join us in donating to The Gathering Place!
ABOUT RMCC GIVES: We’re celebrating our 40th anniversary by giving back through our #RMCCGives initiative! We will spend 2021 supporting six nonprofits nominated by our brokers. Stay tuned as we highlight each organization every two months and spend the time supporting their worthy causes. Want to find out how you can get involved? Contact us!
Read more about RMCC Gives on RISMedia’s Featured News HERE