Beginning with a $500 donation from an anonymous benefactor in East Lincoln County in 1983, a non-profit agency with an annual budget of just under five hundred thousand dollars now serves the neediest of individuals and families in the greater Denver community.
East Lincoln Christian Ministry (ELCM) was originally called Christian Cooperative Ministry of East Lincoln County. The membership included many of the churches in the area, and the underlying concept was, as stated in the Ministry brochure, “A shared ministry of Christian men & women who are compassionate, caring, unselfish and who share love with all who are in need.”
The seed money, in the form of a check, was presented to a group of local ministers meeting as an ecumenical Lectionary by Dennis Fotinas, who was at the time priest of The Episcopal Church of St. Peter By-The-Lake. The donor, said Fotinas, wanted to create an organization to provide assistance to needy persons in the area.
An ad-hoc committee was created to discuss the nature of the organization and the kinds of services that could be provided, and the decision was made to pool the resources of local congregations.
A member of that early committee, Hubert Clinard, then minister of Hills Chapel United Methodist Church in Lowesville, recalls that Lincoln County offered the group the use of the property on Highway 16 adjacent to Triangle Elementary School, now Holy Spirit Catholic Church. A single-wide (50’ by 12’) trailer was acquired and the organization began collecting food and clothing for distribution.
“We envisioned the possibility of one day being able to offer other forms of assistance,”
recalls Clinard, 91, but I don’t know that any of us — the founders of the ministry — had any idea of how extensive the ministry might one day become.”
“When you go back to the beginning of other Christian movements, you’ll find that they often began with the vision of a single individual,” he adds.
Although it was quickly outgrown, the trailer was used for five years until the ministry moved to a larger building off Campground Road in Denver in 1988. Within a few years, that building in turn was deemed inadequate for the rapidly-growing ministry and it moved to its current location on Catawba Burris Road in Denver, across from Rock Springs Campground.
The land is leased from the corporation that operates Rock Springs Campground for a period of 99 years for one dollar a year. The current building, which has been expanded several times, incorporates offices for the crisis ministry, a food pantry, a home meals program,and an extensive area called ‘The Closet’ where donated clothing and other articles are sorted and sold.
Another large area in the building which had featured furniture, appliances and household furnishings for sale has recently been moved to a separate building on Campground Road, just south of Highway 16.
Two other nearby buildings are currently used by the ministry for off-season clothing storage and handling special events such as Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas.
ELCM president Laura Moore began volunteering at the mission 10 years ago. She was soon assisted by her husband Larry, a Duke Energy retiree, and they took over the running of the food pantry, a major part of the ministry, with the use of Larry’s pick-up truck and a borrowed trailer.
“When the economy bottomed out,” says Laura, “we had to provide more assistance to clients so we bought a box truck for food pick-ups and added a walk-in cooler and a walk-in freezer.”
The current annual budget, with funds derived from sales, donations, grants and other sources, is just under five hundred thousand dollars. More than half that amount is allocated to the crisis ministry, which provides emergency assistance for food, rent, utilities, and so on.
Also included is the subsidy for the home meals program, which provides a hot lunch five days a week, delivered to elderly, shut-in or disabled persons. More than 1200 meals are delivered every month, with the assistance of 180 volunteer drivers.
Free dental and health clinics, offered periodically, are staffed by volunteer dentists and health care workers, and the rest of the ministry operation is staffed by a cadre of over 100 volunteers, with just one paid part-time position. Some of the volunteers have been with the mission since its inception, and the need for additional volunteers is an on-going issue.
Among the more than one hundred volunteers at ELCM are some who have been with the ministry since its inception, while others have been there only a short while. In either case, the commitment to the work of the ministry remains strong.
Volunteer Colleen Shytle explained how she began her association with ELCM. “I came in seven years ago to see if I could help them to get caught up with sorting and tagging clothing donations. I’m still here and they’re still not caught up.” A member of Lawing Chapel Baptist Church in Maiden, Shytle, 81, adds, “If I miss a day at the mission, I don’t feel right. I guess I’ll be here as long as the Lord sees fit.”
Husband and wife volunteers Jean and Earl Miller have been volunteering for just over a year. Jean, 80, says “I had been involved in a social group at Holy Spirit Catholic Church but I felt a need to do more to help others, so Earl and I visited ELCM and we’re still here. We are able to work side by side tagging and hanging clothes, and we love it.”
ELCM president Laura Moore explains what for her is the principal reason for her dedication to the work of the ministry. “I feel that God ordains our path, and this is where I am supposed to be at this point in my life.”
“I believe East Lincoln Christian Ministry has a unique position in the community because there is no other organization that provides vital services and outreach to so many people in times of need.”
“Our greatest challenge is finding enough volunteers,” she adds. “If we had more volunteer help, we could do even more. But God has given us the strength to keep golng day to day.”
“I know there are folks out there who would be a valuable addition to our hardworking and committed volunteers, and we extend them a warm welcome!”