On a bitter cold day on South Broadway, Catherine McHenry got on the phone to help a man who came in from the snow find information about Giving Heart, a homeless-services center just a few blocks …
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HOPE food pantry — it stands for “Helping Our People Excel” — opened at its current location in January 2015, but its story goes back to 2001.
A businesswoman was running a home health-care business in Lakewood for people with long-term disabilities and began to notice a significant need for food in clients' homes, said Bart Sayyah, HOPE's executive director. So she decided to start a food pantry.
The organization grew from a storefront to an 800-square-foot pantry at the location of the woman's business. The location in Lakewood closed in May 2016, making way for the Englewood pantry, where HOPE's Attic thrift store was a new addition.
HOPE's clients came mainly from the Englewood area, but some have come from places as far away as Thornton, sometimes farther.
On a bitter cold day on South Broadway, Catherine McHenry got on the phone to help a man who came in from the snow find information about Giving Heart, a homeless-services center just a few blocks south.
That's often the job at HOPE food pantry, a staple of hunger assistance in Englewood: helping someone, or helping them find help.
“I can't think of a day that goes by when someone doesn't come off the streets, or a family living in a car, who doesn't need clothes or blankets,” said McHenry, operations director at HOPE.
After years of hard-fought progress — and need that shows no signs of slowing down — the nonprofit that feeds hundreds each week is closing at the end of this month.
“It's been heartbreaking, of course, to come to the realization that because of finances, we just cannot operate,” said McHenry, standing behind the counter on the thrift store side of HOPE's building.
But the nonprofit, which opened its current location at 3940 S. Broadway in January 2015, will live on — not in “brick-and-mortar” form, McHenry said, but as a foundation.
Amid what staff members call a stiff donation climate during Colorado's population boom and cost-of-living increases, HOPE was making headway, but the progress just wasn't enough.
At one time, HOPE had a single benefactor, a company that largely funded the nonprofit, along with a handful of individual donors. But that support went away in 2016, and HOPE had to adjust.
“We pursued the Goodwill model,” said Bart Sayyah, HOPE's executive director, explaining the nonprofit's revenue was mostly generated through its thrift store. “We were able to quintuple our revenue, but we couldn't get there” to sustainability in the past two years.
Amid cost of living increases and upped population, HOPE has seen more and more people in need since opening the current location, but monetary donations haven't offered enough support, McHenry said.
“People are just unsure right now due to cost of living and other factors in people's lives,” McHenry said. “I'm aware of nonprofits not only in Englewood but in Colorado, they're more challenged than ever before.”
On a typical week, the pantry serves about 200 households. The vast majority are working families, and about 20 percent are homeless, said Robin Sturgis, HOPE's food program director.
“We've served thousands” in the nonprofit's history, McHenry said, which dates back to 2001. “The heartbreaking thing is people will still be in need.”
HOPE owns its own building — escaping the high rents that have roiled other nonprofits in the metro area's Broadway corridor, according to Sayyah — and the windfall from selling the facility will total several hundred thousand dollars.
“We'll use those monies to dole out a certain percentage each year to whatever we decide is our core target,” Sayyah said, adding the focus will likely be on Englewood and possibly the south Denver area. “Homelessness is a huge thing, and also hunger relief. Those two are my personal interests.”
HOPE already supported some other nonprofits, passing along coats and hats, Sayyah said. The building itself offered a warm atmosphere where people experiencing homeless were welcomed — sometimes with hugs.
It's about “being kind and respectful,” McHenry said. “People want to be validated and respected for where they're at. I'm very proud of HOPE for that.”
Of all the thousands the nonprofit has helped, McHenry hopes people can “pay it forward.”
“To be kind,” McHenry said. “That can be powerful.”
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