Friends of Julia’s, I invite you to read about this inspiring February 18 event at the Julia Greeley Home:


That was the message of Julia Greeley Home graduate Penny, who returned to the house Feb 18 to share her story with current residents, urging them all to continue to work toward their own success. With the help of Jesus Christ, she said, all things are possible.

"You can do it too -- you, you, and you!" Penny said, pointing to each person in the room.

During the question and answer segment, a Julia Greeley resident raised her hand. "Thank you for what you said tonite," she told Penny.  "I was pretty discouraged this morning and you have given me hope again."

Truly, Penny’s life has become an inspiration and a hope to many. As she explained to her listeners, she herself had very little hope the day she walked into the Julia Greeley Home about two years ago. She was estranged from her family, divorced, homeless, and living from shelter to shelter. Her early dreams of a college education had been crushed by serious physical illnesses that had led to depression and discouragement. Her self-image was in ashes.

Little did she know she was about to rise above her despair: "The world gives us names, like homeless, and says we'll never amount to anything, but don't believe it," she told her listeners.  

Consider where Penny is today: She is living independently in her own apartment, and a straight A student at Community College of Denver (CCD) working toward a degree in social work.

Recently, CCD awarded Penny a national honor:  The college invited Penny to join the National Society of Leadership and Success,  the nation's largest leadership honor society. Students are selected by their college for membership based on either academic standing or leadership potential. To be invited into this respected organization, founded in 2001, is a nationally recognized achievement and honor.

Penny’s path to success began when she won a scholarship to complete her college degree through Julia Greeley's partnership with the Ward Family Foundation, of Alexandria, VA. Julia Greeley Home was impressed with Penny’s progress and recommended her to the foundation, which in turn has been impressed and supportive of Penny’s commitment to pursuing her career goals. Her ultimate goal is to achieve a master’s degree in social work with an emphasis on mental health counseling.

Penny recalled walking toward a homeless shelter on an achingly cold day in early 2016, her only possessions were stuffed in a backpack, and her only hope was that the shelter would have a place for her that night.

Then one day she heard about the Julia Greeley Home. "Everything started to turn around here, at Julia Greeley," she told the group. "They saw something in me."

That night, Penny and Julia Greeley’s present residents shared phone numbers and a pledge to stay close. Penny is eager “pay it forward” — to help women who are suffering the way she once was. Most of all, she wants them to know there is no circumstance they cannot overcome, whether it's illness, loneliness, or poverty. The key is to never give up -- and to give God a chance, because that's where real success begins.

"It's God," she likes to say. "It's His hand written on my life."

"Father Christmas" and Friends: Dec 21, 2018

Father Regis Scanlon OFM Cap, and a gathering of Julia Greeley friends met on the steps of the home Dec. 21 to deliver meaningful and very welcome presents for residents, including beautiful sweaters and warm bedding and blankets. Special thanks to the Penitents of St. Francis for their generosity!

Delivery Accomplished:  Fr Regis with friends of Julia Greeley Home after  delivering their christmas gifts

Delivery Accomplished: Fr Regis with friends of Julia Greeley Home after delivering their christmas gifts

Sheree's Story

What a year — make that two years — for our former resident Sheree!

Sheree was the first recipient of our educational scholarship, which was made possible through our partnership with the Ward Family Foundation, Alexandria, VA. Last year Sheree was able to earn her certified nursing assistant degree, and has been on a track to become a licensed practical nurse.

To continue her education? To find an actual career? For this stay-at-home mom in her 50s, that was the last thing she expected to happen when she joined the Julia Greeley Home in spring 2016. Back then, the future looked pretty grim. Sheree faced a difficult situation at home and needed time and space to reflect. But where to go? Yes, she had friends and family, but for various reasons there was no suitable place to go for a longer period of time. To be homeless? That  was a real danger.

At the Julia Greeley Home, Sheree instantly became a supportive and motivating presence to the other women. We recognized great leadership qualities in her, and we wanted to help her pursue them. So we recommended Sheree for a scholarship with our partner, the Ward Family Foundation, and Sheree became our first, pioneering scholarship recipient. The foundation was so pleased with Sheree’s progress — she received straight A’s throughout her studies — that they asked us to keep finding more qualified recipients — and soon we had found Penny.

