GCU Gives Back for Holidays

Kassandra Elson couldn’t believe she was watching a Grand Canyon University women’s basketball game on Tuesday night. She described her participation in the partnership between the Lopes and the Phoenix Rescue Mission (PRM) as “crazy’’ because less than a year ago she was incarcerated. In her case, the Christian-based PRM is aptly named.

From left, PRM residents Kassandra Elson, Katie Diercks, Courtney Kinnear and Holley Kirk surround PRM Donor Events and Engagement Coordinator Nikki Smith (center).

“I came to Phoenix Rescue Mission from prison,’’ Elson said. “My outlook on life was really hopeless. I just knew that if I didn’t do something immediately that I would end up back in prison, so I came to their Changing Lives Center praying that there would be some kind of hope there for me. Now things are going well. I am a leader on the campus and I am doing things that I never thought I would do.’’

Cheering for the Lopes had never been on Elson’s radar.

“It is crazy to think I am coming to something like this, a GCU basketball game,’’ she said. “This is how I am spending my free time rather than doing things that put me in prison.’’

As fans placed toys into the boxes in the lobby of GCU Arena, Elson reflected on her childhood as the oldest of six children in a low-income family.

Donations of toys and games will be distributed at the Winter Wonderland on Saturday.

“I totally understand. I know that not having that great of a Christmas really affects your life, and you remember that stuff forever,’’ she said. “So the fact there is a toy drive to help people get presents for their children is really great because the children will remember something different than just having a poor Christmas.’’

Along with collecting toys, games and household items for PRM’s Winter Wonderland, GCU and PRM were united by Jesse Dalla Riva, who gave a compelling pregame prayer.

Dalla Riva overcame drug addiction and homelessness through PRM.  He has worked at PRM full-time the past four years while majoring in counseling with an emphasis in substance abuse addiction at GCU.

“I was motivated to give back to the community that I was once part of in that I am addict myself,’’ said Dalla Riva, who plans to graduate in April.

With his wife, Blake, and their 19-month-old son, Jaxson, looking on, Dalla Riva prayed for the students and the athletes, adding, “God, I pray for all of those who are suffering and in need tonight.’’

Jesse Dalla River offered the pre-game prayer as his wife, Blake, and his son, Jaxson, watched from courtside.

“It was a real surprise that they asked me to lead the prayer,’’ he said. “I didn’t expect it and I was really happy to do it because of what this school has meant to me along with the opportunities they offered me and my family. ‘’

The connection between GCU and the Christian-based PRM was further strengthened by a halftime video that shared PRM’s mission. In addition, Nikki Smith, Donor Events and Engagement Coordinator for PRM, urged the GCU community to make donations.

“Unfortunately, a lot of our children have come from traumatic situations,’’ she said. “Some of them are hopeful for Christmas, but others are not. They do not have high expectations for what might be under the tree, so something like this gives them hope. It lets them know that other people care that they matter. It is a joy to change a child’s life and perspective, so it is a big gift.’’

GCU women’s basketball fans Mike Carley and Sue Hunter happily donated toys and dish cloths.

“Anywhere we are we try to make sure we help out,’’ Hunter said. “It is just part of what we do.’’

A GCU women’s basketball fan makes a donation for PRM.

The toys, games and household goods, which will be collected until Thursday, Dec. 13, at Building 71 (contact Sue Boyle) and Building 26 on the main campus, (contact Debbie Accomazzo), will be distributed on Saturday at the Winter Wonderland, where parents can “shop” for their children.

Smith summarized, “Events like this go a long way to giving people hope and helping them to transform their lives.’’

 

 

Are you a healthy giver?

Are you a healthy giver?

How you can make a REAL difference this Christmas

During the giving season, more than any other time of the year, we all want to help our fellow brothers and sisters. But are you a healthy giver?

That’s a question we all need to ask before we hand our next $5 bill to someone on the street.

Jerome Parker, of the Healthy Giving Council (of which Phoenix Rescue Mission is a part) is doing his best to get the word out ahead of the crowds this holiday season. “We urge people to not give money or food on the street,” says Jerome. “It’s much more helpful to direct them to an  organization that already provides meals, clothing, and recovery programs set up to close the gap between those who are homeless and permanent housing.”

It may seem counter-intuitive, but feeding someone on the streets does more harm than good. It often leads to discarded trash in our neighborhoods (53 tons of it was collected off the streets between Thanksgiving and Christmas last year) and enables the homeless to avoid help for one more day. It even changes the way we think about the people we are hoping to help. “Street giving and feeding puts us in a frame of mind,” he says, “where we begin to see the homeless as less human. If we’re honest, we know that burger or dollar bill we hand out isn’t going to change  anything.

