He was born and raised in England. But Jeremy Reynalds adopted Albuquerque as his home 32 years ago, and our city is a better place because of it.
Reynalds, who lost his battle with cancer late Tuesday at the age of 60, was a tireless advocate for the homeless. He dedicated himself to providing food and shelter for them and to nurturing them spiritually.
He founded and ran Joy Junction, the state’s largest homeless shelter, until his death.
It’s difficult to say how many people Reynalds and Joy Junction have helped over the years, but it’s easily in the tens of thousands, if not higher.
The shelter, located in the South Valley, takes in up to 300 people every night, and it provides more than 16,000 meals a month. For the past 15 years, Joy Junction has joined others to put on a citywide Thanksgiving Feast for the homeless and poor. They fed more than 1,200 people at the Albuquerque Convention Center last Thanksgiving alone.
Joy Junction is unique in that it allows families – to include spouses, partners, parents and children – to stay together, and it doesn’t accept government money. Reynalds relied solely on private donations so that he could operate Joy Junction as a Christian ministry, citing his desire to focus on people’s physical, emotional and spiritual needs to help them overcome addictions and other destructive behaviors. Joy Junction has showers, provides clothing, pastoral counseling and uses a Bible-based approach. The shelter’s current budget is about $4 million a year.
Initially, Joy Junction didn’t accept donations from gay or lesbian groups or individuals, and it didn’t allow same-sex couples to stay there. But Reynalds evolved on those issues; Joy Junction now accepts those donations and welcomes same-sex couples in need of shelter.
“I’m much less judgmental than I used to be, and that’s made me a much happier person,” Reynalds said in 2016. “My mantra for the last eight or nine years is ‘Let God do the judging, and I will do the loving.'”
Reynalds was born in Bournemouth, England, and attended a Bible college. In 1978, at age 20, he bought a one-way ticket to the United States and came with $20 in his pocket and a burning desire to preach the Bible.
He ended up in Florida, met his now ex-wife, started a family, volunteered in a Christian prison ministry and experienced homelessness. He moved to New Mexico in 1982, drawn by the prison riot two years earlier. He wanted to get a job as a corrections officer and start a Christian prison ministry but quickly realized he wasn’t “corrections officer material.”
He opened a Christian coffee shop in Santa Fe, offering free coffee and burritos to homeless people. He moved to Albuquerque in 1986 to work on another project to help the homeless, but shortly thereafter a former South Valley Catholic boarding school became available, and Reynalds seized the opportunity. It was the birth of Joy Junction.
Reynalds worked tirelessly to help others. He’s a shining example of the difference one person can make in a community, and the life he lived is a reminder to all to be kind to our fellow man and do what we can to lend a helping hand to those down on their luck. Reynalds leaves an incredible legacy through Joy Junction and through the life he lived.
Now it’s up to each of us to build on that legacy.
This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.