Director's Note — August 2014

Laura Thompson, Executive Director

I am very excited to be writing to you as the new executive director for the Denver VOICE. If someone had asked me a year ago, I would not have imagined that I would be here today. Life is funny that way; you never know what direction it is going to take.

According to one of my favorite artists, Regina Spektor:

This is how it works
You’re young until you’re not
You love until you don’t
You try until you can’t
You laugh until you cry
You cry until you laugh
And everyone must breathe
Until their dying breath

It’s never quite that easy, though, is it? It can be scary to embrace changes and the uncertainty that accompanies them. It can be even harder to step back and let the changes happen and see where they bring you.

My own transition is a relatively normal one. After 12 years working for a small nonprofit, it was slowly becoming apparent to me that it was time for me to move on. I thoroughly enjoyed my time there and know that the work I did made a significant impact in some people’s lives. However, I also knew my passion for what I was doing was waning. If there is one thing I have learned while working in the nonprofit industry, it is that you have to have passion if you are really going to make an impact. When I learned the executive director position at the VOICE was open, I knew immediately that it was an opportunity I needed to pursue.

I have lived in Denver for almost my entire life, so of course I had heard of the Denver VOICE. But, like many, I hadn’t taken the time to understand what the vendors were really doing and why. So I took the time to speak with a vendor I encountered not far from my home. He told me about the other things he does for work and that life has recently been hard, but that he’s hopeful and determined. He was proud not to be begging for money but to be earning it. I knew right then that this was a place where I could help to make a difference.

It has been great getting to know the vendors and hearing their stories of transition. Those stories of being between jobs, homes, dealing with illness, trying to stay sober, or trying to get their lives back on track have touched me deeply. It soon became very apparent that these individuals, who have little or nothing, are still giving back to others in their own community and helping each other. Whether that is sharing a place to sleep or just sharing information, I am inspired by their compassion and generosity.

Even in my short time here at the VOICE, it is clear to me what impact the paper has on the vendors. Not only does selling the VOICE give them a dignified chance to make an income, it also gives the vendors a voice and an opportunity to connect with others. To have someone look them in the eye, talk to them, and see them as people out trying to make a living—instead of walking by and not seeing them at all. I truly believe in the power of empowering someone. You never know how big a difference even the smallest of gestures can make in someone else’s life.

The VOICE itself has been going through a transition. We have a new editor, a new executive director, and we are recruiting new board members. And yet, even as the dust is still settling, I know that the VOICE is back on track and poised for some great things. We have a wonderful team that is committed to the success of the VOICE and the vendors—which is why we are here in the first place. There are many exciting things on the horizon.

No, this is how it (really) works
You peer inside yourself
You take the things you like
And try to love the things you took
And then you take that love you made
And stick it into some
Someone else’s heart
Pumping someone else’s blood
And walking arm in arm
You hope it don’t get harmed
But even if it does
You’ll just do it all again.

I have been so overwhelmed by the community support through monetary donations, in-kind donations, and volunteers who all believe in this cause. In the short time since I transitioned to the Denver VOICE, I already know that I made the right choice. Often a change brings you somewhere unexpected, but sometimes it brings you exactly where you need to be. I am honored to be part of this organization and am looking forward to the ride.