Staff Spotlight: Michelle Smith

“You matter. Your voice matters, your giving matters, your love matters. The need here at the Rescue Mission is great so everything that you do and everything that you give, it’s BIG to us.” – Michelle Smith, Vice President of Development at San Diego Rescue Mission.

Meet Michelle Smith, our Vice President of Development. Native to Southern California, she has called San Diego home for over a decade, serving at the San Diego Mission for three years. Starting as the Community Relations and Event Manager, she was quickly promoted to Director of Marketing, and then again in February to her current VP role. Known for her contagious smile and love for people, Michelle is a popular friend to all around the Mission!

Michelle studied political science at Point Loma Nazarene University and went on to get her master’s degree in Human Services. “It’s been my heart’s desire for many years to serve the poor and vulnerable.” Working with an issue like homelessness was not initially on her radar.  Fueled with a passion to help those in dire circumstances, Michelle devoted her life to reaching those in crisis: at-risk youth, refugees and immigrants, and survivors of sex trafficking. However, when God led her to join the Rescue Mission, Michelle encountered a new depth of His character.  “It wasn’t until coming to the Mission that I truly learned the love of Christ, despite being a follower of Jesus for many years.” The challenges facing the Mission are complex but being a part of radical life change every day keeps her going. “I’ve had clients say to me ‘you’re so passionate about the Rescue Mission’ and I tell them it’s not just because I’ve seen it change their lives, its changed mine too. Whether you’re a client, a staff member or a volunteer, if you come to the Rescue Mission, your life is going to be changed by what you witness here.”

How does Michelle’s role directly serve people experiencing homelessness? “I serve our clients by helping provide the resources they need to heal and restore their lives.” The clients served at the Rescue Mission have a wide variety of needs: physical, emotional, and spiritual. From food to beds, staffing to counseling, clothing to job training, Michelle seeks to bless the clients through connecting donors and supporters to each necessity. “Homelessness is an issue that will take all of us to solve so the role of development is to create space for each of you to make a difference – to use whatever God has gifted you with TODAY to love people in great need.”

Ending homelessness in San Diego is no easy feat. Addressing matters of the heart, physical needs, all while working with limited tools and resources makes for hard, emotional work. “There are months that we’re on our knees praying for the resources to come in. God is always faithful to provide, and I dream of a day when our clients and staff truly have everything they need.” Michelle’s faith in Jesus marks her life and is a consistent source in the times of struggle.

When Michelle is not changing the world, she enjoys cooking, eating great food, and live music. You might run into her at the next local Sofar Sounds show, as she helps to organize these concerts. “It allows me to support great musicians and meet new people who share my love of community!”

Michelle’s message to you: “You matter. Your voice matters, your giving matters, your love matters. The need here at the Rescue Mission is great so everything that you do and everything that you give, it’s BIG to us. I personally invite you to come be a part of what’s happening here! It wouldn’t happen without you and so we want you to come, tour the Mission, meet our team, spend time with our clients. Come witness what’s happening here – I promise you don’t want to miss it! “

Meet our Staff

Staff Spotlight: Kimberly Harris

Kimberly Harris

“Who better to minister to someone who’s homeless than someone who’s been homeless? I’m a living, breathing testimonial to the grace of God.” – Kimberly Harris, Community Life Ambassador of NVH at San Diego Rescue Mission.

Meet Kimberly Harris, Community Life Ambassador at the Nueva Vida Haven Emergency Overnight Shelter for Women and Children (NVH). Kim has been with the Mission for over 15 years and in her current role since 2011.

A native of Texas, she grew up “in a dysfunctional and abusive family.” Her home life became unbearable, she says, “really jacked up,” and convinced her that if she didn’t leave she wouldn’t live. So she boarded a train bound for Cabo San Lucas—or so she thought—to party. “But God had a different plan for me.”

The train stopped in San Diego and she found herself homeless. That was August 2002. Fortunately, she learned about the Mission and the help they provide to people experiencing homelessness in San Diego. “I didn’t know at the time but that’s exactly where God wanted me . . . when I didn’t have anyone or anywhere to turn to. It’s all God.”

Today, Kim supervises clients on the graveyard shift in NVH, where they can stay for up to 30 days. Clients arrive from 5:30pm to 7:30pm, complete the intake process, enjoy a hot dinner and then are brought to the dorm where they shower, get clothes, toiletries and other items they need. Before lights-out at 9:30pm they’ll get ready for bed and attend a devotional to hear the good news of salvation, sometimes joined by a local church group.

Kim’s critical role involves offering practical and emotional support during the night, monitoring the shelter, waking them at 5:00am and making sure they get breakfast, among other responsibilities.

But of all this, she says, “It’s really just a matter of loving them and giving them hope, letting them know we’re there for them, hear them and validate them. The Lord has a plan for them.” Like Kim, many NVH staff have been through the same Mission programs. “Who better to minister to someone who’s homeless than someone who’s been homeless?” she asks. “I’m a living, breathing testimonial to the grace of God.”

