Staff Spotlight: Priscilla Tapia

Priscilla Tapia, lead teacher at San Diego Rescue Mission’s Children’s Center.

“I realized there were so many ways I could make an impact in my community. Most importantly, I could apply my skills, experience and knowledge to be a light of support and a tool to help families understand, accept and overcome obstacles and hardships.” — Priscilla Tapia, lead teacher at San Diego Rescue Mission’s Children’s Center.

Meet Priscilla Tapia, a lead teacher at San Diego Rescue Mission’s Haven of Hope, a licensed Preschool for 2-5-year-olds experiencing homelessness. Her work here began in March 2016, when a dear friend and former Rescue Mission staff member recommended her for a job opening.

Priscilla discovered her passion for working with children while studying Child and Family Development at San Diego State University. “I had an opportunity to work in different classroom settings and programs with a wide range of ages and populations. I knew I wanted to work with children in some capacity.”

Prior to the Rescue Mission, she held an internship at a Recovery Center that provided resources, support and services to children and families experiencing domestic violence, child abuse, homelessness and drug + alcohol abuse. That was the first time she saw behavioral challenges in a therapeutic setting and realized the effects of environmental stimuli on children’s development. It was an “aha” moment in her career.

“I realized there were so many ways I could make an impact in my community. Most importantly, I could apply my skills, experience and knowledge to be a light of support and a tool to help families understand, accept and overcome obstacles and hardships. This experience led me to apply, and see where God could lead me, here at the Mission.”

Her preschool classroom is a play-based and child-centered environment where the focus is on providing a safe and nurturing space for children to play, explore, learn, and connect with each other and themselves. Their social-emotional development is a top priority because many have experienced trauma. Among the ways that staff support students are mentoring, role playing, mediation, guiding words and behavior, problem solving, as well as encouraging healthy and safe emotional expression. In many cases, the preschool is the first-time children enjoy the space to rest and sleep in a peaceful environment and have the nutrition their bodies require.

“Our entire center and mission is based on our faith, admiration and love for Jesus. Seeing children praise God through songs as they sing how much Jesus loves them gives them empowerment and a sense of belonging, peace and purpose. He is the centerpiece.”

As someone who’s service-oriented and generous of spirit, Priscilla loves much about her work. Among the highlights, she reflects that the most fulfilling experience is when she can see a child smile, how far they’ve come with others and witness their overall growth.

San Diego Rescue Mission Preschool

In many cases, the preschool is the first-time children enjoy the space to rest and sleep in a peaceful environment and have the nutrition their bodies require.

“Just giving the children a safe space, and the notion that they can make decisions and discover the world with what they have to offer during this beautiful stage in their life, is an impact we’re all making every day.”

Priscilla says she is also thankful for the opportunity to grow in her faith and apply it in ways she hadn’t before—or could even imagine. “I work with the most supportive, goal-oriented, intelligent, wise, loving and professional staff and it makes coming here every day even more fun and fulfilling. I feel ready for what the day may bring. I’m being challenged daily but I’m also gaining skills and adapting to situations and responding to them.”

“These children are our future and it’s during this time that we can make the most impact while providing positive experiences, facilitating learning opportunities, forming strong and genuine relationships with them and aiding them in their attainment of significant life skills. We’re constantly posting the children’s artwork in the hallways for staff, parents and the many tours during the week—so please visit and see what the preschool’s been working on! I only hope that I’m giving as much as I’m gaining from working here at the SDRM Children’s Center. I’m proud of where I work and who I work with every day.”

 

Staff Spotlight: Tonya Davis

Tonya Davis

“I’m tough, but with a lot of LOVE. I expect more from our clients than they do of themselves. Day-by-day, with God’s help and guidance, they begin to transform from being hopeless, in tears full of fear and anger, to becoming hopeful with smiles of joy and able to trust again.” – Tonya Davis, Associate Director of the Men’s Center

Meet Tonya Davis, Associate Director of the Men’s Center. Tonya recently advanced to this position after serving as Admin. Assistant the Men’s Center and previously Residential Advisor of the Rescue Mission’s Transitional Housing Program.

