Home » Features » EarthLinks: 25 years bringing healing beauty of nature to homeless individuals

EarthLinks: 25 years bringing healing beauty of nature to homeless individuals

Posted on July 15, 2021, by Mary Nelle Gage SL

EarthLinks … creates Earth-centered programming for people experiencing homelessness and economic poverty. EarthLinks program participants are given a safe, peaceful space to foster empowerment resilience, and collectivity while also sustaining the planet. Together, we care for each other and for Earth.

From the EarthLinks website
A person holds up two handfuls of fresh carrots.
Harvesting carrots at EarthLinks in Denver
Photo courtesy of EarthLlinks

Twenty-five years ago Cathy Mueller SL reconnected with a high school friend, Bette Ann Jaster, OP, and after many conversations they learned that they shared a joint passion: care for our Earth and care for the poor. Their vision emerged: to offer people on the margins of society the opportunity to experience community, recognizing Earth as our teacher. Adult men and women at St. Francis Center, a day shelter for homeless men and women, were invited to garden in the nearby community garden and to venture out on trips into nature. Cathy employed her gardening, artistic and teaching talents to begin a workshop in which the participants used the pressed flowers from the garden plot to decorate candles. Marketing the candles (and before long, a variety of nature-inspired products), as well as broadening participant services, brought several Loretto sisters and co-members and friends on board. Soon the growth of the program, in numbers of participants as well as workshop activities and services for participants, required EarthLinks to secure its own complex of office, retail shop, workshop buildings and, of course, ample gardening and beekeeping space.

A well-tended garden with a sidewalk running past it.
Gardens on the EarthLinks property
Photo courtesy of EarthLlinks

EarthLinks has a 70 percent success rate of obtaining and maintaining stable housing for participants. To address the complexities of homelessness, we also provide wraparound services through our Workshop Program that are formed by evidence-based practices to support participants in breaking the cycle of homelessness.

From the EarthLinks bio; courtesy of EarthLinks

EarthLinks: serving into the future

Display of handmade products for sale from EarthLinks
Shown below are some of the products produced and sold by EarthLlinks to support programs for homeless and low-incomeindividuals.
Photo courtesy of EarthLlinks

By combining sustainable gardening, creation of Earthfriendly products, supportive community and relationships, meaningful paid work, as well as resource-navigation and case-management, EarthLinks assists participants out of homelessness and into community. Caring for Earth is a common goal with recycle, repurpose, reuse actions. By creating a welcoming and caring community that allows for restoration and growth, EarthLinks helps heal people and planet.

Responding to the basic human need for beauty, wonder and belonging, we started EarthLinks, a nonprofit to link people on the margins with Earth and with one another. Our goal was to enable people to experience Earth, her mystery and awe, her diversity and marvelous generosity, and her invitation to be part of a wider community, a web of life. Earth is a teacher who changes lives.

Cathy Mueller SL, EarthLinks co-founder with Bette Ann Jaster, OP
A person in full beekeeping protective gear holds up a fresh comb of honey.
EarthLinks’ bee club
Photo courtesy of EarthLlinks

The EarthLinks Workshop provides participants with the opportunity to learn employable skills, develop their God-given artistic talents and provide earned income through their handmade products sold at church bazaars, craft fairs, a few cooperative commercial outlets and online. (To purchase products and support EarthLinks’ programs,
visit their website.)

EarthLinks has taken on the huge project of staffing and overseeing Denver’s first Safe Outdoor Spaces (SOS) for the homeless in the Capitol Hill area. In cooperation with the City of Denver and First Baptist Church, 22 weatherized tents provide temporary shelter for 30 women and transgender persons. Resources and services include meals, bathrooms, hand sinks, laundry and shower facilities as well as housing referrals and outreach services.


Mary Nelle Gage SL

Mary Nelle was raised in Texas and graduated from Loretto Heights College ('66) where she met the Sisters of Loretto. After entering Loretto in 1967, she taught English, speech and drama at St. Mary's Academy and Machebeuf High School. Mary Nelle joined Sister Susan Carol McDonald in Saigon, Vietnam, to care for orphans and to assist with their adoption. For 20 years she resettled refugees for several church agencies. For 30 years she has done customer service at American Airlines and does occasional marketing for EarthLinks. She is involved in the preservation and re-development of the LHC (Loretto Heights College) campus.
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