They come from all over the country. They read about Nederland on the internet; they hear about Ned from others who have passed through town, looking for a home or just stopping for a while on their way to somewhere else.
Summer campers, homeless people, Grateful Dead followers and some young people out on their own, searching for their next step in life find themselves in one of the campsites around Nederland. Often, they have little money even though they are usually eager to work. They are grateful for the Sandwiches and Socks program at the Nederland Community Presbyterian Church on Thursdays, from 12 p.m. to 1 p.m.
Initiated by pastor Hansen Wendlandt three years ago and run by volunteers mostly from the Nederland Food Pantry, the free lunch and socks have welcomed hundreds of visitors who, not only have been fed, but have also been educated as to how to camp safely and what they can do to help keep the program going.
Last Thursday volunteer Dennis Whalen welcomed John McNew to the lunch and the men discovered they were both from Flint, Michigan. John told Dennis he came here six months ago to kill himself. He had lost everything due to family issues.
“I came to the mountains to take my life, but I speak the truth, the mountains gave me life. I went back to Michigan and met my wife and three months ago we bought an RV and came back to the serenity and peace I found here. We keep the campsite clean and we also clean up other campsites. The deputies have no problem with us.”
John says he is adamant about fire safety. He is looking for work in construction, landscaping, painting, wiring or plumbing. He says he will work, he will not beg and believes that statistically someone will soon say yes.
` Life wasn’t good back in Flint. John says he has so much lead in his body that metal detectors go off. “Yeah, they gave us all the water we needed, but we wanted them to fix the problem. The water is great here. So are the people and Colorado is the most beautiful state I’ve ever been in.
Steve Sullivan has returned to Nederland after 20 years. He formerly worked at the Top of the Square where Accounting Specialists now resides, and while he was here, he learned how to blow glass. Although he left for Baltimore where he had a glass blowing opportunity, he always knew he would return someday to Nederland.
“I used to have dreams about coming back here.”
His daughter is attending CU and his son came to snowboard and Steve arrived when this spring’s first big snowfall hit. He walked to Rainbow Lakes. He hopes to find a house by the fall.
Steve had not eaten for two days before he jumped into the sandwiches, tortillas and cheese, chili, Jello and cookies.
Pastor Hansen says the food was prepared by volunteers and was donated by the Ned Food Pantry, Lions Club grants, the Tebo Community Fund and the Mountain Forum for Peace.
A young couple from San Antonio, Texas, says they headed here for the three-day concert by the Dead. They listened to the music outside the stadium. They say they stayed in Denver for a while but found it too violent. They found Gordon’s Gulch on the map and the area looked small and quiet.
” Everyone has their own campsite and it is peaceful. We went to this church and were told about the free lunch.”
Daniel says he and Tora will be heading to California, to Venice, where they heard there are weed trimming jobs. After that, he is headed to Alaska, where he wants to be when the state is completely dark, without sunlight, and then to keep traveling.
About a dozen people sat in the NCPC garden, enjoying the newly blooming flowers and the great lunch provided with love by Nederland residents reaching out to those who are passing through, or possibly finding a home.
(Originally published in the print version of The Mountain-Ear on June 22, 2017