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Longmont homeless shelter Agape Safe Haven receives surprise donation to close 2020

Jessica Bennet, communications director of Agape Safe Haven, said she checked email on Dec. 15 and was surprised to see the $2,500 donation and was even more shocked when she noticed it came from Michigan. And although it was a great act of kindness, it wasn’t random.

During a year that has left many without work and shelter, a refuge in Longmont that helps the most vulnerable in society get back on their feet received a $2,500 donation from Michigan’s Chase Plastics.

Jessica Bennet, communications director of Agape Safe Haven, said she checked email on Dec. 15 and was surprised to see the $2,500 donation and was even more shocked when she noticed it came from Michigan. And although it was a great act of kindness, it wasn’t random.

It turns out a volunteer from Faith Community Lutheran Church, Peggy Matern Brossman, also a customer of Chase Plastics, nominated Agape Safe Haven for the donation.

Chase Plastics is a family-owned thermoplastics distributor out of Clarkston, Michigan.

The small company was opened by Kevin and Carole Chase almost 30 years ago, according to executive assistant and marketing manager Sherry Cudd. From the trunk of their car and a $2,500 investment, the Chases grew the company to one of the biggest thermoplastic distributors in the United States and saw it named one of the best places to work in 2020 by Plastics News.

During the pandemic, Chase Plastics has been distributing plastics to customers all over the country who, in turn, have been making personal protective equipment, among other things, Cudd said.

For the fifth year, the company decided to give back by donating to a charity. After some consideration, Chase Plastics decided to give three charities $2,500 each.

“I can’t say enough about the big hearts that the Chases have for not only letting me do this campaign every year, but they just always are so willing to give,” Cudd said, adding the campaign also creates an avenue for getting “the word out there about these charities.”

With 88 nominations, Cudd said it was difficult to choose recipients.

“But what stood out to us is just the work that (Agape Safe Haven is) doing and that a charity like that could probably really use the extra boost this year,” Cudd said.

She wasn’t wrong. Agape Safe Haven is known in Longmont for the care it provides to those who need it most.

Before Agape Safe Haven became what it is today, it was a shelter that opened when the weather was bad enough to put homeless people at risk, giving them somewhere safe and warm to go during frigid and wet nights.

“With the Boulder Shelter consistently full, the HOPE street outreach had nowhere to take the homeless,” according to Agape’s page at Coloradogives.org.

In response, Agape Safe Haven created a shelter program for up to 15 homeless individuals at a time that rotates locations between Longmont churches to give people a place to stay for a year.

Some people are referred to Agape Safe Haven by Longmont Public Safety and all potential guests must apply for space at the shelter.

Agape chooses residents based on a list of criteria, according to the program page. Requirements include that they are not aggressive, they remain sober, are attempting to be self-sufficient and they would be emotionally or physically vulnerable at a warming center.

While Agape is built on Christian principles, its “sheltering model does not include religious practices; it simply serves our poorest neighbors with compassion as an expression of our Christian faith,” according to its mission statement.

Church services are offered but they are not required to be part of the Agape Safe Haven community, Bennet said.

“The only thing they have to do for us is they’ve got to remain sober, or if they’re unable to maintain their sobriety, we do our darndest to make sure that they get to meetings or get counseling help and whatever they need,” she said.

Agape also offers a year-round day shelter where guests can check their email, apply for jobs, socialize, do their laundry, take showers, access a kitchen and receive counseling from a registered psychotherapist, according to the website.

COVID-19 impacted Agape, closing down almost all of the church sites that served as overnight shelters. The residents have been staying at the day center, a small three-bedroom house rented by Agape.

“Through fate or whatever, we’ve had six homeless men and women that we’ve had staying at our day shelter since March,” Bennet said, adding they are all self-quarantining as a precaution since three of the residents have disabilities.

Having a safe, warm place to stay is only a portion of what the people Agape serves need for success, Bennet said, adding 2020 was a tough year in which to make progress.

“It’s bad enough being homeless, try being homeless in the middle of a pandemic, knowing that you still have to work on yourself, and it’s still your responsibility to try to get out there and find work and work on your mental health and your physical health. It’s just really sad and depressing,” she said.

While Agape always accepts donations of money and items from its Amazon wishlist, letters of encouragement to its guests would be most helpful in easing their feelings of isolation, Bennet said. Letters can be sent to Agape at 10656 Parkridge Ave., Longmont, CO 80504.

The donation from Chase Plastics will go to operating costs.

“We’re a small tiny nonprofit, so $2,500 for us is a big deal,” Bennet said. “God has provided; I mean, it’s great.”

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