Pre-PRESS RELEASE – For Immediate Release
Kitty Davis-Walker or Alexandra Monsibaez
(213) 673-4585 or (213) 507-5562 (213)673-4882 or (213)200-1758
VP of Public Relations PR Coordinator
13th ANNUAL CHRISTMAS IN JULY
JULY 13th 2016
LOS ANGELES CALIFORNIA (July 2016) On Wednesday July 13th 2016, Union Rescue Mission (URM) will host their 13th Annual Christmas in July thanks to their longtime partner SUBWAY® Restaurants! Christmas in July will feature fun games, prizes, and face painting! Over 200 kids of all ages from URM and Hope Gardens Family Center will be treated to 20 TONS OF SNOW!
“Christmas in July” is sponsored by SUBWAY® Restaurants who will cater lunch for all of the families, along with cotton candy, snow cones, popcorn, and special guest appearance from Santa Claus in Bermuda shorts because it is July after all! The fun begins at 10:00am so watch out for flying snow balls and lots of fun for hundreds of deserving children experiencing homelessness on Skidrow.
“I am not sure who has the most fun, our precious kids, their moms who jump in and become like kids again, our Union Rescue Mission staff, SUBWAY, or me? This event leaves smiles on our faces for weeks!” says Andy Bales, Union Rescue Mission Chief Executive Officer
Media Photo Opportunities:
- Children playing in the Snow 10:00 a.m.
- Santa Claus arrives at URM 11:15 am
- SUBWAY Caters Lunch to the Children 12:00 noon
URM is one of the largest missions of its kind in America — bringing help and hope to men, women, and children experiencing homelessness in Los Angeles. URM provides comprehensive emergency and long-term recovery services to our guests to help them escape the dangerous streets of Skid Row and transition from homelessness to independent living.
About URM’s Hope Gardens Family Center
Nestled in the foothills of the Angeles national forest, HGFC offers a peaceful setting and transitional living to moms, children, a number of single women and permanent supportive housing to senior women. In addition to food and shelter, HGFC offers the real help women need to escape homelessness forever, long-term rehabilitation programs, job training, counseling, training and encouragement.
Join us to help make Christmas brighter for deserving families! Please donate new, unwrapped toys and gifts for children and teens at Union Rescue Mission.
*Action figures * Hot Wheels * Lego sets * Board games * Sports jerseys * College Apparel * Dolls * Barbies * Watches * Jewelry * Cameras * Lotion sets * Electronic games * Headphones * Gift Cards
*Teen Gifts are our greatest need
Last day for donations is December 10th
For more information, contact:
Marisa’s Merry Christmas
How you are giving a precious child and her family the chance to rebuild their lives — and learn the real meaning of Christmas.
When I was younger, I thought Christmas was all about decorations, looking at Christmas lights, and getting presents,” says 12-year-old Marisa. “But it’s really about Jesus. I didn’t know that before I came to Hope Gardens. Now He’s my real dad.” That’s important to Marisa because her birth father was a raging alcoholic who emotionally and physically abused his family. He controlled their movements through intimidation and threats, often keeping them prisoner in their own home. And he’s now in jail for other child-related crimes. Marisa is just one of nearly 80 children who live with their moms at Union Rescue Mission’s Hope Gardens Family Center, a 77-acre sanctuary that offers transitional housing to families experiencing homelessness like Marisa’s. “She’s changed so much since we got here,” says Marisa’s mother, Jessica. “She’s beautiful, talented, and smart. I’m so proud of her.” Marisa came to Hope Gardens, along with her mother and younger brother, in February 2014, after struggling with homelessness for three years after the arrest of her father. Because of the abuse and trauma she experienced growing up, Marisa has trouble remembering much about her childhood. But she is opening up and thriving, thanks to the care she gets at Hope Gardens. “I like Hope Gardens,” she says. “I met my two best friends here.” She’s also very involved in the praise dance group, Bible studies, and other activities. “But the best thing about Hope Gardens,” she says, “is that my mom and I got to know each other better. Before, we were always stuck in bad situations. Now we’re safe and we get to spend more time talking about stuff.” She also enjoyed spending last Christmas at Hope Gardens. “We watched Christmas movies, made wreaths and stockings, and we even built a gingerbread house,” she recalls. “We also worshipped Jesus. And that’s important, because I know I’m a better person than I was before I met Him.” Like any child, Marisa still enjoys the excitement of opening presents on Christmas morning. But thanks to friends like you, Christmas means so much more now. And she can look forward to a real future when all is calm. And all is bright.