Tonya’s commitment to the Rescue Mission’s goals, and contributions to its clients’ lives, are no surprise. “When able to, I have always given back my time and money to the domestic violence prevention community after my own personal experience with my children while living in Chicago.”

Tonya joined the Rescue Mission team 6 years ago. During 3 of those years, she worked as an On-Call Residential Advisor for the Women & Children Center (WCC) and Recuperative Care Unit (RCU) programs. “I was then offered a full-time position with the new transitional housing program that opened in spring of 2014, and I welcomed the opportunity and change,” she recalls.

At the Transitional Housing Program, she helped single adults and families work toward self-sufficiency—from finding employment to finding opportunities for clients with disabilities to engage with the community. Her role as Residential Advisor gave her the opportunity to provide direction, assistance, and support of day-to-day activities to both men and women at the Mission. Reflecting on the role, Tonya says, “I’m tough, but with a lot of LOVE. I expect more from them than they do of themselves. They have no idea that they are actually helping me more than I am helping them.”

That tough love led to a lot of changed lives in the Transitional Housing Program. “Day-by-day, with God’s work, they begin to transform from being hopeless, in tears full of fear and anger, to becoming hopeful with smiles of joy and trust again,” she says. While there, she also helped start a cooking class that introduced participating clients to healthier lifestyle choices, most of whom had not cooked a meal in a very long time due to homelessness.

Tonya’s journey to Associate Director of the Men’s Center expanded her interaction with Rescue Mission staff, clients, and external advocates. First, as Administrative Assistant, she supported work with Homeless Court, Badges, Lion’s Vision Eyewear, supplies, and outside government agencies to help clients. As Associate Director, she still interacts with clients but will search, obtain and implement resources for them that support their long-term goals of education, careers, and housing. “My responsibilities impact each man so I am accountable to God and our clients to ensure that I stay the course to a fruitful and productive end.”

While she loves a lot about her new role, she’s especially excited to have the opportunity to serve. “Nothing is too big or small,” she says. “It’s all about the clients and their needs. It doesn’t matter what your role. It’s the willingness to let the Lord use you for His glory, for the population we serve.”

Tonya’s been able to help and inspire many clients in her new role but one stands out in her memory. “I’ve been hosting Basketball Tournaments for a little over a year between our clients and outside organizations and churches with the help of our Volunteer Coordinator, Debbie Krakauer. We have a tournament for all major holidays. It is so wonderful to see guys who, upon coming into our program, were down and out, without any hope for a future, transform before your eyes and are laughing and smiling, and there’s camaraderie, even the guys that are sitting on the sidelines are enjoying the games and not complaining or worried about anything just for this moment. It’s rewarding to see them be normal and enjoy life as men should.”

From Residential Advisor to Associate Director, Tonya is committed to serving others and serving the Lord. “I love my work because I don’t work for the Mission. I work for the Lord at the Mission. So I am always striving to be better and lead by the example that Christ gave.”

Staff Spotlight: Ashley Frez

Ashley Frez

“Having concern for the well-being of others was not enough. I am consistently seeking ways to alleviate suffering by actively being part of the solution.” – Ashley Frez, Director of Transitional Housing

Meet Ashley Frez, Director of Transitional Housing at San Diego Rescue Mission (SDRM).  Ashley began working at SDRM three years ago in the Women and Children’s Center (WCC) as On-Call Residential Advisor (RA) and shortly thereafter as Interim Case Manager.

Ashley, a native of Michigan, identifies as a humanitarian. A pivotal moment in setting her life course was during a medical mission to a remote village of Nicaragua. It was there, where she witnessed the desperation of the people for basic needs to sustain themselves and their families. The impact of the scarcity of resources, limited access to health, and systemic challenges only motivated her. “Having concern for the well-being of others was not enough. I am consistently seeking ways to alleviate suffering by actively being part of the solution.” she says.

