I love gardening. Every day after work, instead of grabbing a beer, I grab the hose and tend to all the plants in my garden, examining each one, admiring the veins and the complexity in each leaf — each one a gift from God. It’s so peaceful and serene. And it reminds me how far I’ve come in my life.
It was my grandmother who taught me how to garden when I was kid. She also raised me, taught me how to cook, and gave me my values and morals. She was the center of my world and I thought she’d live forever.
But one day in 2004, I got a call at work. When my aunt told me my grandmother had died, it’s like everything around me stopped. I didn’t know how to handle it. So I bottled up all my feelings inside — feelings of hurt, sadness, grief, and frustration. Then, as the days rolled by, all those feelings started growing into anger and rage.
I never talked to anyone about it. Instead, I turned to alcohol. I’d start drinking after work. One drink turned into two drinks, and two drinks turned into too many drinks. And the more I drank, the angrier I got. And violent. I started getting into fights and going to jail on battery charges. I also had two DUIs, in 2006 and 2010. But I couldn’t stop drinking.
One night, however, I found myself drunk, sitting at a train stop on the Green Line. I couldn’t live like that anymore. I screamed out loud that I needed help. And that’s when I went downtown and walked into Union Rescue Mission.
I immediately started anger management classes to get that under control. Then I took 8 months of classes to deal with my last DUI and get my driver’s license back. And I went back to school and studied microenterprise at Pepperdine University.
I also opened up for the first time about my grandmother. My chaplain helped me realize that she’s in a better place and that helped me let her go. I spent three years at Union Rescue Mission. In short, I grew up and today I’m moving forward with my life. I’m working for Toyota, I have a wife, and I’ve even opened my first bank account ever. I guess if I have a New Year’s wish, it’s to establish enough credit to buy a new car in 2015.
Looking back, I see now that Union Rescue Mission, like my grandmother, taught me how to garden — the garden of my own life.
Every child loves to open presents at Christmas. Grace is no different. Yet she also knows it’s about much more than that.
“Christmas is a time to give to people who are in need,” she says with a wisdom far beyond her 13 years. “This year I plan to volunteer at Union Rescue Mission’s Christmas Store, just like I did last year.”
Grace, along with her mother, Sam, and two brothers, Adam and Daniel, know all about the Christmas Store. In 2011, they were guests at Union Rescue Mission after they escaped an abusive home and ended up losing almost everything. Before coming to the Mission, Grace and her family spent six weeks living in her family’s Ford Contour in Long Beach.
“I was scared,” Grace recalls. “But as long as we didn’t have to sleep outside, I was OK with it. The hardest part was having people see us sleeping in a car instead of our own home. I was embarrassed.”
When Grace and her family came to Union Rescue Mission in September 2011, she didn't want anyone to know where she lived.
But she recalls the staff at Union Rescue Mission worked hard to make all the kids at the Mission feel special — especially at Christmas.
“They had Christmas parties and other events,” Grace says. “We got to pick a Build-A-Bear and decorate it. There were crafts, games, and Christmas carols. We even watched the movie Snowmen. My brothers and I were actually excited throughout the whole Christmas season.”
As Christmas approached, Grace’s mom, Sam, warned the kids there was no money to buy presents. But then Sam discovered the Christmas Store, where parents throughout Skid Row are able to shop for presents for toys and other items to give their kids for free. Grace and her brothers experienced the joy of opening presents after all.
“Union Rescue Mission did a lot to help me and my family,” Grace says. “Now that we have our own home again, I think it’s important to go back and volunteer at the Mission. We try to go back twice a week to inspire and encourage the other kids there. We made it, and we tell them they can, too.”
We are super excited to announce the Grand Opening of the URM Thrift Store and we'd like to invite you to celebrate with us!
Please join us at 280 E. Arrow Hwy, Covina CA on Saturday, November 1st, for the grand opening of the newest thrift store in town! To celebrate our kick off, the grand opening will include Free Refreshments for the first 200 customers (Kettle Korn, Specialty Cookies, and Ice Cold Beverages) and we'll have a store-wide Treasure Hunt where we will mix in free items with the other merchandise on our racks and shelves. Plus, we are giving YOU a 15% discount on all your purchases and each customer will be given a raffle ticket to win an assortment of Great Prizes (iPod Touch, XBOX One, and Gift Cards)!
Make sure you don't miss out this great event!
Store hours 9:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.
The official ribbon cutting will begin at 9:00 am
About Union Rescue Mission
Union Rescue Mission is a non-profit organization dedicated to helping people experiencing homelessness. Established in 1891, URM is one of the largest rescue missions of its kind in the United States and is the oldest in Los Angeles. It provides a comprehensive array of emergency and long-term services, including food, shelter, clothing; medical and dental care; Christian recovery programs, transitional housing, legal assistance, education, counseling, and job training to needy men, women, children and families. For more information, please visit www.urm.org