Reverend Leon Kelly – Executive Director
Reverend Kelly serves as the Executive Director of Open Door Youth Gang Alternatives. He is the founder and driving force behind this ministry. Open Door is the oldest anti-gang program still in existence in the Denver Metropolitan Area, a one-of-a-kind agency that was founded in 1986. It is a non-profit and non-law enforcement agency with the sole mission of curbing gang recruitment and reducing street gang violence. His experience, dedication and personal faith have made him an awesome agent of change.
A man of genuine stature, Reverend Leon Kelly was born in Denver into a very religious family. His grandfather and father were both ministers. He was raised in a working class family that taught moral and values. His parents knew how important education was for their children’s success and they encouraged all of their children to attend college. Reverend Kelly attended the University of Colorado and played AAU basketball while there.
Upon graduation, he continued playing semi-professional basketball. But subsequently, chose a path not unlike many of the youth who had experienced the Vietnam Era, one that led to riches and fame–a path coupled with illegal drugs and immediate gratification. Unfortunately, the path ended abruptly.
In 1979, Leon Kelly was convicted of drug-related charges and received a five to eight year prison sentence in the Colorado state penitentiary. While there, Reverend Kelly had a time to reevaluate his life and realized that God had a purpose for him. So, just as the Prodigal Son returned to his father, so did he. He redirected his life and instead of living for the street and the moment, he devoted himself to serving Jesus and those who needed help.
Choosing to follow in his father’s footsteps, he received a doctorate from the Family Bible Institute of Denver, and became an ordained minister with a special focus on helping the youth of Colorado. In 1999, Reverend Kelly received an honorary doctorate degree from Colorado Christian University.
During the mid-1980s Reverend Kelly witnessed first hand the introduction of organized street gangs into Denver. He was first on the scene and acknowledged, long before the City Fathers, that the California gang phenomenon was here to stay and reeking havoc in Northeast Denver.
Reverend Kelly has been a positive force in helping curtail gang violence by being a mediator between rival gangs and also serving as a positive role model for the younger, at-risk youth. He is a leader and a significant role model for the children and young men and women who are susceptible to gang membership and violence. He understands the streets and he loves the young people that many have forgotten. His ministry has changed the course of thousands of young lives. The rough road ridden by Reverend Kelly has produced a man with a unique combination of “street smarts” and knowledge coupled with a deep sense of compassion. Reverend Kelly is almost always the first and foremost name associated with gang activity and intervention in the Denver Metropolitan Area.
From providing gang education to schools, other non¬profit agencies, law enforcement and civic groups, to providing victim and family support during tragic times, Reverend Kelly is there. Reverend Kelly and his staff organize and provide an after-school program in a school in Northeast Denver providing homework assistance, counseling and enrichment activities to approximatley 150-175 students per night. The program also provides personal support in the areas of choices and alternatives to the students and their families. In addition, Reverend Kelly also established a program, Flippin’ the Script, that works with adult ex-gang members who are on parole and are trying to turn their life around.
On any given day, Reverend Kelly’s schedule ranges from presiding at a funeral, visiting a gun shot victim in the hospital, counseling a convicted felon in jail or a parolee, presenting to a community group, and finally, reading a story to a group of seven year-olds. He has been a member of the California Gang Investigators Association for over 17 years and maintains an open line of communication with many law enforcement officers throughout the country in an effort to stay current and share information relative to gangs and drug trafficking.
Reverend Kelly’s call to action has led him to be widely recognized throughout the region and honored by many who work in the field of non-profits, law enforcement, sports, media, education and governmental agencies. He continues to learn and share his knowledge with others.
In December of 2010, Reverend Leon Kelly received a pardon from then Governor Bill Ritter.
Reverend Kelly and his program have been recognized by government officials such as:
Former governors Roy Romer, Bill Owens, and Bill Ritter
Governor John Hickenlooper
Former mayors Frederico Pena, Wellington Webb, and John Hickenlooper (current Colorado Governor)
Mayor Michael Hancock
Former Senators Ben Nighthorse Campbell and Tim Wirth
Former Denver District Attorney, Norm Early
Denver District Attorney, Mitch Morrissey
Denver City Council members, past and present
Aurora Mayor Ed Tauer
Denver and Aurora School Superintendents -Denver Manager of Safety -Local Chiefs of Police
Board of Directors
Please contact us directly for a list of the current members on our board.