For over 15 years, Ashley has immersed herself in diverse populations to include those living with HIV/AIDS, underserved children in grades K-12, refugees, service members/their families, and natural disaster survivors. She consistently pursues every chance to engage and embrace the opportunity to learn and grow. It is through these experiences, that Ashley has grown into her calling of servant leadership.  Ashley has been influential in organizational transformations, team development, and strategic planning locally and nationally with non-profit and governmental agencies. She was instrumental in leading teams to serve others impacted by disasters while serving as the Director of Emergency Services with the American Red Cross (7 years). She continued her dedication to helping others as the Emergency Preparedness Coordinator for County Public Health (2 years).

Ashley earned her degrees in Cultural Anthropology, Psychology, Latin American & Caribbean Studies from Michigan State University. Her post graduate degree focus is Public Health and Emergency Management. Ashley prides herself in her hunger to learn and encourages everyone around her to continuously pursue education. She utilizes a combination of her education, experience, compassion, and God’s guidance, to lead the 2nd Avenue Transitional Housing program.

2nd Avenue Transitional Housing is an intermediate, long-term step between an emergency shelter and permanent housing. “Leading a program guided by trauma informed approaches, allowing for opportunity to encourage and motivate clients to create positive change within themselves is meaningful and purposeful”, Ashley says. It is a safe, supportive environment where clients can overcome trauma, address the causes of their homelessness, and rebuild their support network. Ashley is passionate about being able to lead and mentor a diverse staffing group, develop community partnerships, and being strategic in translating high-level objectives into intentional steps to accomplish goals.

Ashley is quick to acknowledge that “we work together as a team to meet clients where they are at while being equipped to encourage, guide, and support while respecting the process.” There are differing barriers each client is working to overcome.  When clients achieve successes throughout the program, they typically reach a level of vulnerability that takes incredible strength and trust. It is this transformative process that is awe inspiring.

Ashley stays grounded by reflection and practice of the principles of faith, hope, and love; and is inspired by the quote, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” Mahatma Gandhi

Staff Spotlight: James Pope

James Pope

“I witness the light bulb go off and people understand their need for the Lord and they yield to Him and then their life takes off in an awesome way! Just knowing I’m one player in the midst of a team that God uses to bring about transformation is very humbling.” – James Pope, Vice President of Evangelism & Discipleship

Meet James Pope, Vice President of Evangelism & Discipleship at San Diego Rescue Mission.

Originally hired as a part-time residential manager over a decade ago, he then rose to director of the Men’s Center. Doing God’s work of helping homeless and addicted men complete the 12-Month Residential Recovery Program was one of his driving passions while in that position.

James has worked in and around drug and alcohol rehabs for twenty years. “I know family members, friends, people in church and at various job assignments who’ve been affected negatively by various addictions to substances, and mental illness because of substance abuse,” he explains. James experienced the negative effects of drugs first-hand in 7th grade when a friend asked him to smoke a joint. James refused because he was on his way to his favorite class (Television Production).

“If it weren’t for the grace of God in my life, I would have died in my classroom. I chose not to smoke a joint this one day with my friend. He chose to smoke. His brain was erased that day because whomever he purchased his marijuana from had laced it with powerful PCP (it almost took his life). I never saw my old Pop-Warner football buddy and classmate again.”

This story has become one of many in James’s life in which he felt the interventions of God. Interventions like those, and later spiritual and physical transformations he witnessed, have become among his favorite aspects of working for San Diego Rescue Mission.