This fall, Sheree was planning to pursue the next stage of her scholarship when life took another turn: Her husband was transferred to another state. However, Sheree so impressed the scholarship foundation that they will consider continuing her scholarship program when she settles into her new home next year.

We are all so proud of Sheree! She is such a compassionate woman, and we know that, as a licensed practical nurse, she will make a great contribution to those who are sick and in need of care.   

Jennifer's Story

Jennifer, 29, has been cooking all her life. She had been in the restaurant industry for ten years, and a professional cook for three. She worked in some of the best known national chain restaurants, including PF Changs and the Cheesecake Factory. 

Then life took a frightening turn.

“I was in an abusive relationship that deteriorated fast,” she says. “It ruined my life. I lost my daughter and my apartment, and I needed a safe place to go.”

She found Safe House-Denver, where she could stay for a temporary period of time. But soon that time was running out — and Jennifer did not know where to go next.

Then she was referred to the Julia Greeley Home. 

“I feel eternal gratefulness,” she says. “I don’t know where I’d be if not here. I probably would be in a really bad spot.”

At Julia’s, Jennifer is known as one of the most cheerful and outgoing residents, always eager to help others. When she cooks at the house, it’s a real treat. And what is the favorite meal of a professional cook?

“If I could pick, it would be egg rolls and fried rice,” she says, with a laugh.  

Jennifer is making great strides toward self sufficiency. She has a good job cooking at the Red Robin restaurant chain, and she is waiting for the day when she will be able to reunite with her daughter again. 

In the meantime, the Julia Greeley Home is blessed to have Jennifer’s warm manner and welcoming smile in our day. Other people notice her kindness, that is — but Jennifer doesn’t.

“Giving back is a no-brainer,” she explains. “I am just so grateful to be a productive member of society again. “It makes me feel I’m giving back as much as you have to me.”


Robin's Story

By late summer 2017, Robin pretty much knew what to expect from life.

Homeless? Yes. In pain from a chronic back condition? Most definitely. Pretty much tired out? Of course.

But actress? Who are you kidding?

But actress she became — and that was only one of the positive changes that happened to Robin, 56, when she came to the Julia Greeley Home in fall 2017.  

First — who is Robin? She is a mother, grandmother, and a former professional bookkeeper with the city of Denver. She went to Ignatius and Annunciation grade schools, and graduated from Manuel High School.

Robin worked for Denver’s Waste Management Division until excruciating back pain made work impossible. Her injuries — which eventually required surgery — were caused when she became a target of domestic violence. 

“But I didn’t want to have the back surgery until I had raised my kids,” Robin says. After her children, Aaron, now 27, and Veronica, 30, were grown, they found her an apartment. That seemed like a good solution until her rent skyrocketed and became impossible to pay—and Robin had three days to find somewhere to live.

What followed was six weeks of temporary shelters and living conditions, until Robin was referred to the Julia Greeley Home. Now she has the time to learn new skills while she weighs her future. Staff is helping her to explore independent job and living conditions so she can move closer to her dream to have adequate work and her own apartment again, one big enough for her children and grandchildren, too.

While easing into life at the Julia Greeley Home, something unexpected happened — Robin founded an unlikely calling as an actress.

Robin was chosen to play Servant of God Julia Greeley, our home’s patron, in the first annual “Night at the Cemetery” program sponsored by  Mt Olivet Cemetery and the Archdiocese of Denver. The program was put together as a drama for middle school and high school youths as an alternative to the creepy and disturbing Halloween fare common during October. Instead of goblins and ghouls, the students were led in a nighttime walk through the cemetery where they encountered “saints” who included Therese of Lisieux, the patron saint of France.

Another figure to appear was Julia Greeley, who used to be buried right in Mt Olivet Cemetery until her remains were transferred last June to the Cathedral as her cause continues toward canonization.

But who could play Julia Greeley? Christi Grebenc, parish relationship coordinator in the archdiocese, started scouting around. The Julia Greeley Home seemed like a good place to look.

