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Westside Cares director Steve Brown reflects on what Colorado Springs needs 

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click to enlarge Steve Brown bids Westside Cares farewell. - DARCIE NOLAN
  • Darcie Nolan
  • Steve Brown bids Westside Cares farewell.

Back in 2002, Steve Brown recalls, "I was looking for a job."

As an ordained minister, he had been serving in an interim pastoral position locally. Just as that position was coming to an end, the previous leader of Westside Cares announced his resignation. Brown applied to be the executive director, and was hired.

"This is much different work than working in a congregation," he says. "For me, I think more fulfilling."

Westside Cares, Brown explains, is a "Band-Aid" agency. Founded in the mid-1980s by a group of churches that were focused on people in need in Old Colorado City, the organization is one of the few in El Paso County supported by a variety of interfaith organizations. They provide food, toilet paper and laundry detergent, financial help with utility bills, access to health-care professionals and some clothing to their neighbors on the Westside.

Now, as Brown prepares to retire from Westside Cares, he says he sees the role he has played as a fulfillment of his calling to ministry and helping others fulfill their own calling. It's an unexpected realization.

"If our purpose in life is to be about more than just ourselves, and to make the world a better place," he says, "... then I think that implies giving of some sort."

Giving without expectation of return is what Westside Cares does best. This includes the tangible help it offers as well as spiritual care it provides to the community. "When you can resolve one person's utility bill for that month," Brown explains, "[you] send them out of here with a very different spring in their step."

While Brown looks back fondly over his time at Westside Cares, and is ready for the adventure of retirement — including traveling and living overseas with his wife who works for the State Department — he longs to see the Westside and all of Colorado Springs embrace a greater vision of giving and philanthropy.

"There are a number of unmet needs in the community that Westside Cares could get involved in, but none of them are easy," Brown says. He hopes the next generation of leaders brings about more than Band-Aid help and programs that keep people at arm's length.

"I believe pretty strongly that there are some people who come through this organization that, with more substantial assistance, could be moved to a different level of sustainability," he says.

Brown longs to see a connection between people and reciprocity, instead of funds and aid just flowing in one direction. "It is always from those who have to those who don't have; that's a tilted table," he says. "As a pastor, as a Christian, I believe very strongly that it's not God's dream that we live with a tilted table. I'd love to see a setting where the table is level and everybody who comes to the table brings what they have and takes what they need."

Westside Cares has one program that embodies this new equilibrium: Friend-to-Friend Victory Gardens. "When people are getting their hands muddy together, investment portfolios don't count," he says. "We don't pay attention to that stuff. We are just getting our hands muddy together."

The board at Westside Cares will begin its search for a new executive director in the coming year.

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