After his time at the Men’s Center, he moved into his current position as VP of Evangelism & Discipleship. CEO Donnie Dee created the position to help ensure the Spiritual Training of clients and staff at the Rescue Mission. “If we’re a Christian Ministry, then our culture should reflect that,” James says. Central to his role is helping clients reach several life-affirming goals. For example, to “Encounter God”—whether through discipleship, classes, visiting Churches or any number of multiple intentional paths at the Mission. “Everyone has an opportunity to encounter God at some point in his or her time here,” he says. Another goal is to Experience Recovery. “God is in the restoration, rehabilitation and recovery business,” James adds. “God can use many tools to achieve those goals, whether Church Partnerships, Volunteers, Job Training, Christian Therapy or many others,” to heal challenges ranging from addictions to mental illness to trauma and psychological abuse.

While much is new in his job as VP of Evangelism & Discipleship, like focusing more on people than processes, much has stayed the same. “For some reason, I’ve always had residents and staff at my door asking for assistance on some level,” he says. “I’ve tried my best to take the time to love and minister to whatever the need or opportunity that comes.”

James’s especially loves two aspects of his job. The first is that, every day, he gets to see God transform the lives of those experiencing homelessness. “I witness the light bulb go off and people understand their need for the Lord and they yield to Him and then their life takes off in an awesome way.” The second is that, “just knowing I’m one player in the midst of a team that God uses to bring about transformation is very humbling.” As a result, he gets to see “the invisible hand of God moving in all of these areas and through people.”

Asked to reflect on how his new position has helped Rescue Mission clients, he shared two areas that stand out: Client and Staff Devotions, and Discipleship. He recalls one gentleman who became free because a staff member shared their struggle with childhood trauma and how they had worked it out with God. “This gentleman was then able to share and receive counsel and left the past behind to move and walk forward in Christ.” Clients realize the staff members are real people who come from experience, care and empathy and who have issues (and who work them out with God). This gives them a tangible goal toward which they can work. “Some think it’s not wise for us to be transparent and vulnerable but given the right context, it’s liberating for all involved.”

Discipleship has also played a major role in helping Rescue Mission clients. With over 60 residents in the Discipleship program, the retention rate is a high 85%. “As a result of Discipleship, they’re willingly and lovingly participating and serving in Church activities and opportunities.” Many clients have built support groups and joined retreats, which offer new relationships where they can experience healthy interactions instead of being treated as a label (like addict or homeless person). Those relationships help them stay out of the destructive behaviors that brought them to SDRM, “because bad company corrupts good morals.”

James adds that the Churches helping with Discipleship are doing a marvelous job; however, “we need more Churches because more people are signing up to be disciples! My prayer is that if you’ve taken the time to read to this point, you’ll join us by working as a mentor or prayer partner. See for yourself how God transforms the lives of those experiencing homelessness, impacting San Diego one life at a time. I promise you’ll never be the same as a result!”

In reflection, James says, “My life and career is testimony of God’s greatness—not my own. I would like to think that Spiritual Training has had a huge impact in all of this—but again, it’s the combined holistic efforts of the entire San Diego Rescue Mission team under the guidance and leadership of Almighty God. That, in my humble opinion, makes it all work!”

Staff Spotlight: Alan Kennedy

Alan Kennedy

“In hindsight, I feel God was strategically placing me here; all I did was answer the call.” – Alan Kennedy, Director of Food Services at San Diego Rescue Mission

Meet Alan Kennedy, Director of Food Services at San Diego Rescue Mission for the past three years. “I’m the poster child for this job,” Alan says. “I love people. I love food.”

Alan was born in Glasgow, Scotland and raised in Baltimore, Maryland. A chef from the start, he attended the American Culinary Institute, where he studied Hotel and Restaurant Management and Culinary Arts. Upon graduation, he began his career “cheffing” with illustrious clients such as the San Diego Symphony, Solar Turbines Corporate Yacht, Intuit Corporation, and exclusive country clubs. In 2010, he launched Alan Kennedy Catering, and then in 2015 he started a part-time business called Alpine Coffee Roasters where he continues to work as Head Roaster. Other culinary adventures have included starting a culinary program and cooking camp for kids at a private Christian school as well as opening the Fir Coat Coffee House, an outreach to “the homeless, confused, and ‘throw-away’ kids in downtown San Diego.”