“When I received a call, I immediately thought of the person that I felt would be perfect for the role of Julia,” said Leslie Collins-Pottebaum, who is staff director at the Julia Greeley Home.

Robin “squealed with delight” to be asked, said Collins-Pottebaum.

Robin was given several pages of dialogue to absorb and narrate, but soon the role of Julia Greeley took on a life of its own. Robin set aside the script and, taking on the persona of Julia, she delivered a passionate and accurate account of the future saint’s life to the fascinated audience of students and teenagers. 

The organizers of the event, and the staff and residents of Julia Greeley Home who came out to see her, were amazed at Robin’s mastery of the complex material and her ability to bring Julia Greeley to life. 

Robin shares her heritage with Julia Greeley as an African-American woman, but beyond that, she knows little about her family background. As far as the family’s distant past  more than a century ago, “I’m sure we were born into slavery, but my mother took a lot of secrets to the grave with her.”

Whatever life holds, Robin knows one thing — she has already been asked to play Julia Greeley next October.

“It was a privilege,” she says. “I will definitely be there next year!”

Fellowship at Morrison Chapel hosts Fr Regis talk: "Work is the fuse" that inspires dignity

Fr Regis Scanlon OFM Cap, was invited on Sunday May 28 to the Fellowship at Morrison Chapel to talk about the Julia Greeley Home, which he founded to help formerly homeless women start new lives of self sufficiency.

The chapel was robustly filled, it’s members gracious, thoughtful and attentive, as Fr Regis explained the three-pronged efforts of the Julia Greeley Home: to offer women who have seemingly lost everything, the opportunity to find work while living in an atmosphere of Christian friendship and spiritual support.

First and foremost, Fr Regis said, the goal is for each woman to find work: “Work is the fuse which sparks a woman’s recovery of her human dignity.” 

Following Fr Regis’s talk there were prayers and patriotic hymns, which led up to a stick-to-the-ribs-and-the-heart sermon by Pastor Kevin Turner, a professor at Colorado Christian University. Rev. Turner linked the suffering of Jesus to the daily lives of every individual today, a connection which gives profound meaning to the problem of human suffering. It was an especially moving message on a weekend which marks the sacrifice of so many, who have died and suffered to preserve America's freedoms.  

Skip Campbell, chapel “overseer,” is the person who makes this picturesque chapel (on this site for nearly 130 years), available for weddings and events, and who has been a good friend to the Julia Greeley Home ever since he and Fr Regis met.

Thanks also to Jamee Chambers and Alice Wildemann from the Fellowship congregation who made Father Regis’s talk possible. 

Camille's Story: 'The end' was really the beginning

"What I thought was the end, was the beginning." 

These are the words of Camille M. Her new beginning began when she came to the Julia Greeley Home in 2016. The years before had been a brutal succession of deaths and family losses. She was already raw from painful conditions of arthritis and fibromyalgia. The pile-on of physical and emotional pressures had become unbearable. The talented and capable office manager could no longer work, and eventually she lost her home. 

Camille’s story shows how quickly life can collapse even for talented, bright, independent career women. Our society is harsh and unforgiving when a person becomes even temporarily vulnerable. That’s why the Julia Greeley Home was founded. For Camille, all seemed lost — until she found the Julia Greeley Home.

Today, Camille says, “What I thought was ‘the end’  when I came here, turned out to be the beginning.”

Here is Camille’s story. It’s based on an interview she gave to writer Anna Chase:

“I might cry, so bear with me. My life began to unravel in July 2009 at, of all things, a family barbecue. We were all having a good time, when my brother-in-law, Ken, suddenly collapsed. We frantically tried to revive him with CPR but he died at the hospital. We were very close, and the sudden unexpectedness of his death deeply disturbed me. Then  six months later, my sister Toni, who was just one year older than I am, died of kidney failure. The following July, my son, Vincent, passed away at the age of 24 from complications of an enlarged heart. We were very close. But the shocks weren’t over. About a year after that, my mother Margaret died at the age of 82.  

