In 2007, God placed a burden in the hearts of a dozen people to start a church in downtown Denver comprised of people who would love God and love their neighbor. The first burden God gave us came from James 1:27, encouraging us to uplift the fatherless and the widows. So, we started Encompass in the spring of 2010. We provide a single moms’ night out every other week, a Cub Scout program for fatherless boys, and recruit foster parents for kids in need.
At the same time, we desired to provide aftercare programs for those who were being released from incarceration. We had been visiting men and women in prison since 2007. In 2009, an ex-offender helped launch Strong Tower. At Strong Tower, we provide a computer lab, job referrals, a midweek church service and a welcoming and loving environment for a group of people who have limited places to go for help.
We have always desired to create a ripple effect in what we do. We began investigating a way to train the next generation of church leaders through an urban leadership development experience. In 2010 we formed the Providence Center for Urban Leadership Development. Our core program is a two-year, urban leadership training program for young adults to learn while doing practical work. Our Fellows are engaged weekly in our public schools, our nonprofit work, other local nonprofits, and with families who live in poverty.
In 2012, we began struggling deeply with the issue of generational poverty in our neighborhoods. Twenty-seven percent of our residents live in poverty and, unless something changes drastically, the cycle will continue. We believed that we needed to quit asking the question, “How do we help someone in poverty?” and start asking the question, “How do we get someone out of poverty?”
So we partnered with a local philanthropist and started Upstream Impact to help people rise out of poverty. Upstream Impact was formed to connect middle to upper-middle-income volunteers with a financially challenged family to create a path out of poverty over two years. The nonprofit has experienced great success with the first cohort seeing a 173% increase in earned income.
In 2013, as we looked back on the work, we decided we could increase our effectiveness by taking all of our major ministries (Encompass, Fellows, and Strong Tower) and place them under one nonprofit with one mission, one focus and one philosophy. We believe this will help us with our communication, our use of resources and our effectiveness. Through everything that God has burdened us to start, we believe the core message of this nonprofit will be to encourage everyone to love their neighbor. We believe strongly in the idea that there is no significant change without a significant relationship. So, we desire to connect relationships that create transformation in people’s lives, whether those people are rich or poor.