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! “

Spring Impact Blog

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.”

 

Thanksgiving for Homeless

The Blessings of Human Connection

Thanksgiving for Homeless

During our Thanksgiving Outreach meal, one of our long-time volunteers shared the blessing of human connection with one of our guests in need.

As we prepare for another holiday season and the busyness that comes with it, I’d like you to take a moment and think about the importance of human connection or in some cases re-connection.

As humans, our need for social connection is as strong as the need for food, water and warmth. And when we experience social pain, like feeling degraded, undeserving or unloved, the feeling is as real as physical pain.

In fact, this is one of the first things God said, “It’s not good for man to be alone.”  We were created for connection. We were created in the image of God and The Bible says God is love. And to love, you have to have somebody to love.

I come from a broken home. My parents divorced when I was in 8th grade. However, even divorced, we still got together and celebrated as family – with grandparents. I was fortunate that my family valued connection and an ability to look past differences and come together to celebrate the holidays.

This is why I’m so grateful for San Diego Rescue Mission. Our holiday meals provide an opportunity for those experiencing homelessness to feel taken care of. To feel loved. It’s a place where the lost and lonely can find connection and feel part of a family.

I saw this need for connection in the eyes of a women who joined us during this year’s Thanksgiving Outreach Meal. As she headed out the door after she’d finished eating, I saw her crying so I leaned down and asked what’s wrong? “I’m just so happy”, she said.

This feeling of human connection can extend far beyond a holiday meal. It is often the first step needed to begin the healing process.

In fact, one of our recent graduates, Nathaniel, first came to us during last year’s holiday meal. He was struggling with health issues and under great financial stress, which lead him to homelessness. When he showed up at our holiday meal, he explained:

“I’m crutching around the dining room tables, looking for a place to sit and I can’t fit down the aisles because there’s so many people. So, I find a seat at the end of the table and a man named Phil comes over to me – he was very kind – he takes my crutches and moves them for me, and then serves me like I’m at a restaurant. And when he brings my food, he asks how I’m recovering and what my story is. He was genuinely concerned so I told him my whole story.”

Christmas Dinner for Homeless

James Pope, Vice President of Evangelism & Discipleship at San Diego Rescue Mission takes time to connect + listen to a guest’s story during last year’s Christmas meal.

The connection they made that day inspired Nathaniel to join Phil’s church. Phil and other members of his church began to mentor Nathaniel and have continued to walk with him as he’s worked on his program.

Nathaniel has not only had an amazing recovery and is walking again, but this October, he graduated from our year long recovery program. Thanks to the encounter he had at our Thanksgiving Meal he’s developed an incredible support network of friends and mentors at his local church that will continue to walk with him in life.

We were created for connection. A loving, supportive relationship can literally be a matter of life and death.

By the time San Diego’s homeless men and women walk through our doors, they have exhausted all relationships and resources. They need to regain a sense of connection as much as they need a meal and safe shelter. And that sense of connection starts with Jesus.

So this holiday, and into the new year, I invite you to focus on connection. Strengthening connections to those around you, those who need you, and to Jesus.

Thank you for your continued support in helping us lovingly address the needs of those experiencing homelessness in San Diego. We wish you a grateful and joyful Holiday Season!

God Bless,

 

Donnie Dee

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.”

 

Sleepless San Diego

Let’s Work Together to Teach the Next Generation about Community Issues

Sleepless San DiegoAlthough San Diego Rescue Mission has been hosting Sleepless San Diego for years, this will be my first experience. I am excited to see this year’s turn-out, as the concept of an event like this really resonates with me. It’s a reminder to teach our youth about community issues and show how they can make an impact in a cause they care about.

During this year’s Sleepless, we’re not only teaching about our cause, but encouraging action through service. In fact, in addition to setting up personal fundraising pages,  hundreds of kids have already signed up for one of our nine service sites around San Diego to clean, paint and fix up our community.

At the end of the service day, participants are invited to sleep out at Liberty Station for an evening of inspirational performances including our headlining speaker Tonier “Neen” Cain. Tonier spent 20 years living on the streets, homeless. Her life was filled with brutality, incarceration, hunger and substance abuse until she learned how to turn her life around. I first met Tonier at our national AGRM conference and I look forward to seeing her again as she shares her inspiring journey of hope with everyone attending this year’s Sleepless San Diego.

Sleepless San DiegoMany of our current clients will also be attending this year’s Sleepless serving as volunteers and helping to set up and break down the event. This is a great opportunity for our clients to see first-hand that there is a community who truly cares about them and is willing to help those who are ready to make positive life changes.