Kim and the NVH team take women straight from the streets if they have the beds. “It’s much needed, I’m sorry to say.” Once taken in, they are helped one step at a time. That first step is often the hardest. “It’s hard to put your life back together when you don’t know the resources or where to go or how to proceed,” Kim says. “If we can get them plugged into the Lord Jesus, then it’s ‘on’ from there!”

She’s witnessed a lot in her time with the Mission. Asked what memories stand out of people she’s helped, she recalls a mother with two small children who came to NVH as a client several times, struggling with the daily realities of living on the streets. “It’s hard enough to take care of yourself but my heart goes out to women with kids.” Later, Kim saw her at Rock Church and her life had changed dramatically. “I can’t go anywhere without running into former clients and it’s so rewarding to see those transformations.”

This, as with so much else, brings to mind her faith. “Jesus says He’ll put our feet upon a rock and He did that with her. She was so grateful someone took the time to care and validated her. It’s what God asks us to do—love others with our hearts, minds and bodies and in the process to share the gospel with them. We’re just loving them. They might not receive it the first time they’re here but eventually they will.” Kim observes that many people’s pain and defensiveness are so deep they don’t expect love and grace anymore. Reflecting on her own time as a client, she adds, “It took me a while to understand that God was calling me. It will for them too. But it’s so rewarding to see them receive God and all He has in store for them.”

It takes longer for some than others. Kim recalls seeing women in the shelter in 2002 whom she still sees there today, almost 17 years later. “I ask, ‘Aren’t you tired?’ And they say, ‘Yeah, I am.’ These streets will wear you out and tear you down. We’re just changing them one heart at a time.” Then she reconsiders, “Well, the Lord’s changing them.”

Others move more quickly. Some leave NVH and move into the year-long program, Haven of Hope (HOH) and then into transitional housing and “up and up and up.” Kim adds, “Just seeing them grow in God’s grace is wonderful.”

She loves serving people at the Mission, and especially serving with the team the Lord assembled there. Differences of age, background, testimony and more all contribute to her appreciation of the community. She feels especially grateful to see all the youth coming in, wanting to serve and help people.

Kim’s work background when she joined the Mission didn’t involve all the social and trauma-related aspects she’s so skilled in now. How did she learn? “It’s all been God teaching me, along with training at the Mission.” She thinks about her time here and adds, “It’s a privilege to get paid to live out your faith with people. That’s usually reserved for pastors and people who work in the church. For God to give me a job where I can live out my faith and he can guide me and teach me . . . it’s just phenomenal.”

 

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

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.”

 

James Pope

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!”

Alan Kennedy

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.”

 

Ashley Brown

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.”

 

 

 

Jeremy Dawsey-Richardson

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.”

Larry Perry

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.

Angela Ford, Aftercare Coordinator here at San Diego Rescue Mission

Staff Spotlight: Angela Ford

Angela Ford, Aftercare Coordinator here at San Diego Rescue Mission

“I love working with our clients and instilling hope. Being able to serve God’s people is something that I’ve been destined to do,” says Angela.

Meet Angela Ford, Aftercare Coordinator here at San Diego Rescue Mission.

The Alumni Aftercare program was created for clients who are re-integrating with society after successfully completing and graduating from our 12 month Residential Recovery Program. The purpose and goal of the program is to provide resources, encouragement, and support while promoting self-sufficiency. That’s where Angela comes in!

Angela is our newest Aftercare Coordinator. She was previously employed at Jane Westin Center where she worked closely with the mental health community, and several clients who were formerly and currently clients at San Diego Rescue Mission.

On a daily basis, Angela provides supportive services to graduates of the Residential programs as well as to those who are nearing graduation. Some of these services and tasks include checking in with clients on job readiness and aiding with resumes, applications, job searching, mock interviewing, and providing overall emotional support as clients work to transition back into society. “I always do my best to help our clients with an open heart and integrity,” says Angela.

The hope of the Aftercare program is that through Christ, and the tools each client has been given in our programs, they will have a full understanding of how to maintain sustainability while living independently, and overcoming any of life’s challenges that may arise.

Angela shared a story about a client she met in late January who right off the bat declared he didn’t like people and didn’t trust anyone.  She explained that was an issue he would have to overcome and suggested that he find someone to be accountable to. He continued to insist that he didn’t trust anyone.

“Finally, I got him to commit to having an accountability partner. He called me about three weeks later and asked if I would be that accountability partner,” explained Angela. “He said he felt comfortable around me and thought I would keep him on his toes!”

A few months later, the client received some difficult news concerning his health and went to visit Angela to talk it over.

“I encouraged him and spoke life to him and shared testimonies of what I have seen God do with my own eyes. He then told me that when he received the news, the first thing he thought of was to call me, not even to drink, which is what he would have normally done. This was huge for me. It blessed me tremendously and after he left, I cried. God is good and I just kept thinking about his goodness,” she recalled.

Those enriching experiences with clients are what motivates and inspires Angela to work for San Diego Rescue Mission. “I love working with our clients and instilling hope. Being able to serve God’s people is something that I’ve been destined to do.”