In 2009, Jacqueline Enriquez received a call in the middle of the night informing her that her two-month-old grandson was hospitalized and that her two-and-a-half-year-old grandson was placed in foster care. Because her daughter, the boys’ mother, was in a situation of domestic violence, Enriquez took over the custody of her grandchildren.
To do this, she quit her job and moved from her Aurora home to the Baker neighborhood of Denver. And Enriquez struggled with child protective services to keep the kids. “Because I was involved in child protective services, there was [were] a lot of things that I had to do,” she says. “I had to appear before a judge to make sure I was following all their rules, and I couldn’t have someone in my house without them having to. background check.”
While there’s no doubt she would dedicate herself to her grandchildren, she says the damage done to her family relationship and her own life was hard to undo.
Eventually, in August 2019, when her grandsons were older and able to be more alone, she signed up for Cross purposea non-profit organization that has provided free job training to more than 600 people since its inception in 2014. She graduated from the program in January 2020.
Last month, Enriquez joined four other CrossPurpose graduates at Pitch Night, a fundraising event where they talked about the businesses they had worked on through the organization. change agency program and raised funds for them. “People can apply and submit their ideas,” says Karen Genzink, former director of alumni services at CrossPurpose of the program. “We look at their ideas: is there substance behind it? And then they are invited to come to an information session where they learn more about [the change agency program], then an interview. We want to make sure they are ready to accept the program. If they pass, they can join the program.”
This was the fourth year that CrossPurpose offered the change agency program. For nine months, the five CrossPurpose graduates met weekly to work out their business ideas ahead of Pitch Night.
“As a group, we worked together on our pitches and many other things that come with entrepreneurship,” says Andrea Carter, one of the graduates. “We had a budgeting class where we had to put all our finances together to estimate how much it would take to run the business and how much it would take to participate in it.”
On Pitch Night, Enriquez shared his vision for Beloved Grandfamilies, a non-profit organization to support grandparents raising their grandchildren and provide them with resources so they can avoid problems with protective services. childhood. Its goals eventually include providing affordable housing for grandparents who may need to leave their own home or seniors’ residence in order to raise their grandchildren; Beloved extended families would also help provide car seats, formula, and other materials the children need. There would be mediation tools to work with child protective services and avoid the challenges she also faced with this city agency.
“It was an invasion of privacy,” Enriquez recalled. “I had no rights because everything I did I had to get approval. I was kind of in a system where I was a criminal or something. I’m not saying the services child protection don’t need to be there, but I think there are other ways before it gets to this situation.”
Enriquez was able to raise $29,239 during Pitch Night for Beloved Grandfamilies.
Darnell Smith, another would-be entrepreneur, lost a brother in a drive-by shooting – and Jason Janz, CEO of CrossPurpose, was at the scene. “Jason lived just around the corner from where it happened, so he heard it, walked out and…that’s where I met him,” Smith recalled.
Smith was trying to get off the streets himself after getting involved in gang activity, and when he learned that Janz was running CrossPurpose, he decided to sign up. His project, Gray Goat Transportation, is a trucking company dedicated to creating a safe working environment for those trying to escape gangs. “It’s a good start if you’re looking for a reboot,” Smith said.
Darnell was able to raise $25,058 for Gray Goat Transportation.
Danalee Diaz was incarcerated on and off for four and a half years, starting when she was sixteen. When she got out, she struggled to support her young son and stay employed. Initially, she was hired as a store manager, but due to a slow HR process, she had been on the job for two weeks before her employer learned she had a criminal record. After that, she was fired immediately. Diaz told the Pitch Night audience that the firing was worse than his prison experience.
“I literally had no idea how I was going to provide,” she recalls. “When you’re in jail, you don’t worry about where you’re going to sleep or eat. It sounds a bit crazy because it’s jail, but you’re not worried or concerned about where you will go or eat or sleep.”
She enrolled in CrossPurpose hoping to learn a skill set that would help her find a stable career. Now she has her own business, Colorado Sanitation Company, where she hopes to hire young adults in similar situations, especially young mothers.
“Growing up in the system and in prison, they pretty much tell you that you’ll never get anywhere,” she says. She raised $25,237 on Pitch Night.
Andrea Carter’s mother died of a sudden heart attack; she had underlying health conditions that weren’t treated or even detected because she didn’t qualify for Medicaid and her job didn’t offer health insurance. This experience inspired Carter to launch Improve Mobile Lab Services, a low-cost program designed to go right to the doorsteps of people who need care such as STD tests, rapid COVID tests or even ECG monitoring, but who cannot afford health insurance.
“I want to help people of all nationalities, of all races to be able to be healthier,” she says. Carter raised $18,259 on Pitch Night to Improve Mobile Lab Services.
Tahani LuQuman wants to start Brotherhood Haven, a nonprofit program for boys that offers workshops and mentorships. “It’s an after-school program to help build strength and character in the boys in my neighborhood,” says LuQuman. “Building a community and really giving them mentors to help them through their life journey.”
In 2018, she learns that the father of her young son is going to prison for sixteen years. She spoke to other single moms with similar experiences and realized there was a need in the community for strong mentorship for young boys who don’t have male figures or true role models. in their life.
She says her goal is to sponsor at least 100 boys and bring vocational training back to colleges, to help young men find vocations early in life. LuQuman raised $35,916 at Pitch Night, the most of any entrepreneur.
Business and community leaders participated in the Pitch Night: some served as panelists, others offered their feedback, and most donated the majority of financial support to entrepreneurs’ businesses. Friends, family and other members of the community also attended and made donations.
These five entrepreneurs are the fourth class to go through the change agent program; Genzink estimates that nine of the last eleven change agents are still pursuing their projects. One of the brightest is Darin Valdez, who started Colorado artists recoveringwhich offers free art, music and creative writing workshops to anyone with at least 24 hours of sobriety.
Other programs are focused on planning for a better long-term outcome and to “help people build generational wealth for their families,” she notes.