Aaron Valencia's story started a lot like a lot of stories we hear at the Mission. His dad slipped out when he was a kid, and at an early age he was a victim of child abuse, and exposed to meth and heroin.
By age 15 he got kicked out of his house - strung out on drugs. The vicious cycle continued till he was about 19, where he decided he was sleeping at a park one last time. He awoke facing a liquor store he had just robbed and was nearby the local police station. If he could make it out of this situation he swore he would to go to rehab.
Once a junkie always a junkie - or that's what he thought. He never met anyone that had actually gone through rehab. But one day, sitting on a bus stop, he made contact with a man who had gotten help from a rehab center in Norwalk. He wrote down the name and headed over - changing how the rest of his life would play out.
Initially, Aaron planned to get clean so he could get back to a healthy weight, but something clicked for him while he was there. He would leave the world of drugs, and eventually homelessness behind.
Through hard work and perseverance, Aaron has now become a custom car builder/humanitarian and founded the “Lost Angels Children’s Project” which focuses on children and youth experiencing homelessness. Earlier this year, he decided he wanted to create a car project to give back to the children struggling on Skid Row. He started researching online and found that Union Rescue Mission's goals and his were one and the same.
"The kids [of alcoholics and drug users] tend to have it the worst... my program is to try and make the time that they are in [URM's] care the best possible."
Aaron is building a 1931 Ford Roadster that will be given away on August 30, 2014 at the 2014 Ventura County Fair/Ventura Nationals Hot Rods & Motorcycle Show. (Please see the attached flyer and photos) He is selling tickets for only $20 each with a goal of raising $50,000 and donating 50% to URM and the other 50% to the Grace Resource Center.
Tickets are being sold at several locations (please see below), and URM's Christine Calderon (CCalderon@urm.org) is selling some as well.
It’s preferred that the winner or representative be present during the give away. If winner is not present Aaron will continue to contact the winner by phone, email and social media for the next 3 days to claim the prize!
-BURBANK - 8 BALL GALLERY, 3424 W. MAGNOLIA BLVD
-ORANGE - SO CAL MERCEDES PARTS 1436 MANZANITA ST
-SANTA ANA - TRES NOIR 3617 W MACARTHUR BLVD #505
-LONG BEACH - SYNDICATE BARBER SHOP 2749 E BROADWAY
-TORRANCE - STARLITE ROD & KUSTOM 1407 CARSON ST
-DOWN TOWN LA - ANGELOS BARBER SHOP 515 S OLIVE ST, # A
-STUDIO CITY - DOLOROSA TATTOO 11930 VENTURA BLVD
-SANTA CLARITA - ETERNAL ART TATTOO 18436 SIERRA HWY
-VENTURA - DEXTERS CAMERA 5N PACIFIC AVE
-VENTURA - NOBLE FAB 37 MCFARLANE ST
-VENTURA - VENTURA PICTURE FRAMING 3954 E MAIN ST
-EL CAJON - SOCAL SUSPENSION 275 N MARSHALL AVE
I was a single mom with four young kids, and I desperately needed a job. But I had been a drug addict for more than 10 years. I had been arrested several times for shoplifting. And I had just left prison. I wanted a second chance, but who would hire me?
It was my fault. Since the age of 18, I’d been on my own and I wanted to party, drink, and smoke weed. But I wasn’t irresponsible. I held good jobs. But then someone introduced me to “primos” — weed mixed with crack cocaine. It was love at first cough. Nothing else mattered.
Before long, I was smoking every day, all day. It got so bad, I couldn’t hold on to a job, so I started shoplifting. I hated myself for it, but I just couldn’t stop smoking. By the time I was 30, I had four kids and I knew they deserved better.
So when I went to prison in August 2004 for shoplifting, I turned my life over to God and determined that I would change my life. When I got out in May of 2005, I knew I needed a job to support my kids. But what hope did I have?
That’s when God led me to Union Rescue Mission. URM was more than just a shelter. They taught me how to write a resume, how to interview, and how to dress appropriately. They made me believe in second chances and even helped connect me to potential employers willing to give people like me a new start.
But little did I know it would be Union Rescue Mission who would hire me, and I’ve been here ever since! Today, I work in our Gifts in Kind department, helping the Mission secure everything we need — cleaning supplies, hygiene products, food and kitchen utensils, clothing, baby products, blankets, gym equipment, and so much more. And now I’m also helping find everything we need to stock URM’s new thrift store in Covina, which I know will help even more people like me.
Union Rescue Mission gave me confidence when I didn’t have any left. They gave me a second chance when I didn’t deserve one. They believed in me, supported me, and equipped me to live a brand-new life. And that means everything.