From the Denver Post 6/24/2011 <LINK>
Johnson: Gamble on giving pays off
By Bill Johnson
Denver Post Columnist
POSTED: 06/24/2011 01:00:00 AM MDT
UPDATED: 06/24/2011 02:02:53 AM MDT
Johnny and Susie Davis lead a prayer at His Hands Christian Ministries in Englewood on Wednesday. The Davises opened their business in March 2008, and Johnny says more than 4,000 families are now registered with the food bank. (Craig F. Walker, The Denver Post)
It takes guts to quit your job. Maybe not so much if your spouse keeps working. But what if he or she decides to follow your lead?
You’ve also got three kids and a house.
Some folks might think you’re insane.
I stepped into the basement of the little church on South Acoma Street in Englewood the other morning and was immediately struck by the sign at the top of the stairs.
“Please read,” it said. “Welcome. We can help with food, clothes and prayers.”
That struck me hard as pretty much everything a person really needs.
The basement is the domain of Johnny and Susie Davis. Three years after gambling everything, they say they cannot imagine a different life.
Johnny and Susie Davis are
View more images from the Davises’ ministry and food bank.
both 53 years old, sweethearts since their undergraduate days at Abilene Christian College.
In May 2007, after years of working construction, Johnny quit his salesman’s job. That December, after years of teaching, Susie quit.
The following March, they opened His Hands Christian Ministries in the church basement they rent. The quickest and easiest way to describe it is as a food bank.
It is so much more.
We live in mostly selfish times, the bulk of us lost in the rush of the rat race and unable to see beyond our own front stoop. It is why I walked into that basement.
Johnny and I were seated and chatting for not more than a minute when a haggard-looking woman sat down next to him. He knew her name.
“Johnny,” she finally said, “would it — I mean, could I — you know, maybe get a bag of coffee?” She lowered her eyes and waited for his reply.
Johnny Davis patted her knee. Sure, he told her, gesturing at one of the volunteers to grab a bag. The woman nearly cried, as if he had handed her a $100 bill.
“Susie and I had a dream one day of doing this,” he explained when we were alone again. “We just felt we needed to do something. People, especially Christians, always talk about helping others, of being in people’s lives. We felt this was our way of doing it.”
They started with one employee, back in the days when they barely had food to give out. He just showed up one day and told them he was homeless.
He was indispensable in those early months, calming the couple’s fears as they built the food bank. And then, one day, he just disappeared.
“Never heard from him again,” Johnny Davis said. “Susie thinks he was an angel.”
They decided it was how they would run the business, offering work to any homeless person who wanted it. More than just work, the couple offered them friendship, counseling when they wanted it, a trip to rehab when they needed it.
Dan Roberts, 48, was one of those early hires. Not long ago, they got him a haircut, a suit and into job training.
Four months ago, the Englewood man took a full-time job in industrial maintenance and, for the first time in years, rented his own apartment.
“They are the most caring people I know,” Roberts said. It was his day off, a time when he now volunteers at the food bank. “I have never met better people. Ever.”
There are multiple stories like his in the church basement.
More than 4,000 families today are registered with the food bank, which distributes food to an average of about 250 families each week.
“We’re here to give out food, yes, but it’s really about building relationships,” Susie Davis said. “The food happens to be a byproduct of what we do.”
It is almost noon when a middle-age man in tattered clothes sits down next to Johnny Davis. He tells a story of having been robbed a day earlier.
“You need some money, don’t you?” he asks the man, who immediately looks away.
Johnny Davis pats him on the knee.
“I don’t have much, but . . .”
Bill Johnson writes Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Reach him at 303-954-2763 or firstname.lastname@example.org.