Denton Freedom House celebrates new event center
By Basil Gist
At the Zera Coffee Shop and Event Center, customers can support their fellow man through Denton Freedom House with the same $7 they spend on caramel macchiato.
Founded in 2004, Denton Freedom House and its affiliated aspects use free housing, practical skill courses and ministering to help men and women suffering from addiction to overcome and subsequently re-acclimate to society.
“Our mission is ‘every broken life mended,’” Growth and Development Division Director Chad Eskew said. “It’s big and it’s impossible, but we are striving for that every day.”
Under the Denton Freedom House banner are the primary program—which is based on a 17-acre ranch in Aubrey, a food pantry, and the coffee shop and event center.
The organization, which serves the communities in the Greater Denton Area, celebrated the opening of its event center Tuesday in Denton.
“Whenever you’re sowing into the Freedom House, it’s good soil,” Eskew said. “When you come and do business here, you are pouring into people’s lives.”
The program, which lasts six months and is entirely free, starts with 45 days of getting clean, before any other work begins.
“We introduce them to the gospel, we walk them through financial classes and we also train them up on how to be men and women of God, which consists of daily prayer, learning to work with your hands, taking care of your family, etc.,” Eskew said.
The Freedom House doesn't just feed individuals in their program, however, thanks to the Freedom Food Pantry at 1123 Fort Worth Drive in Denton.
“We are serving food to families Monday through Friday, … anybody that needs food can come to our food pantry and get groceries,” Eskew said. “People can come to our pantry as many times throughout the month as they need to, that way we can minister to the homeless population, those who may not have refrigeration.”
Individuals in the program serve the community at large with Zera, whether it’s behind the bar as a barista or staffing events and catering. Working in highly social customer service positions serves as re-acclimation.
“Most people, including myself, spent many years only interacting while under the influence or not interacting at all because of isolation, so that can be very uncomfortable for someone who’s getting clean off drugs,” Eskew said. “People are very gracious in knowing that these men and women are fresh off the streets.”
The organization's CEO, Alton Schmidt, stressed the value of DFH having steady avenues of revenue alongside their donations and charity events.
“We wanted to make sure that no one was kept from coming in because they didn’t have insurance or the finances,” Schmidt said. “Drugs and alcohol affect everyone. It doesn’t matter what your background is; it doesn’t matter what your faith is; it doesn’t matter what your economic status is.”
Denton native and resident Emily Ali-Jelen touted the value of Zera and DFH in the city.
“Zera being here in the heart of Denton is a good representation of what Denton wants to be,” Ali-Jelen said. “We have a homeless problem, but we try to take care of our homeless.”
With North Texas Giving Day coming up, and an adjacent donation matching event running alongside, DFH is looking for donations during the month of September. All donations made from Sept. 1-22 will be met, up to $100,000 total.
Pertinent information is available at dentonfreedomhouse.org. Donors can also mail a check to P.O. Box 51166, Denton, TX 76206.
“Remember that we’re here; we’re here for you, and we’re here for your families,” Eskew said.