A New Way to Food Bank

A New Way to Food Bank

We cannot wait for families to come to us. We must go to them.

By Nathan Smith, Chief Program Officer

The pandemic has shown us just how important it is to be flexible. It’s changed how we work, how we order food, and even how we get our groceries. Our Hope for Hunger Food Bank adapted as well, reformatting to serve drive-up lines and provide contactless forms.

But it’s not enough.

In my work at Phoenix Rescue Mission, I’ve seen the impact that barriers like a lack of transportation or the inability to afford healthy foods have on disadvantaged communities. I’ve seen children set up for lifelong battles with chronic health issues because their bodies are starving. The experience has made one truth abundantly clear: we can’t continue to wait for families to come to us.

We need to go to them.

It’s a truth I confirmed through a year-long research fellowship with Arizona State University’s Knowledge Exchange for Resilience.

After nine months of collecting data from nearly 10,000 individuals served at both our Hope for Hunger Food Bank and our current mobile food pantries, we found that minority and immigrant families are nearly 200% more likely to go to a mobile food pantry versus a brick-and-mortar pantry.

The results were clear: traditional food banks will always be essential, but to significantly reduce food insecurity, we needed to invest more in mobile outreach.

To that end, we’ve already begun bringing new mobile food pantries to underserved regions of the Valley known as “food deserts.” Every week, we’re serving up hope in new areas that lack fresh food, produce and other essentials.

It’s exciting! But this new outreach is dependent on financial support as well as donations of non-perishable food and hygiene items. In other words – hope like this doesn’t happen without friends like you!

Serving these areas will do more than fight hunger – it will open up opportunities to connect families to services aimed at ending poverty, like vocational development, job placement, emotional or mental health services, and addiction recovery services.

Our neighbors need our help. Let’s break down the barriers that prevent people from seeking help!

A Victim of Abuse

 

Andrea was a victim of abuse when she was little. She survived acts perpetrated by a family member too  horrible  to  describe.

"I always felt, how could there be a God if He let this happen to me and my sisters? I harbored a lot of anger. But I never realized how much all those things that happened as a child impacted my choices."

It was when Andrea stepped out on her own that the problems began. She found a good job; she bought a nice car and rented a place of her own. But even as she began to gather the trappings of a normal life, she knew deep inside that something was wrong. Despite her success, she was empty... hollow, and she didn't know why. Not knowing what to do with this feeling, she started to fill the void with alcohol.

It was a decision that almost cost Andrea her life.

It wasn't long before bottles started stacking up. Andrea's alcoholism was rapidly consuming the success she had managed to achieve-and it scared her.

"I called my mom and told her what I had been doing - that I had lost both of my jobs, my rent check was gone and I couldn't stop drinking. I didn't know what to do. She got really stressed out."

Andrea's family was supportive at first, but the cycle kept repeating. The requests for financial help, the overdose scares, detoxing on her sister's couch in full view of her school-age nieces, occurred with increasing regularity. Soon, family members began to tell her to stay away, that her decisions were damaging the family.

"My sister said, 'You're going to kill our mom.' That got me thinking. I'm the problem, so if I get of that, it'll hurt, but only for a little bit. I can't hurt anyone if I'm dead."

Thankfully, she was unsuccessful. Paramedics saved Andrea's life. But while all of this was going on, God was working behind the scenes. A year earlier, her dad Jorge, who had been homeless and an alcoholic himself, had enrolled in our Men's Recovery program.

"The Mission saved his life. And he told me, 'Go to the Mission, they have a women's center [Phoenix Rescue Mission's Changing Lives Center] there.' So I said I'd give it 30 days. The joke around here is that after day 15, my timer broke. I've been here 15 months now."

It was a decision that not only saved her life, it transformed it.

"There's so much love being poured in here [The Changing Lives Center] that you can feel it. I've learned that I'm not alone and that I'm not a burden. Talking about my past and presenting it in front of the other women made me realize that I'm not the only one who goes through this or has these thoughts."

Working with our staff, she's also discovered the missing piece that was always meant to fill the hole in her life.

"I actually understand the Bible for the first time in my life and I have a close connection to God. I know that everything is going to be okay because He has a plan for me. It's given me the courage to do something hard."

Your support not only helped save Andrea, you helped give her the drive to reinvent herself and follow a dream she's had since she was little.

"They are very big here on, instead of just getting a job, getting a career. I've wanted to be an EMT [Emergency Medical Technician] for a long time, but I never had the courage. I was broken, taken advantage of, I was weak.

"But Yvette [Program Assistant in our Job Attainment program] encouraged me and helped me get the scholarships I needed. Now I've made it - I'm an EMT as of May 8th! This place and Yvette helped me get there."

