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What barn are you raising?

A community comes together to help a neighbor build a barn. That’s a rural tradition that still happens today in some parts of the country. The effort reveals many powerful ideas: That together we can accomplish more than as individuals. That many hands make light work. That there’s joy in service to others.

In Greeley recently, we saw a modern-day barn raising with the opening of the 47-unit Guadalupe Apartments, a $13.5 million project of Archdiocesan Housing, an affiliate of Catholic Charities.

Eight years ago, in a very tough economy, the Greeley community came together to support the Guadalupe Community Center and homeless shelter, which opened in 2011. Then they said, what’s next? Today, on the same property, we have the Guadalupe Apartments, which also provides residents with case management and a range of social services.

Catholic Charities led the way. But it could not have happened without the many public, private and faith-based entities, and individuals of good will, who step up in Greeley because they know they are doing something for other people that is very, very important.

“We know, in our business, you need first a place that is safe to be before you can work on some of the other issues that may be going on in your life,” said Greeley Chief of Police Jerry Garner, one of the many officials who attended the grand opening celebration of Guadalupe Apartments on Oct. 27.

The need for affordable housing in Denver and northern Colorado is vast and the Catholic Church will continue to be part of the solution. Overall, Archdiocesan Housing manages 29 affordable housing properties, with more than 1,700 housing units, serving more than 3,100 people. That’s more than 1.1 million nights of shelter a year.

Not only are we a developer, we do it with the dignity of the human person in mind. These properties are managed with the individual in mind, as if our own families were living there. The residents are family to us, because they are children of God. We don’t take money out of these properties, we put money into them. As a result, the people who live there are given a dignified and loving place to live, regardless of where they come from or their situation. That, after all, is what the Catholic Church is all about, serving others with the love, mercy and compassion of Jesus Christ.

At Catholic Charities, we have the equivalent of barn raisings every day of the year. At Samaritan House, Marisol Services, Sacred Heart Counseling and all of our ministries, we’re serving those in the greatest need, day in and day out. I encourage you to get involved, year-round, in one of those ministries, or in your parish, at a school or in your neighborhood. If you’re already deeply involved, invite others to join you.

This time of year, Thanksgiving and Christmas, is when people feel joyful. We like to give gifts, make donations and get involved. That’s great. We want to experience the joy that comes from giving of ourselves to others. But why not have that experience year-round? That’s what’s happening in Greeley. It can happen everywhere. So ask yourself: What barn am I raising?

Larry Smith is the president and CEO of Catholic Charities in the Archdiocese of Denver. Visit online at ccdenver.org or call 303-742-0828 to learn more, volunteer or make a donation.

Larry Smith
Larry Smith is the former CEO and Executive Director of Catholic Charities of Denver.
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