Two years ago, Will Nicklas and John Kennelly were living the American Dream. As executives at Toyota Motor Sales, USA, they earned substantial incomes that afforded their families the protection of upper-middle-class lifestyles and affluent neighborhoods far from the grit and hopeless despair of Skid Row.
“People on Skid Row weren’t even an afterthought to me. I was too busy working on getting my own slice of the pie,” John admits. “I never cared until Will and I went down there one afternoon.”
Will, who wanted to “do something meaningful in the community,” had already secured a cargo van for Union Rescue Mission, and was also involved with securing special shirts for an upcoming fundraiser for the Mission. When it came time to deliver the shirts, he invited his boss, John, to accompany him.
“Honestly, I only went because I wanted to play hooky from the office for an afternoon,” John says.
“But when I took a tour of the Mission, met some of the guys in the program, heard their stories — well, I was moved. Unless your heart is made of stone, you want to help those guys.”
Before long, Will and John were brainstorming ways they could make a bigger difference.
“Ultimately, the way home is a job. Without a job, the cycle of homelessness will never end for these guys,” Will says.
So Will and John agreed to spend time mentoring URM’s men, coaching them as they developed resumes and teaching them how to interview. More important, they persuaded UGL Services, Toyota’s facility-maintenance vendor, to come down and interview several of the men — with no obligation to hire anyone. “The problem is, most guys at the Mission believe no one cares about people like them,” Will says. But the day UGL came to interview the guys at URM, hope filled the hallways. The men who interviewed for jobs were articulate, energetic, poised, and prepared.
In the end, four men were hired that day — men who are truly grateful for the second chance they’ve been given. And UGL has four new valuable employees. Today, John and Will are already inviting more Toyota vendors to join them at URM.
“The Bible calls us to bear one another’s burdens,” Will says. “I think it’s time for us to live that out. Skid Row is the epicenter of homelessness. It’s dark and depressing. But you know what? I keep coming back because of the hope I experience there. If you want to tap into a sense of purpose and meaning, reach out to these people. Be involved in this situation. You’ll be forever surprised at what happens.”
A growing number of people on Skid Row desperately need hope and a helping hand — they need YOU. Right now, generous friends of Union Rescue Mission have offered to match every gift we receive — up to $150,000!
That means any gift you send will be doubled to provide twice as much help for hurting men and women — and remind them that someone really does care.
This extraordinary opportunity is only available until June 30. So please make a generous gift today to provide twice as much help — and receive twice the blessing!
Over the years, I’ve heard many excuses for not helping people experiencing homelessness. Some people insist Jesus said, “The poor you will always have with you, so why try?” Still others think we’re only enabling addicts and alcoholics if we offer them food and shelter.
But I think it’s time to stop making excuses and truly help our brothers and sisters experiencing homelessness.
Probably the most significant — and most difficult — way to help is to offer real friendship to struggling men and women, just like Will and John have done (see our cover story in this newsletter). They’ve eaten with them, mentored them, shared skills with them, and encouraged them. That’s what people really need.
But there are other ways to get involved. Help someone read in our learning center. Play with our kids in the gym. Serve a meal. Help raise money for Union Rescue Mission — and, of course, write a check of your own! Everyone can do something!
I know it isn’t easy. Sometimes it’s even heartbreaking and a little risky. But Jesus took a lot of risk and experienced much heartbreak to rescue humanity. I believe it’s time to follow in His footsteps.
Rev. Andy Bales, CEO