Obviously, these deaths didn’t just weigh on my heart, they also took a toll on my body. I have suffered with fibromyalgia syndrome since 1995, in addition to general arthritis throughout my body. The added stress and grief was like adding another layer of physical pain on top of the excruciating daily pressure of physical pain. I could barely get out of bed. 

That’s when my professional life began to suffer, and things really began to spiral downward.

"For 15 years I had a challenging and fulfilling career with the federal government in Boulder, and I loved the work. Then, just as I was trying to deal with my grief and physical pain, some new supervisors were brought into our division. During that shake-up period, a woman I had worked with for many years and who had never liked me, saw a chance to get rid of me. I needed to miss a lot of work because of my declining health, and she used that fact to force me to go on probation. The scheme worked. I ended up losing my job in the federal government. 

So there I was — 54 years old, unemployed, almost immobilized with pain, and still emotionally devastated over the loss of my son, and so many other people I loved! When I lost my financial support, it wasn’t long before I lost my home, too. I really didn’t know what I was going to do. Then a friend of mine, who I used to work with in Boulder, called one day. He had a friend whose mother was the director at two women’s homes in Arvada. He suggested I give her a call.

So that’s how I ended up coming to the Julia Greeley Home. The most important thing that I’ve learned about myself is that no matter how bad I think things are I always end up in a good place. The safety and stability I found here, plus the love of the staff, was something I hadn’t really gotten anywhere else.  It gave me time to see things more clearly. 

Today, I tell other women undergoing similar struggles that they need to focus on themselves and remember that they are valuable, worthwhile human beings. There is always somebody there to help. They only have to look and ask — and not be afraid to ask. And they need to know they are going to be okay.”

Camille is now putting her managerial expertise to work as house manager and liaison for the Julia Greeley Home and for Shannon’s Hope, the beautiful ministry for pregnant women whose home we share. 

Penny's Story: "God has calmed my heart"


“I had my spiritual awakening at the Julia Greeley Home in 2015 .. at Julia’s my faith grew strong and I was growing strong too.”

Penny came to the Julia Greeley Home in 2015 after a family breakup followed by homelessness and depression. Today she is in her own apartment, reconciled with family, and a straight A student at Community College of Denver.

Penny overcame her serious challenges with the help, guidance and spiritual support of the Julia Greeley Home and through our partnership with the Ward Family Foundation, which gave her a scholarship opportunity to continue her education at Community College of Denver.

Penny has made the most of every opportunity. Today she is completing her first semester at CCD with straight A’s as she works toward her degree in social work: “That will open me to do so many different things. Ultimately I would like to work in community mental health or a community clinic as a primary care provider working with the homeless and with people with mental illness and substance abuse issues.”

“I want to be able to advocate for others and share my story and be an inspiration for someone who is struggling with mental health and substance abuse issues.”

Penny has walked the walk —- and now she wants to lift up and inspire other women who follow her.

“It has been awesome — God is amazing. When His time is right, you just know it it,” Penny says. “Things fall into place. You say to yourself, ‘This isn’t something I’ve done, this is something I’ve done by the grace of God.”


Imagine having an accident and going into a coma. When you wake up your husband is gone and he’s taken the kids.

That’s what happened to Penny. It was part of a long, rough road that led her in late 2016 to the Julia Greeley Home. Estranged from her family after her divorce, she was living a dreary existence in homeless shelters. Her caseworker suggested she try the Julia Greeley Home.

“I am so grateful my caseworker suggested this,” she says. At Julia’s she is healing from longterm depression and what she calls a “ high strung, controlling nature” that made her difficult to get along with people. 

“God has calmed my heart,” Penny says. “If I wasn’t here where would I be? Still living on the streets and struggling.”

She’s in school now and interested in a counseling degree, and considering an application to Julia’s scholarship program with the Ward Family Foundation.

One of Penny’s best memories so far at Julia Greeley Home was a festive New Year’s Day dinner. Penny had invited her father, who she had lived with after her divorce until they had a falling out. On the first day of 2017 they were trying for a new beginning. As residents and guests went around the table expressing wishes for 2017, her father said something she will never forget:

“My dad gave me the best compliment, he said how happy he was that I was here, and then he said, “I’m grateful that my daughter is here and not living on Colfax or in the snow!”

