A Comforting Meal by a Chef Who Understands
The staff, the volunteers, the guests, they all call him Mo.
He’s known to often show up to work with a fresh, new pair of shoes. It’s how he treats himself these days. Five days a week, he’s hard at work by 4:30 a.m. at the Lawrence Street Community Center (LSCC), managing the volunteers, planning and preparing the daily menu and helping run the kitchen as its hospitality chef.
Hospitable is the ideal description of Maurice (Mo). He creates a joyful, meaningful work environment for volunteers who come to the Mission. He’s often cracking jokes at the chefs’ team meetings and brings a cheerful atmosphere to the kitchen. Most importantly, he’s able to form a special, relatable connection with the guests.
Because many years ago, Mo was also a guest at the Mission.
During that season of his life, his drug addiction was all-consuming. He lived on the streets to avoid facing the disappointment and distress felt by his family. When he didn’t have a hotel to stay in, he’d walk from Commerce City to downtown Denver to Aurora.
“You just walk and walk and walk,” he said. “You’re mentally psyching yourself out to do this because you want to get high.”
Some days he looked in trash cans. Other days he came to the Mission to eat. “I used to be ashamed to come down here,” Mo said. “I didn’t want to be seen coming out of here.”
Now, he makes it part of his responsibility to connect with guests and make them feel the opposite of the way he felt years ago.
“Being on this side and looking on the outside now, I try to comfort as many people as I can,” he said. “I ask them sometimes, ‘Why?‘ We all have a reason why we do what we do—whether it’s a tragedy, mental illness or drugs—we all do what we do for a reason.”
Jacob Cain, assistant food manager, said Mo is like a father figure to many of the guests, because he knows what they’re going through. “Whenever he talks to them, they feel it,” Jacob said. “He just has such a great rapport with them.”
During the three years he faced homelessness, Mo’s holidays were spent on the streets. “Being out there on the holidays, I don’t care how hard or strong you are, it hurts,” he said.
At LSCC’s holiday banquets, Mo loves making his signature sweetpotato-pecan-marshmallow dish and watching the guests’ reactions while they’re eating.
“You give them a little comfort of home, because they eat things that they hadn’t eaten in years,” he said. “It brings back memories for some of them.”
This Thanksgiving season, Mo is celebrating being sober for two years, graduating from his rehabilitation program, Independence House Fillmore (IHF), having his own apartment, and being gifted with a car. He is thankful to be able to share his testimony with Mission volunteers and is no longer afraid of people’s reactions.
“It’s really great for the younger groups of volunteers to have some sort of perspective,” Jacob said. “When they see our guests, all they’re seeing is them walking through a line, but to hear some of what Maurice has actually been through and to see that people can make changes and that the Mission can have a place in that, I think it really helps.”
Lastly, Mo is thankful for his co-workers.
“I have support. If I’m having a down day, I come and I talk to my co-workers,” he said. “That’s also part of my rehabilitation—working with them and working with the guests—trying to let them know that there is a tomorrow. This is not the end of the road, it’s just the tip of the iceberg.”
There’s no other time of the year that we’re able to touch so many lives through the comfort of a single meal. When you support Denver Rescue Mission, you are joining our efforts to put a turkey on every table
The Turkey Timeline
How we get 15,000 turkeys to families in need…
4 Months Before Thanksgiving
We start clearing out space in our freezers at the Ministry Outreach Center to prepare for an influx of turkeys received during the turkey drive.
6 Weeks Before Thanksgiving
The menu planning begins for our banquets, and we start reaching out to donors about specific items needed to complete the Thanksgiving meals.
4 Weeks Before Thanksgiving
Volunteers prepare boxes for our Thanksgiving Banquet in a Box (TBIB) event. In addition to a 12-14 lb frozen turkey, we provide instant potatoes, stuffing, gravy, a vegetable, fruit, and canned pumpkin.
2 Weeks Before Thanksgiving
We deliver 60 turkeys to LSCC and start thawing and cooking the birds.
1 Week Before Thanksgiving
The staff of six chefs start preparing the sides for the Thanksgiving banquets, including gravy, cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie, and the Mission’s special mashed potato balls.
WEEK OF THANKSGIVING
We give away 3,000 food boxes and turkeys at Empower Field at Mile High through our Thanksgiving Banquet in a Box event and welcome upward of 1,500 guests at three Mission facilities for our annual Thanksgiving banquets.