ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Jeremy Reynalds, founder of Joy Junction, the state’s largest homeless shelter, was remembered during his memorial service Tuesday as compassionate, determined, a visionary, someone who influenced public opinion and a true believer in his faith.
More than 300 people attended the afternoon memorial at Calvary of Albuquerque, among them family, friends, fellow pastors, former and current residents and employees of Joy Junction, and city and county officials, including Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller.
Reynalds, 60, died late last Tuesday after a long illness. Joy Junction, founded in 1986, today provides meals and shelter for up to 300 people a night.
Skip Heitzig, senior pastor at Calvary, said he regularly met with Reynalds and other pastors to talk about issues affecting the community. “The man who cared so much for the homeless is now finally home,” Heitzig told those gathered. “This man was a visionary, with a big vision and an unrelenting vision, and he’d always play that note over and over again until the people around him got the message. The message was, ‘I care for the poor and the homeless, you should too.'”
Heitzig went on to clarify that Reynalds did not die. “It would be more apt and accurate to say Jeremy moved. In the days ahead people will say so sorry you’ve lost your father, your husband, your friend; but something isn’t lost when you know exactly where it is. Jeremy isn’t lost. We didn’t lose him, he just beat us there.”
Long time friend, Erica Ferraro read from the Maya Angelou poem, “When Great Trees Fall.” She called Reynalds “compassionate, determined and a true reservoir of goodness.” She also read a verse from the Gospel of Matthew that was particularly apropos in honoring someone who devoted his life in service to the less fortunate: “‘For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me.'”
Reynalds wife, Elma Reynalds, read a touching letter from a former Joy Junction resident who wished to pay tribute to the late shelter founder, saying he came to Joy Junction depressed and suicidal, but during his time there, through participation in programs and the influence of Jeremy, his life and his faith were restored.
Elma Reynalds called Joy Junction “Jeremy’s heartbeat,” and said the shelter will continue with his vision. “We need you more than ever,” she told the audience. “Let’s continue to end homelessness one life at a time, and end hunger one meal at a time.”
Ben Knox, one of Reynalds’ children, was mostly around during the formative years of Joy Junction. He told how he and his siblings initially resented that their father spent so much time and resources into building the homeless shelter.
“It was hurtful at first, we felt we were loosing a piece of our dad,” he said. Later, they came to understand the importance of their father’s mission. Even his return to school to acquire master’s and doctoral degrees, was all in the service of that mission, he said.
“To the end of his life, to the very last day, every single piece of his time, every single piece of his money was given to the work that God put him on. He never took his hand off that plow,” Knox said. “And he didn’t just give his time, and he didn’t just give his money. He gave all of himself.”