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Baptists to aid first responders when Democratic convention comes to Denver

DENVER (BP)–When the Democratic National Convention meets at Denver’s Pepsi Center Aug. 25-28, the “Mile High City” will absorb an estimated 225,000 visitors -– including the 5,000 credentialed delegates, politicians, the media and protesters. Local officials are readying for the challenge.

As a ministry to Denver’s law enforcement officers and first responders such as emergency medical service personnel and firefighters, three local Southern Baptist congregations and the Mile High Baptist Association have initiated a “Love Denver” outreach.

Five hundred or more Baptist volunteers will join in the effort, and the North American Mission Board is coming alongside the outreach with funding assistance.

Denver’s Riverside Baptist Church, Bear Valley Church and First Southern Baptist Westminster Church and the association have been planning the Love Denver ministry for 10 months.

The outreach will provide law enforcement personnel and first responders with hot meals, sandwiches, snacks, bottled water and other drinks during the four-day convention as well as the days leading up to and after the Democratic gathering.

Jim Shaddix, pastor of Riverside Baptist in downtown Denver, noted, “We hope the outcome will be a lot of public servants in the city of Denver seeing Baptists’ desire to be servants and reflecting the Lord Jesus Christ. Our desire is to minister to the law enforcement personnel and first responders -– saying to them, ‘We care about you, love you and want to be here for you.'”

With the Democratic convention coming to town, Shaddix said the church felt that an outreach was more than an option: “We felt it was one of those assignments from the Lord.”

“Riverside, Bear Valley and the association wanted to come up with a ministry to support law enforcement in Denver long after the dust of the Democratic convention has cleared,” added Bob Ryan, team leader with the Mile High Baptist Association.

Ryan said Southern Baptists, in partnership with the city of Denver and the federal government, will prepare and serve 7,600 meals a day from Aug. 23-29. Logistics include, for example, an order for 135,000 bottles of water that will be distributed.

Hot meals will be served each day between 11 a.m.-2 p.m. and 11 p.m.–2 a.m. in 19 different “zones” throughout the downtown area. Most of the zones will be based in downtown hotel conference rooms, where officers can eat or take a snack break during their shift or when their shift is over. The facilities will be open around the clock for personnel who won’t be able to leave the downtown area while on duty.

In addition to food and refreshments for the city’s police officers and first responders, Southern Baptist chaplains will be available in each zone. Ryan said it will take 76 chaplains a day, each working six-hour shifts at each of the 19 sites.

“In all, we’ll have 500-700 volunteers working at the 19 locations during the convention,” Ryan said. “I’d feel more comfortable with 1,000. We’ll just have to be more intense with less.”

Ryan said hot food preparation will be handled by volunteers using the commercial-style kitchen at Riverside Baptist Church, located near INVESCO Field at Mile High as well as an Oklahoma Baptist disaster relief feeding unit stationed at the Mile High Baptist Association office. Each kitchen facility will prepare 1,600 meals every 12 hours.

On Thursday night of the convention, presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama is scheduled to give his acceptance speech outside before a crowd of 77,000 at INVESCO Field, which will greatly stretch law enforcement personnel handling security and traffic in downtown Denver.

Ryan said the Love Denver ministry project still needs volunteers. Those interested in volunteering -– particularly those qualified for chaplaincy ministry and drivers with commercial licenses –- can go to www.saturatecolorado.com to sign up.

“If a pastor wants to feel appreciated, this is the way to do it, to volunteer to serve” during the influx of convention-goers in Denver, Ryan said.

“Southern Baptists everywhere need to know that they’re playing a part in this effort,” Ryan said. “The North American Mission Board contributed $60,000 toward the project’s overall budget of $284,000. Every Baptist is participating because of their gifts to the Cooperative Program.”
Mickey Noah is a writer for the North American Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention. For additional information on “Love Denver,” call the Mile High Baptist Association at 303-433-9100 or e-mail [email protected].

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  • Mickey Noah