Residents and guests clapped, and her dad hugged her. 

It was a long time since she had reached out to family in that way.


Penny’s accident changed everything.

“When I woke up from the coma I was told I was single again,” she says. “I had a very rocky marriage, and my husband couldn’t deal with it.” 

Penny was a “a California farm girl” “searching for success.” She thought she found it in her quiet, introverted husband who was in the Air Force. They moved to an Alaska military base; soon they had two kids, a boy and a girl. But parenthood couldn’t make up for the fact they were drifting apart. 

Even worse, she was developed a painful and serious case of colitis.

“I hadn’t been properly diagnosed, and I was dealing with trauma of it, not able to do anything,” Penny says. “I was unhealthy, sensitive, and crying.”  

The accident shattered everything. But two days before her birthday, she woke up from a 6-week coma without any lasting physical effects. “I give the glory to God,” she says. “He restored me.”

Although her husband had left, she credits her mother-in-law with introducing her to a relationship with Jesus Christ. Today she sees her relationship with her mother-in-law as part of God’s merciful plan.

“I wasn’t raised in a Christian home,” she says. Depression had blocked her from a relationship with God, and all she could think was, “Why did he toss me aside?” But when she recovered from her coma, “I think God got my attention with that.”

Today, Penny is looking ahead, not back. At Julia’s, she enrolled in school and wants to pursue a counseling degree. In Julia’s family style home she has daily opportunities to work on the character traits that used to alienate her from others: “Before I would have made everybody in the house miserable. Now I ask, “Hey, can we talk about that?’

Spiritual support is key, she says, and Penny cherishes the gift of a Bible, received by every resident at Christmas. “The Holy Spirit is giving me insight” Penny explains. No matter what the challenge, “I ask God,  I don’t know how to resolve this but you do.”

Penny adds, "I have a thirst to get closer to God. I want to be known as a person of integrity.”


A firefighter who came to help

Last fall firefighter and paramedic Matt Kosak of the Westminster Fire Department surprised the Julia Greeley Home with a generous check. Matt had been named Community Advocate of the Year for the Westy CFIRE alumni group, and together, they were looking for a good cause. He looked into our mission for helping homeless women achieve self sufficiency, and chose us.

Besides being a Westminster firefighter and paramedic, Matt, who grew up in Arvada, fought for America in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. When he got home he didn’t hang up his boots and take it easy — no, he volunteered to be a bone marrow donor to someone he never met.

Matt’s bone marrow donation saved that stranger’s life. To this day, the stranger is doing well, and her leukemia is in complete remission. That started a whole new role for Matt as a volunteer coordinator for the “Be the Match” foundation, which links bone marrow donors with recipients. 

Today Matt inspires others in the fire department, his EMT group, paramedic students and even city employees of Denver to donate bone marrow. Matt went beyond just inspiration to create a donation process so that it’s easier for individuals to sign up and get involved.

Julia Greeley honored in Rome

This September, 98 years after her death, Julia Greeley will be honored in Rome by Pope Francis as one of the models for the worldwide Year of Mercy.  St Mary's Catholic Parish in Littleton, CO is arranging a pilgrimage to Rome in September to join in Julia's celebration. Contact the parish if you want to go!

Julia overcame her birth as a slave and the intensely cruel treatment of slave owners which left her half blind and lame. Julia conquered these challenges and became known throughout Denver CO for her kindness and love for those even less fortunate than she. Julia was modest and unassuming in life, but now she is getting the accolades she deserves.

A visit from Christ in the City

On an ordinary Friday night in June, Christ in the City came to the Julia Greeley Home and made the evening extraordinary. Philip, Barbara, Kelly and Adriana touched so many of our residents, including our shared community of Shannon's Hope. We made dinner, and they brought with them their special brand of care, compassion, and joy -- and fun, too. We loved their "get-to-know-you" game, which led that evening to the sharing of so many lives.

