Every day at 7:30 a.m., Denver Rescue Mission’s custodial team gets together to have a Bible study. They’ve been studying the New Testament this year, reading a passage each day and discussing how to apply the Word of God to the duties set before them.
“We go through [the passage] and connect it to why we’re all here,” said Ryan Wickstrom, facilities director at the Mission. “We work to glorify God, so there’s a certain way we’re going to do things.”
The custodial team is an unwavering example of going beyond studying the Word and actually living it out.
Dedrick is a New Life Program participant who works with the custodial team as part of the work readiness portion of the program. “When I got here, they weren’t just preaching the Word of Christ, they were demonstrating it,” he said. “It was like a ministry, truly a ministry.”
When Dedrick moved from Washington to Colorado to pursue a new beginning and reconnect with God, he had some rough stops at unclean shelters along the way. “I just felt alone,” he said. “You look at the towel and you see yourself, all scarred up and useless, and I felt like that was what I deserved.”
But when he moved into The Crossing in July of 2019, the Mission’s residential program facility, he was in awe of the room that was waiting for him.
“I got here, and it was beautiful,” he said. “It was clean. People were smiling. The staff was praying for me, and I knew this is where I was supposed to be. With so much negative self-talk and other stigmas, a clean towel made a world of difference.”
The clean, welcoming ambiance at The Crossing is fundamentally due to the dedication of the Mission’s custodial team, who work tirelessly to create a clean and inviting atmosphere for people joining the Mission’s New Life Program and STAR Transitional Program.
The custodial department operates seven days a week, carrying out daily duties that include taking out the trash and cleaning the floors and bathrooms with Kaivac machines, which use a science-based hygienic system that protects the health of building occupants.
Every week, the team prepares rooms for new program participants. Silvia Ruiz, lead custodian, reads the profiles of incoming participants and families and places them in the most suitable rooms according to their sizes and needs. She asks about the kids’ genders and ages and gets bedding and comforters for them at the Ministry Outreach Center (MOC), the Mission’s warehouse that stores donated clothing, furniture and household items. She looks for decorative pillows, drapes and anything else that will make the room feel homey.
Dedrick said that seeing the care and effort that Silvia and the team take to diligently prepare the rooms has really ministered to him.
“Here I am, coming in broken and without anything, and literally just holding on to faith the size of a mustard seed, and she’s pouring over our stuff—washing it, cleaning it and saying, ‘we’re going to get you new sheets,’” he said.
The Mission recently upgraded its laundry facilities with new commercial washing and drying machines, which enables Silvia to wash bedding and clothing more efficiently. New machines were also installed in the guest laundry area for participants to use during their time at The Crossing.
Once participants are settled in, the custodial team works hard to implement and maintain an exceptional hygienic standard in order to break the stigma of the unclean environment that often comes with living in shelters and transitional housing.
THE SILVIA STANDARD
Silvia Ruiz starts most mornings in the laundry room, separating the lights from the darks before washing our new program participants’ clothing. She then goes over to the heating truck, heating every single item before it makes its way into The Crossing to prevent bed bugs. If she accidently drops a sheet on the floor, she rewashes it. If she sees a mattress with a stain or comes across a sheet that’s ripped, she replaces it. It needs to meet the Silvia standard.
She has worked at The Crossing for 22 years, seven of which were before it was owned by the Mission. She knows every square inch of the facility—every room’s size and layout—making her the expert for placing new participants in rooms that will best meet their needs. “She has such a heart for these people,” Ryan said. “She takes care of each and every family that comes in here and makes sure they’re getting the best that we have available.”
She sets an extraordinary example for the rest of the custodial team and leaves Mission employees in awe of her tireless work ethic.
The Mission is so grateful for Silvia. She goes beyond just fulfilling her daily duties. Her heart for the people we serve shines brightly in the time and effort she dedicates to making The Crossing feel like a home. “You have to do a little bit extra,” she said. “It has meaning for me.”
Participants are responsible for cleaning their own rooms, and the staff inspects the rooms each week to make sure they’re meeting the standard.
“It knocks down a huge barrier for people coming into our programs and staying with us,” Ryan said. “I don’t want somebody to keep living in a van because they’re scared of living in a facility that’s filthy and not well taken care of. We want to remove any obstacle so that they can succeed beyond life at The Crossing.”
Dedrick said working with the custodial team has taught him the importance of having a strong work ethic.
“I began to see that the ministry of custodial was a ministry of love and compassion,” he said. “Everyone is showing up and being counted on to do what needs to be done. We all have a part in this.”
Every time new participants arrive at The Crossing and Dedrick helps prepare their rooms, he is reminded of God’s goodness in his life and in the lives of his Mission family.
“It makes you see Christ in a real way,” Dedrick said, “not just in a book or an assembly at church, but every day, here, is seeing Christ. The cleanliness. The Godliness. The standard. It’s unmatched.
A WARM WELCOME
When people move in to The Crossing, we want to make sure they are welcomed with a clean and presentable room that makes them feel special and valued. But what does this process look like? The Mission’s custodial team explained what it takes to prepare each and every room.
Incoming program participants get placed in an accommodating room based on family size.
The walls get professionally painted and sealed.
All existing furniture gets removed from the room.
The floors get stripped, sealed and covered with a high gloss wax.
Thanks to generous donations, items like bed frames, dressers, bedding, and towels get brought over from our large warehouse, the Ministry Outreach Center (MOC).
All incoming furniture and participants’ existing items, such as shoes, books, suitcases, and backpacks, get placed inside a heated truck at 135 degrees for one hour to kill any potential bed bugs.
The Mission purchases any additional items for the room that aren’t available in our donation supply at the MOC.
Participants’ belongings get laundered in commercial washing and drying machines before entering the room.
Furniture gets set up and beds are made; refrigerators and bathrooms get disinfected.
Participants receive a set of cleaning supplies to keep their rooms and bathrooms clean during their stay in our program.