We do it to make ourselves feel better. We need to ask: Is what we are doing bringing this person closer to, or further away from, ending their homelessness?”

Here are a few easy ways to be a healthy giver!

  1. Hand out the enclosed Rescue Referral cards instead of food or cash when you see someone in need. Including a $4 bus pass is even better (bus passes can be purchased at most gas stations and grocery stores).
  2.  Help provide food, clothing, spiritual guidance, addiction recovery, counseling, education assistance, job training, and so much more by supporting the efforts of the Phoenix Rescue Mission.
  3. Become a volunteer by visiting prm.volunteerhub.com and give your time and energy by serving with us on the front lines.

 

Together, we can make a real difference in the lives of the men and women we see on our streets this holiday season!

Download your own rescue referral cards to print at home by clicking the image below.

The Main Thing – Home for the Holidays

As we sit down to dinner this Thanksgiving, surrounded by mouth-watering dishes of every kind, let's remember those who will be going without this year. A staggering 30 percent of our neighbors are considered working poor. In a state with a population of 7 million, that means 2.1 million of us are struggling to put food on the table, not to mention the thousands who call our streets home.

Numbers like these seem insurmountable. But, you know what?

Our God is bigger than hunger and homelessness.

Thanksgiving was central to Old Testament worship. Sacrifice and offerings were to be made not grudgingly, but with thanksgiving. The psalmist valued a song of thanksgiving more than sacrifice. Thankfulness was expressed: for personal and national deliverance; for God’s faithfulness to the covenant; and for forgiveness. All creation joins in offering thanks to God.

The first harvest celebration was held in 1621. It was then William Bradford proclaimed a day of thanksgiving and prayer to be shared by all the colonists and the neighboring Indians. It was not until October 3, 1789 that George Washington assigned Thursday, November 26, 1789, to be a day of national thanksgiving.  In his proclamation Washington stated, "...recommend to the people of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer; to be observed by acknowledging, with grateful hearts, the many ... favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness." 

Thanksgiving is a natural element of Christian worship and is to characterize all of Christian life. Early Christians expressed thanks: for Christ’s healing ministry; for Christ’s deliverance of the believer from sin; for God’s indescribable gift of grace in Christ; and for the faith of fellow Christians.

A Thanksgiving Proclamation, spoken by Abraham Lincoln on October 3, 1863 observed that the last Thursday of November would be a day of "Thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens."

He continued, "It has seemed to me fit and proper that God should be solemnly, reverently, and gratefully acknowledged, as with one heart and one voice by the whole American people. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November as a day of Thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens."

Psalm 100 A Psalm For Giving Thanks. 1Shout for joy to the LORD all the earth. 2Worship the LORD with gladness; come before him with joyful songs. 3Know that the LORD is God.  It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture. 4Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. 5 For the LORD is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.

This Thanksgiving, because of donors and volunteers, we were able to serve over 1,200 households with a Thanksgiving meal they may have otherwise gone without. It is heartwarming and encouraging to see the impact a community can have when we come together with a common goal.

Through your support of Phoenix Rescue Mission, God transforming lives that in turn impact others. It's a ripple effect that reaches farther and impacts more lives than we can imagine - just like a wind becomes a storm, a flame becomes a wildfire, it's been God's method for change from the very beginning.

So, as we remember those who will go without also remember that you are a part of something big, something that is changing the face of homelessness and hunger in our state.

God bless you and Happy Thanksgiving.

 

 

 

The Main Thing – A Volunteer’s Difference

Our volunteers are the biggest difference-makers in the ministry of the Phoenix Rescue Mission. I see time and time again the impact volunteers make in the lives of those we serve.

Janet, a former addict, is now one of our regular volunteers. “I still see my old self in many of the faces of the men and women at the Mission,” she says. “I’ve gained so much from volunteering. My journey led me full circle — I am home again.”

It is common with our volunteers, they come to serve others and touch the lives of those in need. When in reality, the volunteer is the one who is impacted the greatest. Whether your serving a meal to men, women, and children who were once broken and lost, packing a food box for a family in need, or working in our boutique to give dignity back to women and children through the simple gift of a new shirt, dress, or a new pair of shoes. Lives re being transformed, and that's the main thing here at the Phoenix Rescue Mission.

The Mission simply would not be what it is without volunteers who give their time, love, and support to serve our community. Volunteers are a part of the Mission family, and see first hand the transformation that takes place not only in the lives of the men and women we serve, but within their our hearts as well.

