Mission Arvada is operated by volunteers and members of The Rising Church. The programs of Mission Arvada are overseen by Pastor Stephen Byers (“Pastor Steve”). Responsibility of daily operations are orchestrated by Karen Cowling, Mission Arvada Director and Mission Arvada Team Leaders, Lori Perry-Crumrine, Donna Shafler, Jaci Lippert, Christine Thurston, and Berzette Green. Each leader contributes to tasks, events, and programs at the Mission depending on their skill set and interests. Mission Arvada’s leadership are key drivers of new avenues for financial and programmatic support, and 100% of them also give financially to the organization.
Stephen Byers (Pastor Steve) has been the senior pastor of The Rising Church for twenty-one years. Steve has Bachelor’s Degrees in Economics and History, a Master of Business in Finance and Marketing, a Master of Divinity, and a Doctor of Ministry Degree. Prior to attending seminary, Steve was a Financial Analyst for American Airlines. Before coming to The Rising, he served as a Youth and Young Adults Minister and Teaching Pastor in Arlington, VA.
Steve and his wife Cathy have been foster parents to sixteen children, five of whom they have adopted. That experience exposed them to behavioral issues associated with drug exposure, trauma, and neglect in children and has allowed Steve to understand the mental health, trauma and substance abuse issues present in the homeless community. As pastor he is the spiritual leader and teacher in the church. He provides vision, organizational skills, and financial expertise for Mission Arvada as well as one-on-one counseling and navigation of services for our clients.
Karen Cowling began as a volunteer with Mission Arvada when the project was established in November 2017. She was appointed Co-Director in 2018 and took over full leadership of Mission Arvada in 2020. Karen has a background of thirty-four years in Special Education with two Master’s Degrees in Speech/Language Pathology and Learning Disabilities. Karen and her husband Keith are foster/adoptive parents and served as Denver County foster parents for ten years through 2015. They facilitated a faith based foster/adoptive parent support group for nine years through 2017. Karen volunteered in many capacities for the Severe Weather Shelter Network which shelters the homeless overnights in severe weather since 2017. She has ministered to and advocated for children and adolescents in residential placements and for those on the streets since 1992.
Karen received the 2018 Image Award from the Arvada Chamber of Commerce for her exemplary work with the homeless community. Her roles and responsibilities at Mission Arvada include supervising paid and volunteer staff, advocating for Mission Arvada through community outreach, overseeing grant applications and fundraising efforts, implementation of new services and direct Case Management with clients. Karen is passionate and caring at a deep level and has on many occasions transported and advocated for clients in court/probation; transported clients to crisis centers or the emergency room; counseled, arranged and transported clients to drug and alcohol rehabilitation programs; and made hospital and jail visits to clients.
Day Shelter Team Leader, Lori Perry-Crumrine is a retired educator. She spent the first 15 years of her career as a Special Education teacher in Denver Public Schools and the last 18 years as an assistant principal in Jeffco Public Schools. Her bachelor’s degree is from the University of Northern Colorado and her master’s and doctoral work were all completed at the University of Denver. She currently attends church at Applewood Baptist Church.
Lori began volunteering at Mission Arvada in March of 2019 and is currently a Day Shelter Team Leader. A retirement goal was to find something she was passionate about and volunteer. She spent a large portion of her career helping struggling students and their families find support in a variety of areas. The opportunity to continue to help individuals who come to Mission Arvada who are forgotten and often ignored, has been a perfect fit for her.
Berzette Green started volunteering in October of 2020. She is now a Case Manager. Berzette was also hired as a support worker for clients who are newly housed through a human services grant offered by the city of Arvada.
Berzette came to us from California, where she majored in online classes for Business Management and Administration with Kaplan University. She began working with adults with developmental disabilities in 1993 and was an Administrator of Adult Day Behavioral Centers for ten years, and an Adult Residential Administrator for a Group Home for three years. After completing a Mental Health Paraprofessional Training Course, she moved on to work for Pacific Clinic’s Advanced Behavioral Health Clinics for six years as a Housing Supervisor.