Celebrating 125 years of Transformed Lives
In 2016, Union Rescue Mission will celebrate 125 years of continuous service to people experiencing homelessness in Los Angeles. URM was founded in 1891, when we took to the streets in gospel wagons to offer food, clothing, and salvation to the less fortunate. Over the years URM has continued and expanded its efforts to feed both the body and the soul, helping individuals and families break the cycle of poverty and achieve self-sufficiency.
But really, for 125 years, the work of Union Rescue Mission has been YOURS — YOU are the Mission. Your faithfulness and generosity has transformed countless lives. Stay tuned over the coming weeks and months in 2016, as we celebrate YOU and God’s faithful care for precious men, women, and children.
Time’s Running Out
When you make a gift of any kind to Union Rescue Mission before December 31, not only will you make the New Year brighter for men and women experiencing homelessness, you will receive a charitable tax deduction on your 2015 tax return.
For more information, please call Armi Ramirez at
(213) 673-4825 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Asleep in Heavenly Peace — At Last
Marisa’s mother, Jessica, experiences Christmas happiness at Hope Gardens Family Center.
Christmas is probably my only good memory from childhood. My mom loved Christmas and went all out every year — decorations, lights, Christmas cookies, the big tree, everything. The problem was the rest of the year. Both my parents were addicts, and my father was also physically, mentally, and emotionally abusive. There was never much love in our home. Then I met my husband when I was 21. At first, I thought he was kind and just wanted me to stay home so he could take care of me. We had two children together — Marisa, who’s 12, and Jesse, who’s 9. We were married for 11 awful years. He drank every day, all day. He was so controlling, we could never leave the house. The kids weren’t allowed to have friends. We lived in constant fear. I tried to escape many times, but I just couldn’t make it on my own. We only got out after my husband went to jail. But we struggled with homelessness for three years before we finally came to Hope Gardens. We’ve been here for a year and a half now, and I can’t believe how blessed we are. It’s so beautiful here. My kids and I are safe, we have our own space with room to breathe, we can relax, and I feel like we’re getting to know each other for the first time without all the fear and trauma hanging over us. And there are so many other great mothers here who each make me stronger. The classes here have also helped me grow into a stronger, healthier, mature woman and mother. They taught me better financial management. We’ve all received Bibles, we’re going to church, and we’re growing in our faith. And now I’m preparing to go back to work. Last Christmas, here at Hope Gardens, was the best ever. In fact, I can say it was the first time in my life I was ever happy. My kids got to relax and be kids. We didn’t have any money, but thanks to Union Rescue Mission’s Christmas Store, I got to give presents to them. We celebrated the birth of Jesus together, because without him we have nothing. And we celebrated our new lives. This Christmas, I really will sleep in heavenly peace.
Notes from Andy
125 Years of Mission
In just a few weeks, Christians will celebrate the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ, when Jesus brought healing and hope to a world filled with fear, cruelty, darkness, physical and spiritual hunger, and hopelessness.
Beginning in January 2016, we’ll also celebrate another birth of healing and hope — the 125th anniversary of Union Rescue Mission’s birth on Skid Row. That’s 125 years of bringing the hope and transforming power of Jesus to precious human beings struggling to survive on these mean, cruel streets.
In many ways, Skid Row is worse than ever. But there’s still hope, especially inside Union Rescue Mission, where Christ’s Light still shines, where peace dwells, and where lives are transformed for eternity. It’s our mission. But it’s not really our Mission. It’s yours. For 125 years, thousands and thousands of lives have been saved on Skid Row, because thousands and thousands of generous, caring people like you have partnered with Jesus, and with us, to bring His hope and healing into the dark world.
So in 2016, we plan to celebrate — to celebrate 125 years of Jesus’ presence on Skid Row, and to celebrate YOU. Because YOU make it all possible.
To read Andy’s blog, please visit revandysblog.com
URM’s 25th Annual Christmas Store
Give Kids Experiencing Homelessness Joy at Christmas
Thanksgiving and Christmas can be difficult for families experiencing homelessness. But for 25 years, Union Rescue Mission’s Christmas Store has brought joy into their lives when they needed it most.