Alan joined the Rescue Mission, as many have, through his friendships. Chaplain James Pope and Intake Manager Mike Castaneda asked Alan to come on board (he had helped Mike go through the Mission as a client 15 years ago, and was his chef at a Christian school). “In hindsight, I feel God was strategically placing me here; all I did was answer the call,” he says.

Alan Kennedy, Director of Food Services

“I’m the poster child for this job,” Alan says. “I love people. I love food.”

Alan maintains a full plate in his culinary career. As Director of Food Services, his responsibilities are extensive, including multiple programs such as Mission Food Service, Partners for Hunger Relief, Catering for a Cause, and food donation programs with companies like Starbucks, Amazon, the Padres, Pepsi, and Sam’s Club. “What a privilege to partner and help this industry. We’re the largest food recovery program that I know of nationwide.” As you might expect, his daily tasks range from overseeing food distribution to 20 agencies (from orphanages and community groups to community diners and soup kitchens) and managing hundreds of volunteers to supplying the Rescue Mission with 60% of goods, supervising full-time drivers, receiving over 2 million pounds of food per year, generating reports for Feeding San Diego and the Rescue Mission, and catering for multiple churches and other organizations every month. “Being in the nonprofit industry, I get to work with large corporations and repurpose and redistribute food waste. We were the first pilot program to work with Starbucks to pick up all the leftover grab’n’go meals and now it’s a nationwide program that we started.”

While he loves his work at the Mission, a few aspects in particular stand out. “I love the fact I get to help people. When I leave to go home every night and see the women and children lining up to stay at our shelter I know they’ll get a nutritious meal and all their needs will be met!”

Alan KennedyAlan’s extensive background and dedication to service mean he’s a go-to person for inspiring opportunities that help people in need. “I started a Culinary Program at the Mission, where we train clients in culinary arts, food prep, safety and sanitation, and catering. After the clients finish their program, they’re fully trained in a culinary kitchen and we’ll help them find employment and pay for their Food Handler’s card,” he explains. “I also run a warehouse where we certify clients on forklifts and train them in warehouse and logistical management for our Partners in Hunger Relief program—so when they leave they’re certified to work in the warehousing industry.”

Alan’s favorite saying in life, and personal motto, is, “You have achieved success when you have lived well, laughed often, and LOVED much.”

 

Staff Spotlight: Ashley Brown

Ashley Brown

“We are able to work through barriers by being consistent in our interactions, humble, patient, and mindful of each individual’s journey.” – Ashley Brown, Director of Nueva Vida Haven Emergency Shelter at San Diego Rescue Mission.

Meet Ashley Brown, Director of Nueva Vida Haven Emergency Shelter for Women and Children (NVH).

Ashley joined San Diego Rescue Mission’s team in Transitional Housing as an On-Call RA in 2014. While obtaining her Masters in Social Work with a Certificate in Human Service Management, she was promoted from RA to Program Manager and then to Associate Director before being named NVH Director in 2017. Spanning almost a decade in the nonprofit/social service sector, she has had the opportunity to work with a broad array of culturally diverse populations. They’ve included those incarcerated, experiencing homelessness, women in recovery and their children, low-income families, delinquent youth, and those with severe mental illness.

“In working with these populations, I quickly became equally passionate about advocating for, and assisting with, organizational development,” she says. “Being able to be part of improving, and expanding services delivery means that, ultimately, I contribute to increasing the amount of individuals and families who are served, while also improving the quality of services. To me that is everything!”

