“This has become the family I haven’t had since my wife died.”
Darrell can remember a time when family meant everything. As a child in Georgia, his family was close — and there was nothing better than holidays like Thanksgiving, when dozens of aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents would gather for great food and a lot of love.
That all changed when Darrell was 10 and his dad unexpectedly abandoned the family. Losing his dad hurt. Love and closeness took another hit 10 years later, when Darrell’s wife fell ill with uterine cancer and committed suicide. And once more, years later, when his best friend died in an apartment they shared.
“It seems like anytime I get close to someone, I lose them,” he said. “So most of my life, I had a hard time doing community. I like people, I just don’t like getting too close.”
A life alone
Instead of relationships, Darrell poured himself into work — and alcohol. Working at various restaurants, managing kitchens, he often worked 12 to 15 hours a day. Then he’d spend another two to three hours a day drinking, before heading to bed. “I was a functioning alcoholic,” he said.
In 1996, Darrell moved to Los Angeles for a new job — still drinking every day. But in 2010, after his best friend died, Darrell lost his job and his home, and he ended up sleeping in various parks around town. Finally, in 2013, he came to Union Rescue Mission.
“I’ve been here ever since,” he said. “The Mission taught me to love myself again, and to love God and others.”
Where God wants him
After graduating from the Mission’s program, Darrell joined a special group of 22 men called “The Ambassadors” at Union Rescue Mission. These Ambassadors will never have to leave Union Rescue Mission because of the various challenges they face.
“We call the fifth floor the ‘Residential Ambassador Suites,’ ” he said. “I still have trouble getting close to people, but this has become the family I haven’t had since my wife died.”
What Darrell enjoys most is volunteering in his beloved kitchen at Union Rescue Mission, where he often spends 12 hours a day. “That’s where I’m happiest,” he said. “This is where God wants me to be.”
Darrell has spent the past four Thanksgivings volunteering in this kitchen. He plans to spend another 20 hours in the kitchen this coming Thanksgiving. And he wouldn’t have it any other way.
Give a meal and transform lives this Thanksgiving!
Your Gifts at Work:
Family Love for Senior Men
by Chaplain Dan Anderson
For most people, holidays are a fun time to get together with friends and family. But for many guys at Union Rescue Mission, like Darrell, holidays such as Thanksgiving can be pretty lonely. Either they’ve burned bridges with their families, or their families are too dysfunctional to return to. And that’s heartbreaking for them. Like all of us, they want — they need — family-like love.
“In other words, we do what families do.”
We encourage all the men who graduate from the life-transformation program to get involved in some kind of community when they leave. But we recognize that some men, for various reasons, may never be able to thrive outside the safety they find here. So we started a group we call “The Ambassadors” — 22 senior men, between the ages of 55 and 75, who will enjoy the friendship, love, community, and family relationships they need for the rest of their lives at Union Rescue Mission.
We call them “Ambassadors” because they represent the Lord and Union Rescue Mission. They testify — at churches and schools around Los Angeles — about God’s grace and the healing they’ve found here. They work various jobs around the Mission and they pay a small rent to stay here, because they deserve that dignity.
But really it’s all about family. Someone once said that the opposite of addiction is not sobriety, it’s connectedness. The root of many addictions is a lack of love. So we work hard to create love and connections for these Ambassadors. We have family meals, family meetings, family devotions, and family events outside the Mission. In other words, we do what families do.
The impact on their lives is profound. Your gifts mean that, for the first time, they feel loved and they begin to trust that love. Thanks to you, they found home.
Stories from Skid Row
Darren went from ‘gangbanger’ on the streets of Los Angeles to head chef serving over 700 meals for the women and families in our care at Hope Gardens. Find out what inspires him to provide a taste of home to those most in need — especially during the holidays.
We believe every precious soul deserves to experience the joy of a family-style Thanksgiving. That’s why, every year, Union Rescue Mission throws a giant celebration for all the residents of Skid Row…4,000 pounds of turkey, 3,300 pounds of potatoes, 2,000 pounds of stuffing, 800 pounds of mashed potatoes, and 4,100 pieces of pie! Here’s a brief look at what happens on this very special day!
CEO Andy Bales and volunteers begin to deep-fry turkeys.
Staff and volunteers begin arriving to set up tables, chairs, a stage, and sound equipment, and to prepare food.
Performers arrive for sound check.
Volunteers begin setting up games and activities for kids and families to enjoy.
URM’s Thanksgiving event includes food, live music, games, and activities for kids.
Cleanup begins after a day of great food and gratitude.
Thanksgiving Dinner and Family Love — With Your Help
For people experiencing homelessness, Thanksgiving is too often just another lonely day and a painful reminder of broken family relationships and everything that’s gone wrong. Even more tragic, this year, the number of hurting people seeking out help at the Mission — especially mothers and children — is growing rapidly and getting worse!
All year-round, your gifts provide these precious souls with safe shelter, nutritious meals, and God’s care. And this Thanksgiving season, your generosity will provide even more — a sense of family they crave, and the hope and courage they need to rebuild their lives.
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!
You can do so much good in someone’s life when you give a meal this Thanksgiving!
There’s probably no American holiday more about family and relationships than Thanksgiving. That’s why, for precious men, women, and children experiencing homelessness, it’s also one of the loneliest and most painful days of the year.
According to my own research, the single biggest common denominator among people experiencing homelessness is a lack of family connection. For some, their families have disintegrated. Others have burned every bridge to family. But all of them share the same ache and longing for love — especially on Thanksgiving.
So every year, Union Rescue Mission — thanks to your support — hosts a massive family-style Thanksgiving for all the men, women, and children inside the Mission and those living on the sidewalks on Skid Row. These are their extended family, they are our extended family, and they are your extended family.
Food, laughter, football, and most of all, love. Family love. I believe that’s what sets Union Rescue Mission apart. As the old song says, “Sometimes you wanna go where everyone knows your name.” And that’s right here. Nothing we do in this loving family is possible apart from you — not just on Thanksgiving, but all year long.