Our photo shows Adriana cuddling one of the babies of Shannon's Hope. As you can probably tell from this sweet picture, we became like one big family that night!  

Christ in the City is unique in its mission to know, love and serve the poor by reaching out to them exactly where they are -- whether that's on a downtown street or in a private residence.

Christ in the City began its work with Denver’s poorest in the summer of 2010. Begun under the auspices of Catholic Charities in Denver, it also trains young people to become life-long missionaries. In the 2011, CIC was adopted by the Christian Life Movement (CLM) as the service arm of its mission in the United States. , Missionaries are spiritually guided by the priests and lay men and women of the Christian Life Movement, which helps in the spiritual formation of Christ in the City. 


Cheers to our first scholarship recipient!

We are honored to announce that the Ward Family Foundation, Alexandria, VA., has awarded Sheree, a recent Julia Greeley Home graduate, a scholarship to pursue a licensed practical nursing degree in Denver. Sheree found the Julia Greeley Home earlier this year when she was going through a difficult time and needed a place where she could take time to reflect. Sheree was such a supportive and motivating presence to the other women, and we recognized in her great leadership qualities and we wanted to help her pursue them. So we recommended Sheree for a scholarship with our partner, the Ward Family Foundation. We are all so proud of Sheree! She is such a compassionate woman, and we know that, as a licensed practical nurse, she will make a great contribution to those who are sick and in need of care.   

What Lasts 115 Years?

Really, what does last 115 years? Here’s the remarkable answer: It is the spiritual order which Julia’s Greeley herself belonged to more than a century ago -- the St. Elizabeth of Hungary Fraternity of the Secular Franciscan Order in Denver, CO.

St. Elizabeth’s Fraternity has been going strong since 1901 -- and last month came out to the Julia Greeley Home to bring a delicious and bountiful potluck for our residents and our shared community, Shannon’s Hope. This photo shows Dave Arling, the group’s leader, telling the compelling story of the Fraternity and the Secular Franciscan Order to all our residents over lunch. 

In Julia’s day, way back when buggies and horses ruled the streets, right up into our own 21st century, the Fraternity has been drawing in men and women who seek a deeper spirituality than ordinary life. One of them was Julia Greeley herself. When “Old Julia’s” work was done, she would make the short walk from her home, located in today’s LoDo, to the Fraternity meetings at St Elizabeth’s Church on today's Auraria campus. 

Secular Franciscans come from all walks of life. They have kids and families and jobs and businesses; some are widowed, others are single like Julia Greeley was; what brings them together is their love for God and their desire to do service, in the spirit of St. Francis of Assisi, to help their fellow human beings.

The Julia Greeley Home is looking forward to becoming an apostolate of St. Elizabeth’s Fraternity (part of its outreach program) and we dearly hope for that day. How inspiring to think that we can join the legacy of one of its past members -- Julia Greeley herself! 

Historic Photo Comes to Life (Literally)

The scene: the bus tour on Feb 21 of the old neighborhood where Julia Greeley walked 100 years ago. The moment: When the crowd on the bus broke out in applause to learn that one of their fellow riders was Virginia Haddad, who traveled from her home in southern California just to be on the tour. Virginia has a unique connection to Julia --- in the one and only photo we have of Julia Greeley, the toddler whom Julia is cradling is none other than ....... Virginia’s Aunt Marjorie! (See the photo accompanying this post .... We couldn't let Virginia get out of town without snapping a photo of this generational slice of time travel.) 

Check out the previous post for more about the tour ...

Julia on Tour: Awesome Event

The grand old Denver neighborhoods where Julia Greeley walked 100 years ago came alive Sunday, Feb. 21,  during a packed bus tour led by Julia’s biographer, Fr. Blaine Burkey O.F.M.Cap. 

The tour visited Sacred Heart Church, where Julia worshiped, and passed by the grand old homes where Julia worked. (The accompanying photo is Fr Blaine addressing the crowd at Julia's old rooming house -- now a modern office building.) Her grave at Mount Olivet Cemetery is on the tour list of prominent people who are buried there, including socialite Baby Doe Tabor, Astronaut Jack Swigert and Julia’s mean spirited former boss -- William Gilpin, territorial governor. (Good-natured Julia would have gotten a kick out of the “company” she would keep at her final resting place.)