As the NVH Director, Ashley’s driven by the challenges of her position and the opportunity to sustain and improve community relationships. For example, in addition to the logistical challenges her clients face, including the shelter’s 30-day time limit, financial and health constraints can make assisting people with achieving self-sufficiency particularly difficult. But, as Ashley says, “We are able to work through these barriers by being consistent in our interactions, humble, patient, and mindful of each individual’s journey, as well as their stage of change by taking a trauma-informed approach.” That philosophy, enhanced by experience and education, is a blessed resource to the women and children passing through the doors of NVH.

As with so many devoted people here at San Diego Rescue Mission, Ashley’s an inspiring example of rising, with an open heart and clear mind, to meet the challenge of helping our brothers and sisters in need successfully. The shared values of Rescue Mission staff, and teamwork, create a power for good greater than the sum of its parts. Through their efforts and achievements, they not only help clients but inspire each other as well. “Working at SDRM has been very rewarding. During my time here, I have been able to watch not only clients grow and transition into achieving self-sufficiency, but I have had the opportunity of watching staff grow personally and professionally as well—myself included.”

Ashley points to the shared values of faith, integrity, compassion and excellence as central to the staff’s ability to meet challenges and grow individually and as a group. “These are displayed through our interactions with clients, each other, and through our decision-making processes. At times we all can be stretched thin; however, we support each other and collaborate to navigate various challenges… the ultimate reward being walking alongside our clients as God works through us and them.”

 

 

 

Staff Spotlight: Mary Langford

Mary Langford

“I am blessed to be here and be a part of something bigger than any of us.” — Mary Langford, Vice President of Human Resources

Meet Mary Langford, Vice President of Human Resources with San Diego Rescue Mission.

Mary came to the Rescue Mission 4 years ago when a former boss, who was filling in as the Human Resources Director, said her talent and expertise made her a perfect candidate and encouraged her to apply. She joined the Rescue Mission with more than 30 years experience working in human resources.

As Vice President of Human Resources, and a member of the Executive Team, Mary’s responsibilities are extensive — and she carries them out with grace and humility. “I spend my day collaborating with the management teams on employment issues, training, safety, policies, and providing resources for staff. I also lead the HR department and mentor the HR Staff to excellence, oversee recruiting, and collaborate with vendors to obtain affordable benefits that staff can and will use.” She believes in embracing challenges and finding ways to help Rescue Mission staff carry out their jobs even better. Part of that means navigating the separation of church and state. “I spend time daily with God and government — who said church and state can’t get along? I make sure we stay current with the federal and state laws to help keep staff compliant while representing our Mission, Vision and Values.”

Mary is a tireless supporter of Rescue Mission staff and clients.  “My heart goes out to those who are here.” She takes time to truly listen to challenges, and help find the ideas, resources — and prayers – to help solve them. Every story of helping is close to her heart. “Just caring is huge, I don’t keep a scorecard, I don’t have a portfolio of success stories, everyone I come in contact with is a success in some way. I’m just glad and humbled to be a part.”

Central to Mary’s sense of purpose at the Rescue Mission is the belief that we’re here to do more than make money. Rather, we’re here to be “God’s servant leaders,” and always to help those in need. As we do that, we can also make the greater community aware of all the good work the Rescue Mission does.

“I am blessed to be here and be a part of something bigger than any of us,” Mary added. “As said in 1 Peter 4:8-10, And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins. Use hospitality one to another without grudging. As every man hath received the gift even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.

 

Staff Spotlight: Jeremy Dawsey-Richardson

Jeremy Dawsey-Richardson

“San Diego Rescue Mission exists because of the people in the community who need our help. We want to improve our ability to serve them — with excellence, compassion, creativity, and love.” – Jeremy Dawsey-Richardson, Vice President of Programs for San Diego Rescue Mission

Meet Jeremy Dawsey-Richardson, Vice President of Programs for San Diego Rescue Mission.

Jeremy was looking for a new challenge when he joined our team in December 2016 with high hopes for the organization and our clients. ”I am passionate about developing healthy organizational cultures, and working with teams to grow toward increasing health, capacity, and efficiency,” he said. As the Vice President of Programs, Jeremy loves knowing that the work his team does has meaningful impact on the lives of Rescue Mission clients, “We get to operate in a sacred space where we get to humanize people who are often overlooked and discarded by our society at-large and help them, reminding them that we love them and God loves them.”

