We Are In Need Of Food Pantry Volunteers Every Morning, Tuesdays Through Fridays.

This interview with Carli Seeba originally appeared in King Soopers City Market on April 2, 2024

Promoting Lasting Stability and Self-Sufficiency

Growing Home strives to create a thriving, healthy, and equitable North Metro Denver through providing food, housing, parenting education, and lifelong stability services. King Soopers has supported this organization through the Fight Hunger bag program.

Tell Us About Growing Home

If you live in North Denver, Growing Home is a trusted community partner. For many years, our programs and services have supported people experiencing immediate and long-term barriers to stability and success. We share this commitment in our mission statement: In partnership with the community, Growing Home advances equity in food, housing, parenting, education, and lifelong stability to create lasting change for the future. We’re a community-centered and volunteer-supported nonprofit that works to create a thriving, healthy, and equitable North Metro Denver.

Our organization started in 1998 as a result of a chance encounter. Our founder, Kathleen Drozda, a nurse at St. Anthony North Hospital, met a woman living in her car with her dogs. Kathleen asked the hospital director if she could bring the woman in until they could find a long-term housing solution, and he agreed. From there, we got our start as the Adams County Interfaith Hospitality Network, which would then become Growing Home.

Congregations and hundreds of volunteers joined the effort to offer transitional housing to local families. They donated, cooked, cleaned, moved furniture, and helped children with homework. These initial volunteers were proof of our organization’s founding idea: Families can come together to take care of other families.

As we came to understand that homelessness is a multifaceted issue, Growing Home’s work began to shift toward prevention. The organization evolved into a network of programs and services that foster stabilization as a first step to creating a thriving, healthy, and equitable North Metro Denver.

Today, our community-centered approach, wraparound services, and advocacy work drive action in food, housing, parenting, education, and lifelong stability to create lasting change for the future.

What Services Does Your Organization Provide To The Community?

We take a unique community service approach to our mission by partnering with residents and those with lived experience as we blend direct services, long-term programs, resource navigation, and community-centered action to accomplish our mission.

We are committed to supporting self-sufficiency and stabilization for low-income individuals and families experiencing barriers to success. We want to help them stay housed, access food, acquire parenting and life skills, and thrive. Through case management, for example, our Housing Stability Program offers assistance with rent, mortgage, and utilities to prevent eviction.

We are committed to supporting self-sufficiency and stabilization for low-income individuals and families experiencing barriers to success.

We also show our compassion and love with food. Our food pantry is open five shifts a week and provides participants with a choice of nutritious and culturally relevant foods. Our volunteers and community also operate our community garden, which grows fresh produce to be donated right back to our food pantry.

Additionally, Growing Home helps children start their journey to academic success. Through Parents as Teachers, our national parenting education program, our parent educators visit families twice a month to work with parents, caregivers, and the child to play activities that foster development. Educators assist parents in monitoring the child’s milestones and connecting them to any resources they may need to ensure the child is ready for kindergarten and learning. We offer collaborative coaching to ensure parents have long-term support for root cause analysis, goal setting, and the journey to financial self-sufficiency.

Once needs like rental funds and food are met, the conversation shifts to assisting participants in analyzing where they are and how to move forward. Some require job skilling, and others are looking for higher-paying opportunities. The conversation can also involve debt management, medical bills, or mechanical repairs.

In the last five years, Growing Home has refined its programs and services with community input to transform and customize its support for disadvantaged people and people of color. Once a family stabilizes, our programs naturally progress to help them focus more on leadership and community-level success. We work to connect and support our community through our collection of food and housing justice, community organizing, advocacy, and leadership initiatives.

What Sets Growing Home Apart From Other Nonprofits In Your Community?

Growing Home is there for families in North Denver. The rising cost of living and gentrification have heavily impacted this geographic area.

Growing Home’s programmatic offerings have evolved thanks to input from partners, stakeholders, community residents and participants. As a multi-program organization, we strive to be responsive to critical community needs, such as housing stability, food insecurity, parenting education, and lifelong stability skills. Our equity approach is not limited to basic needs because our array of programs and services go upstream with participants to support them in identifying how they got to this point of crisis, planning goals to lift them beyond this event, and supporting them with the resources needed to achieve self-sufficiency and thrive.

As a multi-program organization, we strive to be responsive to critical community needs, such as housing stability, food insecurity, parenting education, and lifelong stability skills.

Our participants tend to be young working families with small children. Most of our clients are Latinx or people of color. The majority of Growing Home staff are fluent in Spanish and represent this population.

Please Tell Us A Story That Illustrates The Good Work Of Your Organization

Parents as Teachers is a great example of how our organization changes lives. We continually receive letters of support that show our impact.

A recent letter from a mother shared that she had signed up for Parents as Teachers at a farmer’s market. She was worried that her 3-year-old son was struggling with his speech but didn’t know how to help him. Growing Home’s parent educator began visiting their home and working with the parents on play-based learning activities.

At the same time, the educator listened to the mother’s concerns and conducted an assessment of the child’s developmental milestones and skills. As they continued their home visitation and development monitoring, the parent educator proceeded to connect the family to a speech therapist. In a few months, the child demonstrated significant progress, not only in his speech but also in learning levels.

Ultimately, it’s a powerful story about how a parent learned to become a child’s teacher and helped their child progress on their kindergarten preparedness journey.

What Is Your Most Outstanding Achievement Or Contribution To The Community?

It’s hard to identify just one, but I take pride in being a small part of helping and instilling hope. We are that little bit of push that a participant might need to continue in this tough economy. Sometimes, a little nudge from us can provide that extra bit of hope and help someone who is about to give up.

What Do You Want People To Know About Growing Home?

The Growing Home model has proven successful. We continue to prove it works as we address the immediate needs of individuals and families.

We aren’t transactional. We seek to avoid a revolving door of problems. Instead, we work with participants to discover what led to their crisis and walk alongside them to support their journey toward self-sufficiency with programs and services that match their needs.

While our hardworking participants face systematic barriers, they thrive when given the opportunity. Every journey to change and a better future is different. Growing Home’s experience in personal solutions that embrace and leverage each participant’s own lived experience is the most valuable tool in our work.

While our hardworking participants face systematic barriers, they thrive when given the opportunity.

How Are You Using The Funds You’ve Received From The King Soopers Fight Hunger Bag Program?

We are currently seeing a very high demand in our food pantry. So, this extra funding from the Fight Hunger bag program will allow us to purchase additional items, such as milk and eggs, and to increase our capacity. With these funds, we will be able to listen to our participants and let the food they would like to see in the food pantry guide our purchases.

Is There Anything You’d Like To Add?

Growing Home needs a new home. We have outgrown our current space because the need for our services has outpaced the capacity of our limited facility space and restricted funding. Inflation has been increasingly hard on our community, so the demand for housing assistance and food is increasingly and consistently at capacity. Our food pantry space has been maximized, so we have no option to add freezers, staff, or transportation resources. We know we could serve twice the number of families with more staff and pantry space.

In 2024, all our efforts are going to center on moving to a new home. We really appreciate the contribution from King Soopers and the Fight Hunger bag program this year. We are so honored to have been selected to participate in this program.