When launching a decade ago, the nonprofit Joyful Journeys initially focused on youths, but the organization has since broadened its reach to assist families and people experiencing hardships.
“We started with kids and then realized it wasn’t going to be a long lasting impact, so we started working with their parents,” said Executive Director Tasha VanMarter.
Joyful Journeys, at 6900 W. 117th Ave. in Broomfield, operates a food pantry and thrift store. The organization also offers sports, art and after-school programs for children, along with empowerment classes for adults.
“We want to address the whole community,” she said. “You have to help everybody.”
When she was growing up, VanMarter said she recognized the need for social services among numerous peers whose parents were financially challenged.
“I grew up in Thornton and had a handful of friends that didn’t even stand a chance,” she said.
After finishing graduate school at the University of Northern Colorado in 2010, VanMarter began a career working in probation and youth corrections.
The birds-eye view of children immersed in the justice system quickly motivated VanMarter to take proactive measures.
“I have to do something before they get to this point,” she said.
In 2011, VanMarter launched a nonprofit outreach for children from economically disadvantaged areas as a pop up program.
Prior to expanding to a physical location, VanMarten and a few cohorts drove to low-income neighborhoods to play games and do crafts with youths.
“We would pull kids together to get to know each other with adults who care to engage,” she said. “We would make a circuit around the neighborhoods and come on certain days so kids knew to expect us.”
The initial outreach highlighted the need to provide family assistance, and Joyful Journeys opened a brick and mortar location in Northglenn in 2012, which was relocated to Broomfield six years ago.
Over the last decade, the nonprofit has expanded its offerings to include services for families, seniors and single adults, along with a thrift store and pantry.
“It’s evolved into having a whole variety of empowerment classes to help folks figure out household budgeting or household management skills,” she explained.
Following the COVID outbreak in 2020, Joyful Journeys started its food pantry, which operates every day between 10:30 a.m. and 6 p.m.
“We let them do their own shopping,” she said. “It’s the only one in the state open seven days a week.”
Since beginning to provide groceries – including meat, dairy and fresh produce – two years ago the number of recipients has tripled, VanMarten said.
“Obviously we had to pivot to what the community needs were,” she explained.
Looking ahead, VanMarter said the operation is in dire need of expanded facilities.
“We’ve way outgrown this space,” she said. “We’re in trouble right now because it’s so tight.”
With roughly 10,000 square feet in its 117th Avenue location, VanMarter said the nonprofit could use about triple that allotment to operate effectively and expand its services.
“I have massive long term goals,” she said. “I would like to see mental, dental, hearing and medical services under one roof and would like to expand into rent vouchers and bill assistance.”
The overarching goal is to provide one location for families to source a wide-range of services.
“We know unless we impact the entire community and everybody experiencing poverty then it’s really not going to be that helpful for children,” she explained.