The tour began on a high note and the bus crowd broke out in applause to learn that one of their fellow riders was Virginia Haddad, who traveled from her home in southern California just to be on the tour. Virginia has a unique connection to Julia --- in the one and only photo we have of Julia Greeley, the toddler whom Julia is cradling is none other than ....... Virginia’s Aunt Marjorie! (See the accompanying post for the photo of Virginia holding the iconic photo of Julia who is holding her aunt.) 

Clearly, a century after her death, Julia Greeley’s popularity is building momentum. The interest over her life is intense, and more and more people are voicing the hope that someday, perhaps, Julia’s “cause for sainthood” will be introduced in Rome. Even now, before that happens, people are responding to Julia’s struggles as a lame and half-blind former slave who triumphed over the evil done to her, and who turned around to create a life of heroic goodness and compassion toward others. 

For details on how to buy Fr Blaine’s absorbing and meticulously researched biography of Julia, “In Secret Service of the Sacred Heart,” email him at 

Sylvia's Story

"Thank you, Julia Greeley, you were a light for me when I could not see the way!"

The words are like Sylvia Bailey herself -- spontaneous, spirited, luminous. Sylvia graduated from the Julia Greeley Home program in 2014, and shortly afterwards spoke at a workshop about her success. The Julia Greeley program had helped her achieve independence. She was in her own apartment and managing her own life. 

Now Sylvia had a plan. She wanted to share the light that she had found at Julia's: “I want to volunteer,” she said. “When can I start?” 

We were thrilled. Who better to explain Julia’s program than Sylvia? She was charismatic, eloquent and eager. She could explain Julia’s program “from the inside out,” because she believed that her time at Julia’s had revitalized her life journey. Now she wanted to tell others. 

We were making plans to have Sylvia join us when, a few weeks later, we received devastating news. Sylvia had died suddenly from a burst aneurysm suffered at her home. This vital woman, sparkling as a firecracker, had suddenly been called to eternal life.

Sylvia's Story: Hardship, joys and inspiration

Who was Sylvia? A few weeks before her death, she sat down to sharel her life story and what led her to the Julia Greeley Home. Her life reflects the unique ways homelessness can come upon a woman of any background or age. Sylvia had been an educated, hardworking career woman before traumatic events obscured her path.

She was born in 1951 in Denver. Her father was an Army veteran, her mother, a stay at home mom. 

“I was born sickly, and wasn’t expected to live past age six,” Sylvia said. “I had a speech impediment and a rheumatic heart, and that kept me out of school for a year.”

From age 8 to 18, Syvia went to live with her grandparents. “That was lovely,” she remembered. “that’s where I found peace and love and security. I felt I was protected.”

Sylvia’s childhood memories included exploring her grandparents’ garden, collecting tomatoes and cucumbers and learning from her grandmother how to “pickle and dill.”  She played with her nine cousins and climbed her favorite apple tree. She attended and was baptized at Sacred Heart Parish in lower downtown and sang in the Sacred Heart choir. 

“It’s Julia Greeley’s parish!” she said, referring to our patron, the incomparable woman whose death in 1918 drew a reported 1,000 mourners. “It’s like I already knew this lady!”

Life gets complicated

Adulthood came fast. Sylvia had a baby girl, and realized she better get serious about her future. She didn’t waste any time: She attended Barnes Business School, Community College of Denver and Emily Griffith Opportunity School (now Emily Griffith Technical College). What followed was a very good job with the regional office of the Federal Communications Commission in Denver.

 Those productive years brought other things, including marriage and another baby, a son. She moved up the busness ladder, working for some of the grand old names of the telecommunications industry: Mountain Bell; U.S. West …. 

Yet dark clouds were gathering: Sylvia said she became a victim of domestic violence, and that she slid into substance abuse in order to escape. “My spirit knew it wasn’t right,” Sylvia recalled. “What I was doing to my body wasn’t right.”

