Located in Southeast Colorado Springs, Kingdom Builders Family Life Center is a nonprofit that provides education and support to victims of domestic violence. Founded in 2013 by executive director Lisa Jenkins, who is herself a survivor of domestic violence, the organization has grown from an idea to providing support for the El Paso County Department of Human Services. Starting with their My Brother’s & Sister’s Keeper Domestic Violence Support Group, Kingdom Builders’ programming has expanded to include at-risk and affected youths in Colorado Springs, and is working to break the cycle of family violence.
How did Kingdom Builders start?
During my first marriage I was in a domestic violence situation, and I found enough courage to leave with my life and my three children at the age of 24. That kind of planted the seed for this journey. I always knew that after I got out [of the relationship], I wanted to spend the rest of my life working with those who are in a similar situation so they can eventually leave and thrive. Once I [left] — I was 24 — I had to raise my three children by myself and I struggled for many years to find where I needed to be.
I met my current husband years later, and told him the vision I had and what God has shown me — doing this. He was in the military and we moved to Germany, and that’s where I started to develop the ideas and things I wanted to do. We moved to Colorado in 2012 and shortly after that I began the paperwork. I did the 501(c)3 paperwork myself and got approved, and 2013 is when we officially launched.
What kind of programming and services does Kingdom Builders provide?
Our whole focus is designed to support families in breaking free from family violence. We realized the youth are heavily involved, because they are the ones who are witnessing it. So we have a program, Project Right Direction. It provides youths an opportunity to dream beyond where they’re at, so we do a lot of mentoring, a lot of life skills [guidance], homework help and tutoring — a lot of life-coaching so that they can move past where they’re at and start thinking about where they want to be in life.
We have three focuses with Project Right Direction. We work with the community — with children whose parents decide they need some more opportunities to engage with others. We have our Empowerment Peace focus and then New Beginnings, and those are for youths who are [in the criminal justice system], so we work with Teen Court, we provide life skills in anger management and victim impact with them. We also have gotten referrals from the Department of Human Services. We are a core provider for them, for the youth, to provide life skills.
We’ve also worked with the Marijuana Tax Revenue program [MTR Pilot Program of the Colorado Youth Detention Continuum]; they also have youths they refer to us to provide some life skills for them as well. We are currently negotiating with and trying to solidify a relationship with the 4th Judicial District. It has a juvenile program as well. ... That’s what we do with New Beginnings. We want to make sure we ... help [our clients] because they’re already exposed to [domestic violence]. Our goal is to keep them from repeating the behavior and breaking free from that so that they can just continue to thrive and move forward and eliminate some of the obstacles that they have.
My Brother’s/Sister’s Keeper is our domestic violence program. We provide direct services for victims as well as survivors of domestic violence. Our target is those who are underserved or not reporting — males, people of color and young adults.
Even though we do work with all demographics, we try to target those because they are historically not reporting crime, so they don’t get help. That’s why we’re focusing on trying to get opportunities to bring them into the fold, to provide those services that they need so they can also eliminate and break free from the violence in their lives. Most are second-generation victims of crime, so they’ve seen it their whole life and we’re trying to change the narrative. ... We can provide emergency housing, we do a lot of case management, advocacy, guiding them and giving them life skills and the tools they need so they can change the narrative in their lives.
How does Kingdom Builders fund its programs?
Because we had to kind of build ourselves up to where people would want to invest, we did a lot of early fundraising. We did a lot of community events throughout the year — a Race Against Violence, a lot of Community Cares days where we would have vendors — but at this point, the last couple of years, we’ve been blessed to get more grant funding. We have several funding sources that we get. We also have private donors who donate monthly. We’ve been blessed during COVID thanks to churches like Woodmen Valley Chapel, which gave us donations a couple of times. Pikes Peak Community Roundtable — we were their adoptee for two years, so they provided support for us monthly for two years. That helped us a lot until we got to the point where we were able to get more federal grant and state dollars. Now we’re able to provide more services because we have more funding through that source. Initially I had to learn how to write grants all by myself, but we were blessed when one of our board members was able to refer us to a grant writer, and she’s just been phenomenal.
How has COVID-19 impacted your operations?
We’ve had to initiate our on-call hotline to be able to support those who may need our assistance now more than ever. We have a staff that is on-call 24 hours. They’ll be able to handle crises after hours. We also have seen an increase of those needing food; we’ve been able to support purchasing a lot of food for families who are struggling because of it and couldn’t work. We’ve also had to pay utilities and help with rent. Those areas are where we’ve seen an increase in the last two months, and we’ve been blessed that we were able to support them, and then also were able to apply for and get some additional funding from some of the agencies that have funding grants for that specifically. We wanted to make sure our staff was working so they could help accommodate them.
Our whole focus is education and prevention of family violence. The education part became a bit tricky, because we were at a point where we were like ‘How do we get them inside, how do we get them to come?’ when everyone was on lockdown. We created an online education platform so we can still allow our participants and those that are in our program to still get that education part, but online, and still get credit for that education component that we have in our program.
What obstacles did you face establishing Kingdom Builders, and what advice would you offer to others pursuing similar work?
I think that, because I am a wife and mother, when I was building Kingdom Builders, there were a lot of long nights that I had to stay up making sure that I could build the organization but also be sensitive to my husband and my children’s needs. It was a lot of long nights, early mornings — very stressful — but we just had to learn a balance.
I have my bachelor’s and my master’s, so I got all the education out of the way first. Before I even started to think about starting a nonprofit, I wanted to make sure I had my credentials ready so that there would never be anything that I’m not qualified for or that I wouldn’t have the skillset to be able to lead.
If you are passionate about something, and that’s your calling, you’re going to do it whether you get paid or not. I had to start Kingdom Builders and did not get any type of compensation until two years ago, working a full-time job and doing Kingdom Builders on the side. I was so passionate about helping others overcome domestic violence that I was willing to do that, and it has paid off. Now I’m full-time, so this is my only job right now, but it took five years to get to that point. I would tell anybody just never give up. Stay focused on the charge that has been given to you and you’ll be successful. You just have to keep going regardless, and don’t look at the money aspect at first. nCSBJ