FEATURES

Homeless Man Gives Back (11/22/2021)

A remarkable turn of events is occurring on Denver streets. A nonprofit ministry is providing homeless persons with opportunities to serve other homeless persons.

Filling The Void, a regional 501c3 that feeds and cares for the homeless, has combed the streets of Denver and Aurora more than 600 times since April 2008.

It’s a mobile search-and-rescue operation looking for people who appear to need a friend, some conversation or a free lunch.

One of the organization’s volunteers, Tom Adams, is trained through his job to go deeper, taking people through aspects of recovery coaching.

Tom Adams (right) helps homeless individuals like Mark R. (left) learn to serve others.

“The structure is fluid and informal. It has to be when you’re working with people who are fighting to survive or battling addiction,” Adams says.

“But I’m presenting them with practical ways to give back, serve others and understand how their life has value, purpose and meaning,” Adams added.

He’s taken about 10 people under his wing so far, with varying degrees of success. Based on his experience, the process requires patience, compassion and understanding.  

“You can’t get caught up in a notion of what the outcome should be or how long it should take. Any form of progress is what’s important,” he explained.

On Oct.21, Adams and five other volunteers from Filling The Void hit the streets in downtown Denver armed with 50 sack lunches containing a Chick-fil-A sandwich, bottled water, chips and cookies.

The volunteers included Mark R., who is homeless and at the time was residing in a tent along with his brother Jimmy on the east edge of downtown.

Rick Enochs, Mark R., Tom Adams, Dave Warren and Chris Brooks volunteer with Filling The Void, a 501c3 nonprofit ministry.

Filling The Void was celebrating a major milestone, preparing to serve its 215,000th sack lunch since the organization’s inception in Tulsa, Okla., in late 2003.

Volunteers gave Mark the honor of serving the special meal. He presented it to James M., also homeless.

Mark R. (right) served a sack lunch to James M. (left) through an opportunity with the Filling The Void nonprofit ministry. Both men are homeless.

Said Mark, “I enjoy doing this out here, doing something positive for people, making them smile and seeing them happy.”

Hear Mark R. talk about his experience in his own words.

Filling The Void includes a message of hope in its sack lunches consisting of a short note with a scripture addressing issues like loneliness, depression and estrangement from families.

“We’re out to tackle real life and real problems in our communities,” said Filling The Void co-founder Kelly Swan, who also worked in energy for 26 years.

“We minister to emotional, relational and spiritual needs, also pointing people to Open Door Fellowship, the Denver Rescue Mission and other agencies with programs more intensive than ours.

“The free lunch we provide is merely a ticket to hearing their stories and gaining an understanding about how they’re struggling,” he said.

Swan and two friends founded the organization 18 years ago after considering what they could personally do to help the homeless.

Since then, Filling The Void has ministered to people in 16 cities and is currently active in Denver, Tulsa, Dallas and Houston.

In October, they fed 3,203 people during 32 outreaches on the streets in these cities.

Overall, they’ve served 50,000 of their 215,000 total meals in Denver. Swan and his friends started the Denver branch with $800 in offerings they received from homeless individuals in Tulsa.

“People are always surprised to hear how the homeless give back,” Swan said.

“Their contributions are instrumental in what we do. They need avenues to do something for others just like anyone else.

“Contrary to misperceptions, most homeless people aren’t takers like you see with panhandlers.

“Yes, they’ve lost their shelter, jobs, friends, health and livelihoods, but they’re desperate to get their dignity back. Anything we can do in that regard blesses everyone,” Swan said.

To support Filling The Void’s grassroots work on the streets, you can give online right here. You can also follow the organization on Facebook @WeFeedTheSoul.