Not only is Andrea sober, a recovery graduate, and a graduate of the EMT program, she's looking forward to continuing her education to become a paramedic.

Like so many who walk through our doors, Andrea was meant for more. Today she's walking that path with God by her side.

From being saved to saving others, Andrea has come full circle - and she has you to thank for it.

A Mother’s Day Miracle

 

 

 

This Mother’s Day will be a day of joy for Cassie – thanks to the support of friends like you. Cassie, a mother of six, was caught in an abusive relationship a few years ago that made for an unhealthy home for her children.

“I told myself everything was fine, but deep down I knew it wasn’t.”

As things got worse and the bills went unpaid, everything came to a head on a single day – all at once, her children were removed and she was evicted.

Cassie did her best to comply with DCS [Department of Child Safety], in hopes of receiving her children back, but restoring custody when you are homeless is all but impossible. As a result, her youngest four children were adopted out.

“We were living out of a car for a few months and it was obvious I couldn’t do what they {DCS} were asking of me until I fixed my situation. One day a voice told me, ‘you need to get out of the car and start walking.’”

“It was God talking,” explains Cassie’s son, Patrick.

Her journey both ended and began here at Phoenix Rescue Mission’s Changing Lives Center.

"It was life-changing. I never had any confidence in myself or my abilities. Phoenix Rescue Mission changed that. I’m working now, paying bills and saving up for my own place.”

We advocated for Cassie in family meetings and before the judge. Five months after she arrived, her oldest son, Patrick, was allowed to come live with her on campus. She is currently in the process of receiving her oldest daughter, Chloe, back as well.

“I was very excited, very happy, and a little nervous because it had been so long since I had them with me. There’s no way I would be where I am today or have my children back if it hadn’t been for Phoenix Rescue Mission.”

“For others in my shoes, I would tell them, don’t be afraid to ask for help. God is there for you – there is always hope!”

What is Love?

What is love? A difficult question for most people, let alone men and women who have experienced a a fair amount of trauma and abuse. Yet, these men and women are learning what love looks and feels like when God is a part of their lives. Some are early in their journey. Some are deep in their truth of what the Bible says about love. February, and every day, we celebrate God's love for us and how we can walk that out in our own lives by loving like Jesus loves.

"Love is an action. God IS love. God sending his only son to die for us .. is love. Something as simple as a smile can represent love."

Michelle - Graduate of Phoenix Rescue Mission

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Tom - Graduate of Phoenix Rescue Mission

Tommy

"I didn’t know what love felt like. All I knew was hatred, shame and guilt. I didn’t realize until I came to the Phoenix Rescue Mission and actually received Jesus Christ, my personal Savior, and turned my life over to God, what love feels like. And now its like a feeling in my heart all the time. It’s amazing. I care about myself again, I care about everyone around me. The way the Mission and the staff adopted me as family. That feeling you get, it’s crazy. I don’t have problems anymore. It’s a good feeling."

"Love is selfless, and takes a lot of sacrificing of your own desires."

Tiffany - Graduate of Phoenix Rescue Mission

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Stephen - graduate of Phoenix Rescue Mission

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"This is a good week to talk about love. When I think of love, I think of 1 Corinthians 13. What is love, what is the picture of God's love for us? Love is patient , love is kind. Love keeps no record of wrongs. It does not boast, it is not envious. And looking at 1 John also, perfect Love casts out fear, if we don’t know God, we don’t know love."

"Past experience with love hasn’t been the greatest, but a lot of that is because I didn’t have a relationship with God. Now that I do, it’s kind of re-learning everything through His eyes, His perspective. That’s where I’m at right now. I’m still learning a lot."

"Love means home. With my kids, it’s home, family, my babies. That’s love to me. Here at the Changing Lives Center, my kids aren't here with me. So I often go to our daycare on campus, and spend time with the kids. I feel an abundance of love there. It’s unconditional. This is my home right now, I feel safe and I feel love from Christ. Love from God is overpowering, just all-consuming, joy, smiling, happiness. It puts me at peace. My relationship with God now is the strongest it’s ever been. I feel God’s Spirit, that’s love."

Michelle - Client at Changing Lives Center

Michelle-Love

Brandon - Graduate of Phoenix Rescue Mission

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"Love is an unconditional acceptance and a yearning to be with someone or something. Love has no bounds, there are no stipulations as to how I can give it to someone or something."

"This is what I have sought for in love. When I think of love, I think of my mom. She showed me the most love, forgiveness, encouragement and just enjoying the company of others. That’s where I learned what love is. Enjoying and wanting to invest all of yourself regardless of cost."

"Love is to be fully known, yet accepted. Unconditionally."

Sala - Graduate of Phoenix Rescue Mission

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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.