This year, thousands of precious children at Union Rescue Mission, Hope Gardens Family Center, and other agencies serving underprivileged kids throughout the greater Los Angeles area, will receive brand-new gifts because of the 25th annual Christmas Store.
On December 10, more than 700 moms and dads with little or no income will enjoy the dignity of being able to provide their children with gifts they select themselves (for free) and give to their children personally.
All year-round, Union Rescue Mission embraces people experiencing homelessness with the compassion of Christ, and offers healing and hope to help them find their way home. And thanks to the Christmas Store — and generous friends like you — hundreds of families will find that new hope this holiday season.
For information about donating toys to the Christmas Store this year, please contact Victor Ortiz at (213) 316-2779.
Give Hurting People Something Meaningful — Hope
For most of us, the holiday season is a magical time of excitement and anticipation, gifts, good food, and time spent with loved ones. But for men, women, and children on Skid Row, Christmas is often a painful time without presents, food, a home — or even hope.
At Union Rescue Mission and Hope Gardens Family Center, however, men, women, and children experiencing homelessness will wake up with Christmas joy — and the hope for a new life — thanks to generous people like you.
This holiday season, your generous gift of $25, $35, or more will help provide special holiday meals, clothing, and shelter — and, yes, hope — to hurting individuals and families at Union Rescue Mission and Hope Gardens. Please send the most generous gift you can today. Thank you!
For more information or to put your gift to work even faster, go to urm.org/ChristmasHope
Sign Up for Rev. Andy’s Advent Email Devotionals
The season of Advent leading up to Christmas is a wonderful time for thoughtful reflection and joyful anticipation as we celebrate the birth of our Savior.
This holiday season, please sign up to receive Rev. Andy’s Advent series of daily devotional emails. Each day from now until December 25, you’ll receive scripture and messages focused on the Joy of the Season. To sign up for these special email devotionals, please visit urm.org/AdventDevotionals
Because of you: Kenneth’s Story
After my parents got divorced when I was in high school, I ended up living with friends, in group homes, and in foster care while my parents battled over custody. When my dad finally got custody, however, we didn’t have adequate housing, so we came to Union Rescue Mission in December 2008. Union Rescue Mission gave us a roof over our heads and gave me the stability I needed.
We left Union Rescue Mission in March 2010. Today, I’m a graduate of Loyola Marymount University and now I’m planning to go to law school. One day
I hope to go into politics and run for office so I can make an everlasting difference in the areas of homelessness, foster care, and elder treatment.
My goal is to one day be mayor of Los Angeles, and eventually governor
Union Rescue Mission needs your help! We’re competing to win a $100,000 grant from LA2050! Visit their site and vote for Union Rescue Mission today!
At Union Rescue Mission, we believe that jobs are the first step to financial stability for those experiencing homelessness on the streets of Los Angeles. Our Jobs Program helps the men and women we serve do just that – find good, living wage jobs. With this $100,000 grant we can expand our current program and double the number of men and women securing employment (currently at 75) to 150 during 2016.
Our friends at GIVE are also competing for a grant! Please also vote for them.
In a context of land and water shortage and of fresh food access issue in underserved areas, Green Institute for village Empowerment (GIVE) program is to install sustainable garden towers, serving communities in need. GIVE will also train job-ready, former Skidrow residents of Union Rescue Missions’ Job Development Program and Little Tokyo residents in the maintenance of the tower gardens and in growing profitable herbs and vegetables.
Urban Farm is not just cultivating food but Community!
“When you’re an addict, living on a sidewalk, Thanksgiving’s just another day to get high,” says Willie, who called the streets home for almost 25 years. “Skid Row is horrible, like a nightmare. Crowds of people smoking crack, shooting heroin, drinking. Rape. Prostitutes. I‘ve seen folks get their heads busted in for $2. I saw one guy crawl into a dumpster and get eaten up by rats. I completely wasted my life out there.” Skid Row is a long way from his middle-class childhood, when his life felt stable, when Thanksgivings were spent with family, good food, warm feelings, and laughter. Before the pain and confusion of his parents’ divorce sent him into an emotional tailspin, and he started hanging with the wrong friends. At 22, Willie discovered crack, and his life spiraled completely out of control. Drugs cost him his savings and his job. Then his home. He ended up in and out of jail too many times to count. When he was free, he ate, and sometimes slept, at the Missions on Skid Row, including Union Rescue Mission. “Crack and alcohol finally sent me to my knees, crying out for help,” he recalls. “I knew if I stayed out there much longer, I was going to die. I had people who cared about me — sisters, my mom, nieces and nephews. I needed help, so I came to Union Rescue Mission on November 11, 2013.”
