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Selfless Kindness: Washing The Feet Of The Homeless

By Alan Gionet

DENVER (CBS4)- It's a tradition for volunteers at Christ's Body Ministries who want to give back to those who have so little- the homeless.

The care they show is impressive.

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"Sweetheart just put your foot down over there," says Nancy Mungarro.

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Nancy, 80, and her daughter Heidi Pennock, volunteer on "Hygiene Day." They arrive early at the banged up looking Christ's Body Ministries along Lincoln Street. Inside as they work, it couldn't be a kinder place.

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"You know what's interesting is that I find myself at a religious place but I'm not a particularly religious person," says Heidi.

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She's a labor and delivery nurse. But she and her mom have been getting in a car once a week and heading over to do Jesus-like work, caring for the feet of the downtrodden.

"My mom and I on the way here, our tradition on the way here is we drink our coffee and I say, 'I wonder what characters we'll meet today?'"

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In the chair in front of her sits Marcello Romero. Marcello has schizoaffective disorder.

"I'm transitioning right now," he says. "I decided to move to Colorado from, um, where was I… from California."

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His family situation was not good he explains. He's had apartments, but loses jobs and then his housing. He came to Colorado because he likes its beauty. He's spent many days walking. Once down to Colorado Springs to clear his head. Lately he's been at a shelter, but he's lived along Cherry Creek at times.

"I've been to a lot of places in Colorado: Pueblo, Colorado Springs, Durango."

All on his feet.

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Heidi has positive words and cares for his battered feet.

"People say, 'Wow you just spent a half an hour really seeing me. I get overlooked a lot, people see through me.' And of course I can't see through someone when I've got their feet in my hands."

At the end of the room, Joa Vu cuts hair. He and his wife own Salon Joa near Colfax and Quebec.

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"My wife and I, we like to give back all the time," he says. "Kind of cool. I have regulars here now."

He styles hair for homeless people just like a customer in his shop.

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"It's easy to take one step in the wrong direction and then all of a sudden and series of things happens to a person and they find themselves without a home," says Tiffany Beckford, director of Administration at Christ's Body Ministries. "If they don't have a good support system behind them they just kind of get pushed to the wayside and they're marginalized and they just have nowhere to go."

The ministry also provides the homeless a place to shower and wash clothes. They put out about 1,000 meals a week. There are older alcoholics and drug addicts among them, but in a tight housing situation, there are many who once would have been able to have a home.

"And we still see those faces today for sure, but what's been added is the younger population."

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"I'm from New Orleans, Louisiana," explains Sarah, sitting in a chair as Nancy works on her feet.

She explains how she came to Colorado for cancer treatment in the 90s. But drugs and alcohol took over. She's clean and sober and cancer free now, but life has been a challenge. Nancy listens and says she gets far more out of the work than she puts in.

"When I don't do this, my week is absolutely, horrible."

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In the next chair over her daughter works on Marcello, who quietly watches.

"There's an automatic trust that we build with each other," explains Heidi.

Today he sees the kindness of people like Heidi.

"Marcello needs his feet and I need something to do with my day off," she says, igniting laughter in the room.

It is not a grim place at all. It is as bright as could be.

Alan Gionet is anchor of CBS4 This Morning and reports on a wide variety of issues and "Good Question" stories. He started at CBS4 in 1994. Follow Alan on Twitter @AlanGTV or on Facebook.

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