Gabriel House ministry grows with fourth home
By Julie Filby
Photo by James Baca/DCR
After opening the archdiocese’s first Gabriel House in Denver three years ago, director Mimi Eckstein told then-Archbishop Charles Chaput about her dream to “make it bigger.”
His response: “Make it as big as you can!”
On Oct. 1 a fourth house, to serve women and children in need, opened at 1980 Nelson St. in Lakewood, on the grounds of Our Lady of Fatima Church. The Jefferson County Gabriel House, based in the former Benet Hill Benedictine Sisters’ convent, was blessed by Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila Oct. 17.
“This is the fourth of what will be many houses,” said Jonathan Reyes, director of social concerns for the archdiocese, when welcoming the crowd on the blustery afternoon.
A choir of fourth-graders from Our Lady of Fatima School led a group of nearly 100 supporters in “Ave Maria” in front of the 2-story brick building prior to the archbishop’s blessing.
“The Lord uses us as his co-workers,” said Archbishop Aquila. “The love of Jesus in our hearts is what allows us to enter into apostolates (like Gabriel House).”
Based on the response in the other houses—Denver, Boulder and Aurora—“we see how much it is needed,” he said before entering to bless each room.
Prior to establishing the location, Jefferson County agencies Family Tree and The Action Center confirmed the need.
“They were very encouraging,” said Eckstein. “They said they didn’t have anything like this, which is really a mentoring ministry that assists moms on an ongoing basis.
“They tried before and it didn’t work, so they’re very happy we’re here.”
The ministry provides material support, such as clothing, diapers and baby items; as well as emotional and spiritual support through a network of volunteers. Eckstein brought the program to Denver in 2001 while serving as director for the Respect Life Office.
For the first eight years, it operated out of a small office at the John Paul II Center in south Denver and volunteers were organized at the parish level. Summer 2009, the first house opened at 1341 Oneida St. in Denver.
At that time Eckstein hoped they could increase the number of women served from 30 to 100. Their grassroots efforts have well-exceeded that goal: now having served nearly 1,000 women.
“We do it by word-of-mouth,” Eckstein said. “We haven’t gone out and said ‘we want to put a house here.’ People come to us.”
In November 2011 a Boulder location opened at 2885 Aurora Ave. Things started off slowly.
Denver (administrative office)
“It took a while for word to spread,” she said. “They went almost two months with hardly anybody visiting. Now they have 189 moms in their files; they’re seeing at least 20 moms a day.”
Between the Boulder and Denver houses, there were 839 visits in August and September.
The Aurora House, which just opened Sept. 4 at 13101 E. Mississippi Ave., was visited by three moms on the first day of operation. They are now serving 10 mothers.
“The word gets out and people begin to see us for who we are,” Eckstein said.
She has no doubt word of the Lakewood site will spread to the community.
“This is a good location,” she said. “We’re on a bus route and right off Kipling.”
Our Lady of Fatima parishioner Sharon Gahan serves as coordinator for the house and its 25 trained volunteers.
“We’re fully stocked with donations from the parish,” she said. “We’re ready to go!”
Both women praised the generosity of Our Lady of Fatima parishioners and pastor Father Henri Tshibambe.
“Support of the parish and the pastor is a prerequisite,” Eckstein said. “We really couldn’t do the program if we didn’t have both.”
The parish plans to establish a permanent donation area in the vestibule of the church to collect items on an ongoing basis.
The Jefferson County Gabriel House is open 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Mondays and Thursdays. For more information, call 720-459-8783 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.