Willie took advantage of everything Union Rescue Mission offers: Bible studies, chapel service, physical fitness, work therapy, counseling with his chaplains, health care — he even got new teeth through the Mission’s dental clinic. But one of the highlights was Thanksgiving, he says. “I was here the past two Thanksgivings,” he recalls. “You can’t believe the number of people who come here to serve folks like me. Those folks really care, and they make a whole lot of people on these streets happy.
In fact, last Thanksgiving I got to help serve, too. “When you start ministering to someone else, all of a sudden, all your problems don’t seem so big. So now, whenever I can help someone else out, I’m going to do it. “God and my chaplains helped me through the whole program,” he continues. “This is the longest I’ve been sober in over 25 years. I’m healthy. I got my family back. I’m engaged to be married. And I feel so good about myself. I’m thankful God never gave up on me.”
Thanksgiving Meals and a Way Home — With Your Help Today
All year-round at Union Rescue Mission, your gifts offer precious men, women, and children experiencing homelessness with safe shelter, nutritious meals, long-term care — and even the help they need to find their way home. Thank you! But right now, due to California’s ongoing drought and a severe drop in food donations, we’re facing a severe crisis this holiday season — our busiest time of year. We desperately need your help! Your gift of $33.74 will provide 14 holiday meals!
It still costs just $2.41 to provide a holiday meal to a hungry man, woman, or child. This season, we expect to serve more than 180,000 meals. Your gift of $33.74 will help feed 14 people, $67.48 will help feed 28 people, or any amount you can send will help. So please give generously. Thank you!
To put your gift to work even faster, go to urm.org/ThxFamily
On November 14, URM will hand out 3,000 special kits to all neighbors on Skid Row. These kits are filled with shampoo, soap, toothpaste, mouthwash, deodorant, razors, socks, and a special invitation to celebrate Thanksgiving with us at Union Rescue Mission. For just $3, you can provide one of these special kits to one of our Skid Row neighbors — and add a personalized blessing signed by YOU! Please check the special $3 box on your remit form, then sign the Blessing Card with your first name only. It’s a wonderful way to love your neighbor this holiday season!
I grew up in East L.A. I never thought I’d end up on the streets of Skid Row. But I got hooked on alcohol. I lost a good job. I lost my marriage. My drinking got so bad, my own family didn’t want me around. So I ended up homeless here. By October 2013, I was broken down, sick, crying, and defeated by life. Then I came to Union Rescue Mission. Thanks to this place, I opened my life to God. I found what I’d been missing all my life. I found the life God has for me. My family has welcomed me back and I’m even going back to school!
Notes from Andy
People are pouring into Skid Row like never before. The sidewalks outside Union Rescue Mission are crowded and I’ve never seen so much desperation. It’s just chaos out there. But every Thanksgiving — thanks to your generous support — we take these precious folks away from their desperation for a day of joy. With music playing on the sidewalks, dancing in the streets, and the smoke of fried turkeys wafting down the streets, we make sure our guests enjoy the most splendid Thanksgiving ever — and maybe a reminder of how loved they really are. And when that happens, some will take the courageous step to leave the streets behind and transform their lives. Celebrating Thanksgiving at Union Rescue Mission gives us the chance to show our gratitude for all God has given to us by giving ourselves to those who have nothing at all. How well you and I pull this off is a true reflection of how grateful we really are. So I invite you to join with us again this year, offering your time and your financial support to display to the world our thankfulness and our love for others.
“For most of my life, the world viewed me as trash,” says Gary, 57. “But God used Union Rescue Mission to make me a treasure, and to show the world what He can do with someone like me.”
Gary grew up in poverty, the son of a struggling mother who had difficulty providing for her family. “We never had what the other kids had,” he recalls. “They dressed nicer than we did. I guess that affected my self-esteem.”