Pacific Clinics allowed her to truly understand how strong collaboration and innovation can help increase opportunities for a better quality of life for individuals who have a mental health or dual diagnosis and who are chronically homeless and in need of wrap-around services. She finds it rewarding to help such individuals successfully integrate, and while housed, become more productive members of their community.
Donna has been volunteering at the Rising for several years now, and joined the team as an administrative assistant in 2022. Donna was recently hired with Jefferson County Public Health grant funding as our Food Procurement and Distribution Coordinator.
Donna has lived in Arvada since 2013. She found Mission Arvada sometime later, when she was scrolling this website, looking for something else. She got excited about the opportunity to be involved in ministry right in her own community.
Donna started with giving haircuts, (a great benefit), and has branched out into leading and other areas as well. She is now at the day shelter several days a week. What she likes best about working here is the chance to sit down and chat with clients, hearing their stories and getting to know them.
My journey to lean in and love our unhoused neighbors began with my church serving as a host for the Severe Weather Shelter Network (pre-pandemic). An invitation to the table to join in nourishment together is so simple--life saving for guests, and life altering for those who come together in community.
When COVID restrictions were lifted, Mission Arvada was the perfect fit for volunteer opportunities for me. A career in sales, procurement, training, and customer care management provided skills easily translated for this work.
I can't wait to see what God does in this next season.
Jason has been with Mission Arvada as our Day Shelter Assistant since April 2022. Jason has a passion for serving others and helping the unseen and those lost in a cycle of hopelessness.
Originally from Tulsa, Oklahoma, Jason has been volunteering at the Rising for a few years. He moved to Arvada in 2017 from Bali, Indonesia after serving with YWAM (Youth with a Mission).
He was most recently employed at a long-term care facility where he worked as a Care Team Coordinator in the addictions recovery unit.
Jason is a graduate of Saint Gregory's University in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and is currently pursuing his Master's degree in Human Services Counseling from Liberty University.
Sean Calderon helps Mission Arvada manage their data using his experience in software engineering. He has provided a brief word about his experiences with Mission Arvada:
I, Sean Calderon, first discovered Mission Arvada (Rising Church) through a Red Rocks (church) small group. As a small group, we did a Wednesday night dinner at Mission Arvada in April of 2019. It was an evening to remember for me. I witnessed first hand a level of compassion for the homeless that I’d never experienced before. As I stood observing men and women of various ages and backgrounds enjoy what very well could have been their only decent meal that day, one older gentle man in super ragged clothes and a dirty face walked up to Karen Cowling with tears rolling down his eyes. He looked her in the eyes and thanked her for the food he was given. He proceeded to give Karen a hug, his voice cracking as he continued to tearfully thank her for the food.
I was crushed. My heart broke in a million pieces for this man and every other individual in that room eating what could be their last meal. I knew in that moment I wanted to be a part of making a difference in this place. My experience is in tech/software however, and I wasn’t sure what I could offer. But, then I noticed the process of taking in (checking in) their clients (the homeless) was all done by hand on paper. Lightbulb!
I approached Karen about their other processes and how they manage their data. After further discussions, Karen, Pastor Steve, and I agreed to talk more about the possibility of me volunteering to build MA a software system to track and manage their Day Shelter processes and data. Over the next 6 months, I volunteered to run front desk check-ins on Wednesday nights as I built them a software system to help digitalize, automate, and track their workflows and data. Working the front desk on Wednesday nights helped me learn their check in processes as well as the data that needed to be tracked and managed. In August of that year, a Beta version of the system was delivered and installed on MA’s computers. We tested it for a couple of months as I continued to tweak, fix, and enhance the software. A couple of months later, in October, an updated version was delivered. Mission Arvada (MA) was now fully operational with their new software system.
I continue to work on fixes, enhancements, and updates on a regular basis with more features and additional systems in the pipeline to help MA continue to optimize their processes and data management as well as to enhance their ability to analyze and interpret their ongoing collection of data to help further and grow the ministry.