Our staff, volunteers, clients, performers and participants are all working hard to make sure this year’s Sleepless is a huge success. And I am equally grateful for our generous corporate sponsors for helping cover all of our operational costs associated with throwing an event of this size.

If you can’t attend this year’s Sleepless San Diego, I encourage you to support one of the individuals or youth groups who have created fundraising pages for the event at https://www.classy.org/event/sleepless-san-diego-2018/e181526

Together, we can encourage our community’s youth to have a passion, find a cause, take action and to make the world a better place.

 

God Bless,

Donnie Dee

Donnie Dee

 

Donnie Dee

One Year Later… 3 Things I Know for Sure

Donnie DeeSince I took on the role of President and CEO of the San Diego Rescue Mission there have been a lot of changes, including my own perception of what homelessness looks like.  I used to think a homeless person was defined as someone walking the streets alone, looking a little crazy with one shoe on and one shoe off…  I know now that they’re just like you and me, but a series of events happened in their lives that caused them to be without a place to live.  And a series of unfortunate events can happen to anyone.  It could happen to you.  It could happen to me.  The more I’ve gotten to know our clients in this first year, the more I know for sure that no one chooses this path.  It’s no one’s choice to become homeless.

Here are 3 more things I know for sure after my first year with San Diego Rescue Mission.

 1. The greatest obstacle to overcoming homelessness is not addiction, job loss or housing. It’s shame.

Every Thursday afternoon I meet with the men and women who came to us off the streets in hope of finding help here at the San Diego Rescue Mission.   At this stage of their journey they can’t even look me in the eye.  They show up crying, heads down, broken…  A few weeks ago, one of the men asked me, “Do you know what my first thought is every single morning when I wake up?”  I asked him to tell me.  He said, “Look at what you have done with your life!”

There’s a tremendous amount of guilt and shame among our population experiencing homelessness.   The shame feeds on loneliness.  When you feel ashamed and lonely, you think everyone’s judging you and you don’t want to ask for help.  I’ve discovered that helping our clients overcome the shame of bad decisions, and negative thoughts over what happened in the past, is the biggest obstacle we face when helping to put a life back together again.

2. People want to help those who help themselves.

Volunteers and donors are the primary drivers of San Diego Rescue Mission.  And I’ve learned over this past year that our community really does want to help the lost, homeless and hungry—as long as they’re willing to help themselves, too.

We’re reminded of this powerful principle with the crippled man and the Pool of Bethesda (John 5:5).  In the story, there’s a man who was sick for thirty-eight years.  For thirty-eight years he lay next to a pool hoping to be healed.  But before Jesus healed him, he asked the man, “Do you want to get well?”

So, I ask the men and women who first walk through our doors here at the Mission, “Do you really want to be made well?  Are you ready for the responsibility, questions, rules and structure that come with being well?  Because if you truly want to get better, there’s a whole community of people and resources available to help you.”

3. Rescue Missions should lead the way in reducing the number of people living on the streets.

After spending a year as President and CEO of the San Diego Rescue Mission, I know for sure that it’s our job as a rescue mission to lead the way in solving the homeless crisis here in San Diego. Here’s why: We don’t take government funding and we’re faith based.

I know there are a lot of other agencies and nonprofits providing critical services to San Diego’s homeless.  And I’m thankful for all of them.  We need them.  These other entities are doing a great job of helping to clothe, feed and shelter our homeless population.

But because we aren’t government funded, we can do things a bit differently.  We have more freedom to do what needs to be done.  And, most importantly, we can talk about Jesus—the One who can truly change a man’s life.

Because of these factors, we have the opportunity to create a treatment model that gets people off the streets long term.  This is the difference between meeting the symptomatic needs of the homeless and addressing the causes of their homelessness.  We’ll continue to meet the needs by providing clothing, food and shelter.  But we take it a step further by helping those who want to get well, through drug and alcohol recovery, spiritual training, job training and client advocacy.  This combination puts the San Diego Rescue Mission in a unique position to lead the way in the rehabilitation of our homeless population.

We’ve already accomplished so much together in this first year and I look forward to continuing our important work.  Thank you for taking the time to read this blog and for your continued support of the San Diego Rescue Mission and our critical programs helping San Diego’s homeless.  Together, we can help those who want to be made well, rebuild their lives and become contributing members of our great community.

 

God Bless,

Donnie Dee

 

 

Donnie Dee

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.”