By high school, Gary was snatching purses, burglarizing homes, stealing cars, and gambling on the streets. Then his brother introduced him to crack cocaine. He was immediately hooked, and his life spiraled even more out of control. Between 1998 and 2012, he was constantly in and out of prison. And when he wasn’t in prison, he wasted his life away on Skid Row.
“I wanted to change,” he says. “I would see other people get clean, but I didn’t t
hink it would ever happen for me. Then one day around 1999, the Lord spoke to my spirit: ‘Satan’s trying to destroy you. But I got you.’”
It took 10 more years to see the fruit of God’s promise. In 2009, Gary surrendered his life to Jesus Christ in prison. Before long, he was leading Bible studies and preaching in chapel services, and he even felt God’s call to one day go into ministry.
When Gary was released from prison in 2012, God led him straight to Union Rescue
Mission. “I needed a place to stay and I wanted to be in a stable Christian community,” he says. “The Mission fed me, gave me clothes, all of that. But the most important thing is,
they raised me up in the Word of God, and they gave me purpose and direction. The chaplains here modeled for me what ministry is all about.”
Soon Gary joined Central City Community Church, where he now serves as an assistant to
the pastor. He even got married for the first time in February 2013, and in July 2014, Union Rescue Mission hired Gary full-time to drive a truck for their new thrift store in Covina.
“I’m a truck driver,” he says. “I pick up used items that we sell at the thrift store. But it’s more than that. I know what I’m doing is going to benefit others and to God’s glory. So I drive my truck with joy, because I know I’m a part of this incredible ministry. I’m a part of something glorious and honoring to God.”
Real Jobs for Real People — Thanks to You!
by Glynn Coleman, Employment Skills Specialist
Many of the men and women who come to Union Rescue Mission have a spotty employment history, a lack of marketable job skills, and a history of felonies that can hurt their chances at gaining full-time employment and becoming self- sufficient. These precious people need more than meals and shelter, they need jobs. Real jobs.
And that’s where you come in. Your financial gifts and support to URM do far more than provide meals and shelter. Your gifts help transform lives and help prepare men and women experiencing homelessness with job-preparedness training, work skills, and even job opportunities with employers all over Los Angeles.
Thanks to you, our Employment Program has already helped more than 100 men and women find sustainable employment that has not only helped them support themselves, but often their families, as well.
Summer heat on Skid Row is dangerous for the men and women who call these streets home. They desperately need your help. Yet every summer, donations to Union Rescue Mission drop way off, threatening our ability to meet their needs. Your gift today will provide cold water, cool shelter, nutritious meals, and another day of hope to precious people who need your help the most this summer. So please send the most generous gift you can today. Thank you!
— Anytime it’s 85 degrees or hotter, we pass out cold bottled water on Skid Row. Water Walks take place Monday through Friday at 2:00 p.m. Text the word WATERWALK to 51555 to receive notifications for our next Water Walk.
Because of You!
In 2013, I ended up homeless with my two small children. It got so bad, we had to live in a tent for awhile. Then we came to Union Rescue Mission and Hope Gardens. Hope Gardens helped me give up alcohol and drugs, helped me get closer to God, and they helped me in so many other positive ways. Today, I’m still living at Hope Gardens, but I have a job now and soon I will move into my own place with my children. All I want is to be able to support my children, and thanks to Hope Gardens and generous friends like you, I’m able to do that now.
Notes From Andy
More than Meals
Struggling men and women who come to Union Rescue Mission seeking help need more than meals and shelter. They need more than sobriety. They need jobs. Real jobs.
I know one guy here at the Mission who came to us after a 20-year addiction. He’s clean, sober, and ready to go home. But he’s scared. What will happen to him when he leaves? He worries that if he can’t find work, if he can’t support himself with dignity and self-respect, he may end up right back where he started.
Thankfully, he’s now participating in our Employment Program and going to school. He knows we will provide him with the skills, the support, and the connections he needs. And we will walk with him every step of they way until he finds a much-needed job. But really it’s you. Your financial gifts to URM help provide men and women experiencing homelessness with training, work skills, and even job opportunities with employers all over Los Angeles.
A life transformed, followed by a job, followed by a home. That’s our strategy. But you’re the one who makes it happen.