PS_011122 1on1 Stu Davis CSBJ photo by  Bryan Oller00002 copy 2.jpg

Stu Davis

Stu Davis is no stranger to a life of service. 

The COSILoveYou executive director was a pastor at Woodmen Valley Church, he filled the role of vice president for Ministry Relationships at AGORA Search Group, and he worked as community relations director at Springs Rescue Mission.

But Davis’ experience with Springs Rescue Mission exposed him to challenges presented by poverty he previously had not recognized. 

His work at SRM inspired him to take his current position at COSILoveYou in 2018. 

COSILoveYou launched in 2015 and officially became a nonprofit in 2017. Davis said COSILoveYou exists to solve issues such as homelessness, teen suicide, mental health, poverty, food insecurity and more. 

“It was a difficult choice, but it was the right one,” Davis said of leaving SRM. “I’ve really liked being able to help people and connect them through different events.” 

Since its inception, COSILoveYou has hosted events such as CityServe Day, where members of the community volunteer around the Springs; Backpack Bash, which provides school supplies such as pencils, binders, folders, calculators and backpacks to families in El Paso County. There’s also  COSILoveSchools Day, where local church members volunteer for a few hours at local schools; and Citywide Worship, which aims to help children, the homeless and schools in Colorado Springs. 

Davis spoke with the Business Journal about the genesis of COSILoveYou and its mission, and moving over from Springs Rescue Mission. 

Did you grow up in Colorado Springs?

I’m from Tulsa, Oklahoma. I moved to Colorado Springs in 2004. I moved here from [Upland], Indiana and I went to college at Taylor University [in Upland]. A few years after graduation, I took a job as a youth pastor at Woodmen Valley Chapel, where I worked for nine years. 

How would you describe COSILoveYou? 

We seek to build collaboration among the faith, business and civic sectors to meet needs in our community. We seek to be a channel for local churches to be at the table in participating with our city in meeting needs. People want to help but don’t know where or how to start. COSILoveYou tries to facilitate conversations, whether that’s with city leaders or nonprofit leaders or leaders who are involved in key areas of need in our city. Those areas could be food insecurity, education, homelessness, poverty, mental health, teen suicide. We work with churches and businesses and other organizations who want to pitch in within those areas and help guide them to workplaces where they can contribute their efforts in the best way possible.  

How did COSILoveYou come about after your work with Springs Rescue Mission? 

Part of my role at the rescue mission was working with churches and pastors around the city. I was also working with business owners and leaders, particularly in the Downtown area. They wondered how could we help people in a way that doesn’t have a negative impact on our business, the growth of our business and our customers experience when they walk into our place of business. I was working with a handful of pastors, some folks in some city offices. One of the most prominent was Yemi Mobolade, who was at First [Presbyterian] before he took a role in the [Colorado Springs Chamber & EDC]. We started pulling in these groups of people from all over the city saying, ‘What can we do together?’ We had several meetings in 2015 where we were able to coalesce groups of leaders of organizations, churches, businesses and nonprofits, who said let’s see if we can do something about this issue of homelessness. That experience of seeing organizations and leaders from across different sectors work together, for the sake of something that mattered to our city was so exhilarating. And as organizations, churches, businesses and nonprofits started looking around, we saw the needle start to move on homelessness. Not that it has gone away, but we’ve made strides as a community. We started saying, ‘Well, there are other issues we could pay attention to where we could bring that same level of collaboration.’ Yemi and I and a handful of others ended up forming this opportunity called COSILoveYou. In 2015, we started an event called ‘CityServe,’ which happens every year in the fall. It’s the biggest event we do every year. We have thousands of people who participate and we spread them out across 200 locations all over the city to serve in parks, schools, community centers, nonprofits and any place that could use help in our city. [CityServe] started with four churches: First Presbyterian Church; Solid Rock Christian Center, Passion City Church, which no longer exists; and one of New Life Church’s campuses that meets at Palmer High School. Those four churches said what if we just mix our congregations together mix the people from these very different kinds of churches and help throughout the city. In 2016, we had 12 churches; 2017 we had 25 churches and [CityServe] just has continued to grow. 

Talk about your work at Springs Rescue Mission. 

I had been involved with some mission work and community development work in third world countries overseas, and specifically had spent about 10 years involved with a small community in Swaziland, which is now called Eswatini. But Swaziland has the highest HIV infection rate in the world. During that time I developed a heart for those suffering from dire poverty. I have good friends who are still living there in some of the worst conditions you can imagine. That experience gave me a close up look at global poverty. Then, I started to see the poverty that exists around me. I had been tracking the Springs Rescue Mission for a couple of years and ended up moving into a home next door to a man named Larry Yonker, who was the CEO of Springs Rescue Mission until 2021. He became my neighbor and during that time at AGORA, he invited me to come be a part of his staff. I had made a 12-month commitment to AGORA. He invited me to come on in the middle of [the contract at AGORA]. And I said, ‘Larry, I can’t. I’m in the middle of this commitment, but I’d love to come down and just be a part of what’s going on.’ In the winter of 2013 going into 2014, the rescue mission stood up its first homeless shelter and it was 30 to 35 cots in the corner of a warehouse on the back of their property.

They invited community members to come and donate some blankets. I brought my three kids and my wife. Each of us took a blanket and I will never forget when we walked into that warehouse. I met a handful of the staff who were there, including Larry and his executive team. My family and I spent the next 30 minutes laying a blanket on each of the five cots we had been assigned and just spent a few minutes praying for the people who would occupy those cots. It was one of the most formative moments of my life. Realizing there were people just like my African friends who were suffering differently, but in the same kind of poverty, right here in my own backyard. I kept in touch with Larry and his team at the Springs Rescue Mission. ... They were still looking for somebody by the time my 12-month commitment ended. I said, ‘Larry, if you’d still like to have me on your team, I’d love to join.’ I came on as the community relations director [in 2014] and spent the next four and a half years trying to build coalition around our community’s most visible human issue, which was homelessness. Those four and a half years were an absolute joy. 

What issues does COSILoveYou hope to solve in 2022?

It’s important to differentiate between the kinds of problems that can be solved on a short-term basis and the kinds that need more time and resources. One is the crisis regarding our local schools. There are some issues I think could be really strategically targeted to help teachers stay in the classroom, to help administrators at their jobs and to keep students engaged. I think that can be solved and I think that’s one of the things we’re going to focus on this year.

Explain the crisis, as you see it.

It’s multifaceted: Students are having to change the way they learn ... because they’ve chosen to stay home because of the pandemic. They’re having to vacillate between being online one week, then being in classroom the next. Or they’re having to learn differently, even if they’re in a classroom because half of their classmates are learning virtually and their teacher is trying to teach to a virtual classroom and a physical classroom. Parents are definitely having to adapt and teachers and administrators are having to adapt. We’re not an education organization, but what we are trying to do is build support around an educational environment like a local school, so teachers feel supported because they’re being stretched thin. Can they be surrounded by a group of people, from a business or a church, from a nonprofit who say, ‘We know that you’re exhausted but we want to be here to help. Can we change the oil in your car? Can we buy dinner this month? Can we do something that helps?’ For teachers, especially in under resourced schools, a lot of them feel like they’re working in difficult environments. The physical environment sometimes needs a lot of help. We come and renovate teachers lounges and we’ve done special education classroom renovations. ... Those are things that we can bring practical solutions in and try to help, here and now.

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