My name is Paul. I was born and raised in Golden, Colorado. I have seen EarthLinks grow in amazing ways. From the St. Francis location to the time we were on Larimer St, and now to see it in Sun Valley on 13th and Decatur. I walk out to our garden sometimes and think about how Earthlinks is like afamily to me through thick and thin.
I remember when Golden was just a small American mid west town, where everyone knew everybody’s business. I loved my town and the gorgeous views of Lookout Mountain right from my yard. As nice as that was, I knew I always craved more. Right out of high school I wanted to study cooking. I moved to Munich, Germany for 6 months to study German pastries and other cuisines. I guess you could call me an adventurer. I came back home to Golden. I wanted to work in restaurants and be proud of the food I was serving. Working in restaurants that were anything from casual dining to five star restaurants, I thought, what could go wrong?
Everything felt right being back in Golden with the woman I loved. I was just starting to think maybe it was time to settle down with her. Then she left unexpectedly. It all happened like a domino effect. I fell into substance abuse, hanging around the wrong type of people, and getting in trouble with the law. Then my parents passed and everything just fell apart.
I still remember the first time I had to make the decision tosleep under a bridge. When you miss the cut off hours for the local night shelter, it forces you to get creative. I’ve been able to manage by making makeshift beds from sleeping bags and pieces of plastic and cardboard. It’s not all too terrible; I get to see some wonderful night skies and wildlife, but the freezing temperatures are always brutal.
Coming into Earthlinks, I get to appreciate the small things that I know make all the difference. I love helping out in the morning to brew the best coffee, and spending time in workshop. My favorite thing to make is candles, and when I’m in wood workshop, I can’t get enough of makingmason bee boxes and bat houses! I always appreciate how Earthlinks encourages me to set goals for myself and achieve them. I know that when I set off to finish something that I start I might be disappointed with the end result. Even at times when I do fall short, not once has Earthlinks ever turned their back on me.
I’ve been evicted a couple of times in the past. Having that support system from Earthlinks helped me to find housing opportunities and get off the streets. By kicking my past addictions and getting opportunities for housing, I feel like tomorrow will be better with the support I get from Earthlinks. Ifeel part of a community here because I get to do things that I love, and experience empathy and connection with other people. I come into Earthlinks because it feels like home.
Photos by Catherine Coulter, EarthLinks’ VISTA Volunteer