Thank you to Lammé and Associates.
Darin Carei arrives in the conference room, having come straight from another appointment for his work. We meet inside the offices of Synergy Builders, a construction company, one of three entities that exist under Energywise Companies, of which Carei is President.
“I have an appointment at five,” he says as he sits down. Finding an hour to squeeze into his day to allow me to interview him is no easy task.
As well as being president of Energywise, a business that focuses on building and equipping environmentally efficient homes throughout the Grand Valley, Carei is also co-founder and Board President of Karis, Inc., the nonprofit organization that brought about The House. His wife and three children also grasp for his time.
“You hopefully find some semblance of balance in all this,” said Carei, who has been the Energywise president since 2008.
“I’m still searching for that balance,” he says with a grin.
Carei settles into his chair, bracing himself for a barrage of questions he’s probably already heard, having to clear his mind of everything else he needs to do that day just to give honest answers. Maybe, if anything, this is a break for him.
Businessman. President. Co-founder. Family man. Yet without his efforts, odds are good we wouldn’t be talking about any “safe place for western-slope teens.” Carei and John Mok-Lamme, the Executive Director of Karis, Inc., were first exposed to the teen homeless situation in the Grand Valley while at a community meeting for homelessness.
“We both realized that one of the identified gaps to be filled was the homeless teen population that had nowhere to go,” said Carei. “And we were small enough and cocky enough to think that we could take it on.”
There were only two men that, from the very beginning, were the catalysts for the place we now call The House, and one was sitting across the table from me, wearing his Synergy Builders apparel and a 26 year-old wedding ring. Not really so different from any other businessman you’d see walking down the street.
“We pulled the slingshot back, and others grabbed on,” he said. No big deal.
“I don’t know,” he continued, “if we are all prompted to do things by influences, spoken or unspoken, but I think those who helped bring The House to where it is today, many were moved, I think, by a greater purpose than our own. I think it was only by virtue of that purpose that we were able to do what we did with what little we had to do it with.”
Carei pauses, taking another glance at his watch. Appointments were waiting.
“Because most everybody involved got nothing from a personal gain.”
And it is because of that, according to Carei, that change is going to occur in the lives of these teens.
“If our teens can get to the point,” he said, “that they realize that this is a giving of ourselves and our resources because we care about them on a higher level, then maybe they’ll care about themselves and The House on a higher level.”
Carei is adamant that without the selfless commitments of those involved, whatever gifts or talents that may have been brought to the table would have been irrelevant.
“This was a coordinated effort of like-minded individuals with different gifts and talents,” he said, “but if the volunteers and the staff and the board and the people involved had thought, ‘What’s the minimum I can do?’ then The House wouldn’t be there. If we can instill in these teens that they can approach The House, and life, in the same way, it would be awesome.”
No easy thing to do, to be sure.
“So the way you create that in these teens,” said Carei, “is by placing it before them that we bring this to the table because we want to. Not because we have to.”
Someone like Darin Carei, who continues to strive for the balance of everything vying for his attention in his life, perhaps is only the first in a long line of people that, far more than gifts or talents or resources, offered to The House in amazing simplicity the gift of themselves. Their time. Their lives.
“If anyone bears the brunt of all the activities that I do, it’d be her,” said Carei, referring to his wife, Tamara. “But she understands. She understands who I am from an entrepreneurial standpoint; the good, the bad, and the indifferent. We knew when we met, and it’s worked ever since. We’ve been together a long time, and she’ll continue to be there.”
Carei emphasized that the vast majority of the people that have poured themselves into The House in some way have done so on a volunteer basis.
“I think we have the infrastructure,” he said. “We’ve got people that have offered themselves to this, and we’ve accomplished our short-term goals of making it a place to call home, a place to regroup and move forward. We would love to see that sense of ownership and responsibility that has teens doing things around The House with an attitude of, ‘What can I do for The House?’ instead of, ‘What do I have to do for The House?’ And the way they get to that point where they’re doing things in that way is by seeing that that’s how we have poured ourselves into them.”
Freedom isn’t free, as the saying goes. For every teen that finds some kind of deliverance through The House, there is perhaps at least one regular businessman, like Carei, who gave some part of himself toward the cause. Because he wanted to.
“To do that, I think you just build an environment that brings out the best in people,” said Carei. “A place that’s comfortable, secure, welcoming, loving, understanding. And I think that we’ve done the best we can do to do that.”
To learn more about The House and what you can do to help, please visit www.thehousegj.org.