Nov 172005
Authors: Amber Baker

Amidst the hubbub of the holiday season, some Fort Collins residents are wondering how to keep from packing on the extra pounds with all the good eating. Others are wondering how they're going to afford to give their families a nice turkey dinner.

To help out those less fortunate families, The Open Door Mission for Northern Colorado continued its tradition and stocked up on turkeys, stuffing mix, vegetables, rolls, and pumpkin pies which they distributed in more 50 food baskets Thursday afternoon.

"I cannot put it into words what it means to be able to provide a special meal for a family in need," said Reverend Richard Thebo, director of the mission. "It might only be temporary, but at least they'll have one moment of fulfillment."

For those that are homebound, a food basket was delivered to them, and for those who are unable to cook due to either mental or physical disabilities, a hot meal will be sent to them on Thanksgiving. For those staying at the Mission, they will also be provided with a turkey dinner.

"We decorate, put on tablecloths and fancy napkins," Thebo laughed with twinkling eyes. "We give them first-rate service."

This time of year is always the hardest, Thebo said. Money can be tight, and the hours long.

"From Nov. 1 to Dec. 25th, I feel like hanging up my hat and calling it quits," Thebo said. But then during Christmas time when he puts on a Santa Clause suit, holds a few kids on his lap, and watches as their faces light up when he gives them a shiny new toy, that idea flies out the window.

Reverend Thebo, a former pastor, has devoted almost 30 years to working in homeless shelters. He founded the Mission 17 years ago when he felt God calling him to it.

Thebo admitted to balking at first. Even though he had worked in various shelters, he burned out and lost his love for it.

"I told God that if this was what he wanted me to do, he would have to give me back my love for the people," said Thebo, 65. "And the next morning, that's exactly what happened. I woke up with an eagerness and a love for impoverished, needy people."

Thebo came to Fort Collins and initiated a program called Fresh Start, which helps those who have lost jobs and much of what they own prepare resumes, fill out applications, save money and prepare for a new life.

Raised by a single mom, Thebo recalls a difficult childhood of poverty and instability. Some of his earliest memories are of living in shelters. But Thebo said he doesn't feel ashamed of his past anymore.

"I don't mind my past," he said. "I can say I'm even glad for it. Because now I can help people in a personal way. That's what it's all about."

The Mission will be having a Christmas tree benefit sale at Christ Church, corner of Drake and Lemay, beginning Friday November 25. Trees will be sold Monday through Saturday 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Sundays after church until 8 p.m. All proceeds will go to support the Open Door Mission.

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