In the early 1990s, Sylvia went into treatment and got sober. She bought a home and eventually other properties. But life was getting very complicated: Sylvia had ended up with grandchildren to support, and other family members needed her help, too. The financial pressures multiplied and cascaded and became overwhelming. 

By 2013, Sylvia was living with a family member in a housing complex that she said was overrun with drugs and violence.

 “Lord, help me get out of that!” she recalled praying. In desperation, she put in an application at Samaritan House, the homeless shelter run by Catholic Charities of Denver. “When they told me there was a bed, it was like, ‘Thank you Lord!” said Sylvia. “Now I won’t have to smell marijuana and wake up bleeding.”

Samaritan House, a temporary shelter which is part of our social services network, called us. Did we have room at the Julia Greeley Home for another resident? Yes, we did. Sylvia, with a laugh, recalled her reaction:

“Would I like to interview with Julia Greeley? Sure! I’m on my way!”

'I am home'

“When I walked in that door -- ahh .... it was like a choir of angels started up,” Sylvia recalled. “It was that special. It was like everything that happened before fell off of me. Yes! I had made it. I am home.”

Sylvia plunged into the Julia Greeley program. She applied for jobs and researched apartments. She found a part-time job at Dollar Tree. When she reached age 62 she learned she would be eligible for a senior living arrangement, and soon found one. 

While at Julia’s, Sylvia re-discovered the joys of family life, both practical and emotional. She loved the shared cooking duties atJulia’s and discovered that she was a motivating force for the other, younger residents. 

“I think my background and experience was a help to those who were unfortunate,” she recalled in 2015. “Women who are mistreated, beaten or pregnant, they have no one to turn to. Well, I’ve been there, done that, so I could help.”

That was Sylvia's spirit was when she passed away -- in an attitude of joy, gratitude and eagerness. Even though Sylvia can no longer share her story in person, we hope it will inspire other women to keep working toward their goals like Sylvia did, no matter what the obstacles.

Julia's resident wins award

We are so proud to announce that one of our Julia's residents received a customer satisfaction award from her employer last week. To preserve her privacy we're not using her name, but according to her employer -- a large well known business in Colorado -- our resident has become known to customers as being patient, helpful and good at her work! We are so glad to support this wonderful woman who continues to move ahead to solve the problems which once sent her into homelessness, and are now being resolved, starting with this meaningful part-time job.  She is on her way to full self sufficiency and reclaiming her life. Congratulations, and we love you! 

Scholarship program opens for Julia's women

The Julia Greeley Home is honored to be selected by the Ward Family Foundation of Alexandria Va., to be part of its education scholarship program. This means that a qualified resident of Julia’s may receive a one-year scholarship to begin or continue her education at college or university in Colorado.

This generous award program from theWard Family Foundation is in harmony with Julia’s mission to help motivated women recover from homelessness and go on to build new lives of purpose and self sufficiency. There is no better exit from dependency than education! 

The Ward Family Foundation was established in January 2001 to assist existing charities improve their effectiveness by implementing best practices. We are thrilled to have a relationship with this innovative foundation and its vibrant mission. We hope and trust that, at just the right time, one of Julia’s residents will be exactly the right candidate for the Ward Family Foundation scholarship program!

Julia's joins Food Bank Ministry

Julia’s is thrilled to join the Food Bank Ministry of Our Lady of Fatima Parish in Lakewood, CO. Thanks to the Food Bank, Julia’s women will have delicious and festive meals at Thanksgiving and Easter. Our shared community with Shannon’s Hope is also included in this wonderful outreach. 

The Food Bank Ministry is made possible through the efforts of more than 200 parishioners from Our Lady of Fatima. They purchase the food and then make sure it gets to all their agencies and charities -- a huge undertaking, requiring a lot of coordination and planning .... we are so grateful to be part of it! 

Thank you, Food Bank coordinators Stan Collins and Mary Herzogenrath (Stan’s wife), and Deacon Joe Hawley at Our Lady of Fatima for allowing us to be a part of your ministry. 

A special nod to Deacon Joe, for putting Julia Greeley on your radar screen -- and for all the great work you do throughout the community.