Jeremy draws on his years of experience helping to cultivate successful non-profit teams, and a master’s degree in Transformational Leadership, in his new role overseeing the Rescue Mission Programs. “This job gives me the opportunity to support and empower our Directors, and make sure that our Programs are offering clinically sound, evidence-based practices, that are infused with the love of God in Christ.”

“The verse that I’m using as foundational to our Programs’ motivation (and that will soon be painted on our 6th-floor conference room wall) is, “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.'” (Matthew 25:40).”

Jeremy shared an inspiring story from his time with the Rescue Mission’s Recuperative Care Unit (RCU), of collaborating with another service agency, the Alpha Project, to help place a male client who had custody of his teenage daughter. Since housing is notoriously difficult to find for men with children, teamwork was essential to work through the challenge. Thanks to hard work by the client, and partnership between the organizations’ teams, the father was able to move into rapid re-housing within two months. “We have great hope that this will give the client the stability he needs to continue to recover and care for his child,” said Jeremy. “In every story, there is a team of people who have helped clients get to a point of recovery — establishing income, getting into stable housing, etc. This was truly a team effort.”

Another client story close to his heart involved securing housing for a veteran. “Though this client had physically recovered, we were coming up against a lot of obstacles in moving the client into stable housing.” After 6 months in the RCU, and thanks to a stellar social work team, they succeeded. “For the previous 6 months, this client had displayed a very flat affect and was disengaged and downtrodden. The day this client moved into their housing, they were alive and energetic, almost exuberant.” He admitted, “My wife will confirm that I am not a crier … but in my office that day I shed happy tears for our client because I knew that the change we were seeing was what someone who was experiencing hope for the first time in many years looked like.”

“San Diego Rescue Mission exists because of the people in the community who need our help. We want to improve our ability to serve them — with excellence, compassion, creativity, and love.”

Staff Spotlight: Oscar Torres

Oscar Torres

“I want to thank San Diego Rescue Mission for saving my life”- Oscar Torres, Men’s Center Program Director.

Meet Oscar Torres, Men’s Center Program Director here at San Diego Rescue Mission.

Oscar first walked through our doors 13 years ago, not looking for employment, but rather as a homeless man with a 10 year drug addiction in need of desperate help.

Committed to rebuilding his life, Oscar successfully completed the 12-month residential rehabilitation program. But after graduation, his work didn’t stop there.

“As an Alumni, I would stop by the Rescue Mission every morning and pray with the guys in intake before heading out to start my day, “ he explained. “After about nine months, I was approached by the Associate Director who asked if I was interested in working as a First Step Residential Advisor.”

As the new First Step Residential Advisor in the Men Center, Oscar’s duties  included making sure clients followed guidelines, getting them to chapel and meal times, and being available to bring anyone into the program who showed up for help. There was always more work to be done at San Diego Rescue Mission, and Oscar continued to make himself available for the task. He quickly moved from First Step Manager to Transition Manger to Lead Residential Manager to Program Coordinator. (Just to name a few of the positions he took on!) He even went on to become certified as an Addictions Treatment Counselor.

Today, Oscar proudly oversees the entire Men’s Center Program. This critical program incorporates a holistic approach to recovery, addressing the needs of the mind, body, and soul which help clients confront and overcome the problems that led to homelessness in the first place. His job includes ensuring our staff and clients continue to uphold our statement of faith, standard operating procedures, state licensing requirements and most of all, ensure our clients receive the proper treatment they need.

“I stand alongside these men and walk them through the process of becoming a productive citizen in our community and become free from any alcohol and drug addiction,” says Oscar.

