Orthodox Community Outreach Center
By Dee Jaquet, Director
A United Orthodox Witness Of Faith And Works In Christ
Christian love and caring, meeting basic needs, and relieving suffering are the main ingredients of the Orthodox Community Outreach Center (OCOC), a unique interOrthodox ministry of the whole Church, clergy and laity together, recently established in Denver, Colorado’s inner city.
The clients of the Outreach Center are the homeless, single parents, unemployed, and the working poor who walk into OCOC in a steady stream from II a.m. to 3 p.m. Mondays through Fridays seeking help. The volunteers who greet and serve them are members of one of the nine Denver Orthodox churches in three jurisdictions Antiochian Orthodox, Greek Orthodox, and Orthodox Church in America.
OCOC offers a unique witness in the greater Denver community to Christ’s saving and healing power through faith and through works that fulfill the Gospel imperative to meet human need and relieve suffering. OCOC is believed to be the first such interOrthodox sponsored social service facility in North America.
The volunteers and supporters from the nine participating Denver area Orthodox Christian churches perform the tasks vital to OCOC’s outreach through worship, teaching and working in prayerful, loving fellowship for the glory of God. The center is already a haven of hospitality for Orthodox and non-Orthodox alike, and is becoming a beacon of Christ’s love to many unchurched in the inner city.
A fruit of nine years of local inter-Orthodox fellowship activities through the Colorado Orthodox Clergy Brotherhood, Rocky Mountain Orthodox Fellowship, and Orthodox People Together, OCOC was founded on the Sunday of Orthodoxy, March 15, 1992. Since that time it has steadily grown, now feeding and clothing upwards of 50 families a month, and has collected and given away hundreds of household items and furnishings.
The Center’s goal is to support the development of spiritual life and growth as the foundation for acts of charity and mercy. This is accomplished through four areas of focus:
1) WORSHOP, including inter-Orthodox liturgical life on a regular schedule, with local clergy celebrating the Divine Liturgy in rotation at 9:30 a.m. on Thursday mornings, offering an opportunity to experience the Divine Liturgy as celebrated in the custom of each jurisdiction. Also, a Supplication to the Theotokos service is offered by lay readers at 10:00 a.m. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday. All persons are invited to submit names of loved ones to be prayed for daily at the Center for one year.
2) SOCIAL OUTREACH, to the needy in the local neighborhood as well as in the Orthodox community. The Center’s caring services include a food bank, clothing, emergency assistance and referrals, resettling immigrants, family follow-up, and informational and training programs on self development.
3) EDUCATION, offering workshops and seminars in lay leadership, social service, religious education and home missions, to enhance and augment local Orthodox parish programs, and cooperatively share the burden of program participation.
4) PROFESSIONAL COUNSELING, for individuals, couples and families, with a fee assistance program and sliding scale for low income families.
SPONSORSHIP AND FUNDING
OCOC is housed in the old Assumption Greek Orthodox Church in a needy pocket of inner city Denver. The Church building and grounds are still owned by the Assumption Greek Orthodox Cathedral who left the area in the late sixties to build their new Cathedral in one of the suburbs. The ministry of OCOC is made possible in large part by the generosity of the Cathedral, who are allowing use of the building by the Outreach Center at a fee of $1. a year.
The core of nine sponsoring parishes have made a commitment to support the Center with volunteers, clergy support, faithful and responsible representatives to the OCOC Coordinating Council, and financial pledges. The sponsoring parishes are: Assumption Greek Orthodox Cathedral, Denver; St. Augustine Antiochian Orthodox Church, Western Rite, Denver; St. Catherine Greek Orthodox Church, Greenwood Village; St. Elias Antiochian Orthodox Church, Littleton; St. Herman Orthodox Church, Orthodox Church in America, Littleton; St. Luke Antiochian Orthodox Church, AEOM, Lafayette; St. Mark Antiochian Orthodox Church, Western Rite, Denver; SS Peter and Paul Greek Orthodox Church, Boulder; and Transfiguration of Christ Orthodox Cathedral, Orthodox Church in America, Globeville. Support is also provided by the Greek Orthodox Diocese of Denver, from the local chapters of the Greek Orthodox women’s philanthropic group, Philoptochos, and from the Denver ecumenical community. We write for grants and seek funding anywhere we can. A local coupon redemption program that we are now engaged in with one of the supermarkets looks favorable for substantial additional income.
A Coordinating Council of local clergy and lay representatives from each of the sponsoring parishes forms the policy-setting governing board, which is responsible for all aspects of the Center. I am the Center’s director. Local neighborhood and parish volunteers and I comprise the staff.
I am the only salaried employee, and I work half time right now as Director. A part time administrative assistant is proposed to come on during the second year. We have several standing committees, the two women who co-chair “Volunteers” being the busiest.
We have a monthly training session for volunteers on Saturday morning, and there is a short training manual that we give to each volunteer. Volunteer teams staff the Center daily - interacting with the clients, giving food, clothes and referrals. Also, volunteers organize and pick up food and other donations, purchase bulk food, clean, refurbish and maintain the building and grounds, answer phones, handle the mailing list, write a monthly newsletter, send thank you notes, etc.
The training of volunteers is done by guests from other agencies and centers in town that have more experience, as well as by Orthodox professionals. In addition to myself, there is a psychologist, an Orthodox student getting a degree in counseling at the local seminary, two of our priests with training as therapists, an Orthodox retired employee of the state social services office and others who lend their expertise. It is a pooled venture. We also have a man who lives in the building, guarding it, since attempts are made to break in regularly, due to the neighborhood. In exchange for the living quarters, he helps us with maintenance.
OCOC has been adopted as a prototype by Orthodox People Together, a network of Orthodox Christians in North America dedicated to united witness. OPT plans to encourage other metropolitan areas with numerous Orthodox churches to open interOrthodox outreach centers similar to OCOC. The Outreach Center also is providing a new home for the main office of Orthodox People Together, established in 1988 in nearby Golden, Colorado.
For further information about our program and activities, you can contact us at:
Orthodox Community Outreach Center
574 Pennsylvania Ave.
Denver, CO 80202