We would love to have you join us as a volunteer in this life-changing ministry! Join Janet and hundreds of other volunteers at the Mission. No matter your skills or talents, no matter how much time you’ve got, whether you’re an individual or part of a group . . . you can begin to transform a life today!

In just a few weeks, all of our homemade favorites will be making an appearance around the dinner table. Turkey will be coming out of the oven, and freshly made pies will be on the counter waiting for hungry bellies.

This time of year, we have a huge opportunity to reach out in love to hundreds of hurting men, women, and children throughout Arizona. Every day, Phoenix Rescue Mission volunteers give their time serving a meal, packing food boxes for local families, providing office support for our staff and performing countless other duties big and small ... The simple truth is, we could not do what we do without volunteers.

For people like Teresita who serves faithfully every week at our Hope for Hunger Food Bank, extending warmth and kindness to the people we serve.

I have a great appreciation for what our people are doing, and spending time at our Hope for Hunger Food Bank is a true testimony to how much our volunteers make an impact in our ministry.

With all the volunteers I've had the pleasure to meet, there's one consistent.

They feel far more blessed than the people they are serving through their volunteer work. It's not about them, it's about God.

At Hope for Hunger, we see first-hand how God provides. Food is provided by God, we give thanks for it, and distribute it. Through food, we are able to build relationships, and help those we serve find solutions to an array of issues, whether it's food insecurity, homelessness or poverty. Through that, lives are transformed. And that's the main thing!

As we continue to grow, we need more volunteers. There are so many opportunities, especially during the holiday season to get involved and make a really difference in our community! For all of you who have ever volunteered with us, I give my sincerest thank you. You are a part of the life-transformations taking place behind our doors. Thank you for being a part of our family, and showing the love of Christ to the least, the lost, and the last.

Jay A. Cory
President and CEO
Phoenix Rescue Mission

 

If you are ready to begin your journey as a volunteer, visit VolunteerHub to create an account and sign up for opportunities around the Mission!

A Smile Can Change A Life

How God is using our partnership to restore the years the locusts have eaten

When we see people missing teeth, we “label” them. We somehow tend to think of them as unintelligent ... unprofessional ... even untrustworthy. No, it doesn’t really make sense, logically. But it happens nonetheless.

It’s a challenge faced by many of our graduates. Even though they are new creations in Christ, their bodies still bear the scars of the past – ruining job opportunities and potential relationships – essentially keeping them from moving forward.

Enter our dental partners that give our graduates a reason to smile. Phoenix Rescue Mission is blessed to have Smiles Beyond the Bars, Pacific Dental Services Foundation, Brighter Way, Custom Fit Lab and Smiles for Everyone provide bright smiles for our clients.

“We help formerly incarcerated people who have come to love the Lord, and are in a faith-based organization,” says Linda of Smiles Beyond the Bars. “If they qualify, we will totally rebuild their mouth, giving them a new shot at life, a new confidence, and a chance to live like anyone else and not hide their teeth.”

It makes all the difference for our graduates. Just ask Tyler. “For years I’ve hid my smile,” says Tyler, “unable to enjoy even the smallest moments of joy and laughter. I could feel the assumptions and judgments from those who would see my teeth. Smiles Beyond the Bars not only gave me back my confidence and ability to enjoy life, eating is no longer  painful! It’s been a huge blessing. I am so thankful for Phoenix Rescue Mission and Smiles Beyond the Bars!”

“The Phoenix Rescue Mission brings them in, gives them a bed and teaches them life skills, but if they still have bad teeth, they can’t get a job,” says Linda. “The missing factor is their smile.”

Lisa, CEO and founder of Smiles Beyond the Bars, approached Tyler about a special opportunity during the process of receiving his new smile. Smiles Beyond the Bars was hosting their 2018 Smiles for Success Gala, and wanted Tyler to be the emcee! Tyler was more than excited to raise awareness for the cause that gave him his new smile, and praise God for what He had brought Tyler through. "I want to do this every year," Tyler explained.  Tyler's testimony and experience was shown on the big screen as he told his story of hope and transformation, not only for his teeth, but his soul/ It was a beautiful night celebrating World Smiles Day among supporters and recipients of new smiles.  They year, Smiles Beyond the Bars will provide 75 new smiles to recipients, from a dedicated core of 65 dentists and 13 labs contributing their services equating to $2 million of treatment and lab services!

God’s grace, your support and the dedicated support of our counselors and staff give our graduates the tools for transformation from the inside-out. Our dental partners provide our graduates with dazzling new smiles to match their inner change – the combination is nothing short of 1 Peter 5:10: “And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.”