“What I like best about working at San Diego Rescue Mission is being able to be front and center when these men come in from the streets with no hope, no self-esteem, and watch the Holy Spirit work through them. We have many talented men who come through this program and to see them walk across the stage on graduation day and move on to becoming all they can be is an incredible feeling. To know that I had a part in that… WOW who wouldn’t want to work here!,” he says.

Recently, Oscar had a client come back to see him 2 years after graduating. He explained that because of the help he received, he was able to re-connect with his family. His mother got her son back.  His siblings got their brother back. And his wife, who filed for divorce, took him back. They are now remarried and he is a father to his kids again. “He is back to where is supposed to be. And it was all because we kept planting God’s word in him, and never gave up on him.”

“San Diego Rescue Mission feels like a family to me. I want to thank the Mission for saving my life.”

 

Staff Spotlight: Larry Perry

Larry Perry, Lead Janitor at San Diego Rescue Mission

“There are so many miracles that come through the Mission, and I am one of them. I’m a living miracle, all thanks to God and the San Diego Rescue Mission,” says Larry.

Meet Larry Perry, Lead Janitor at San Diego Rescue Mission, and a very special member of our team. His story is an inspiration and his positivity and joy for life is infectious!

Larry first came to the Mission in September of 2009 after living on the streets where he faced a number of life changing struggles, including, sadly, his wife being murdered. He was at a point in life where his family wanted nothing to do with him because of the poor choices he had made, and he decided he couldn’t continue down that path any longer. He was determined to make a change. That’s when he joined San Diego Rescue Mission’s 12 Month Residential Recovery Program, where he received the tools and support needed to strengthen his relationship with God and transform his life. After a year of hard work and determination, he graduated and was offered an internship here at San Diego Rescue Mission. In 2011 he completed the internship, and his journey with the Mission continued as he was hired on as staff. Larry has been here ever since.

As the Lead Janitor, Larry supervises house keeping and is responsible for overseeing nine clients. He works hard each day training his team of clients with cleaning techniques so they’ll have skills necessary to contribute to the community on their own after they leave the Mission. “I’ve come a long way,” Larry says, “I was just a lonely housekeeper before, and God decided he wanted me to do more!” One of Larry’s favorite parts about working at the Mission is the opportunity to talk with others and share his story to instill hope. “I can relate to most of these people that come through the Mission from the streets. I know what life is like on the streets; I went through it all. But, I made it and look at me now! I’m clean, living on my own and paying my own bills. I give God all the credit and glory and all I can do is thank him.” Larry enjoys sharing his story with those struggling because its proof to others that they can get through anything, and the Rescue Mission is their opportunity to take the leap of faith and to trust God.

One of Larry’s main janitorial responsibilities has always been the Recuperative Care Unit, which has become a sentimental aspect of his job. There he enjoys playing his morning gospel music for clients while getting to know them and their stories, encourages them to keep fighting, and witnesses them overcome their battles. He’s influenced a handful of residents who have joined the Men’s Center upon their release from the RCU. Recently, Larry was even acknowledged in a graduation speech where the graduate whole-heartedly thanked him and gave him credit to his success.

The piece of advice Larry always carries with himself is to always trust and keep faith in God; He will not let you down. “God is able, no matter what we do in life. If we turn our life over to God, He’s able to change it around. The hope is there, just waiting for someone to grab it,” Larry explains. Utilizing his own inspirational story as proof, he encourages others to trust God and follow Him back on the right path. “I tell them ‘look at me – it’s real.’ There are so many miracles that come through the Mission, and I am one of them. I’m a living miracle, all thanks to God and the San Diego Rescue Mission.”

Larry is now 7 years clean and sober living on his own, making his own decisions, and has completely transformed his life for the better. “My life has turned around and I have my family, kids, and grand-kids back in my life! I’m finally wanted by them and it’s the best feeling in the world!” Larry is truly a success story and an inspiration to anyone out there going through hard times. His story is a reminder that there is always a silver lining through the hardships.