Meet the Staff: Cierra Peña, Lead Case Manager

When Cierra came to Phoenix Rescue Mission’s Changing Lives Center in 2012, she had been struggling with addiction since she was 13 years old. Through your support, we welcomed this mother of four as one of the first 20 women to experience all the hope and healing that our then brand-new women’s campus had to offer – and it changed everything for Cierra and her family.

“I had been through 45-day in-patient programs but nothing helped. I knew I needed a year-long program to change my life. And it did; I’m going on 9 years in March that I’ve been clean and it’s thanks to this place.

But Cierra wasn’t satisfied with finding sobriety, she wanted to help others find the same gift that she had been given. Just 90 days after enrolling in our recovery program, Cierra began serving other women as part of the intake team. When the Mission began creating the intake triage program we now call Rescue-Assess-Place (RAP), Cierra was able to lend her experience to help build the program we now use today.

For the past 9 years, hundreds of women looking for hope have been surprised to find Cierra, a woman with genuine concern for their wellbeing, waiting to meet them in RAP.

Those who have enrolled in recovery have found a friend ready to advocate for them in court, help them set doctor appointments, obtain IDs and birth certificates, get fines reduced or eliminated – knocking down each and every barrier that stands between them and success.

As a result of her hard work and extensive experience receiving and providing assistance, lives have been forever transformed and, she’s recently been promoted to Lead Case Manager. There couldn’t be a better fit for the position!

“A lot of these women come in with no hope, many with a Department of Child Safety case weighing heavy on their hearts,” says Cierra.

“At one point in my life, I was there. I thought I couldn’t do any better. I love to share my story and help them realize that there is hope. Seeing them go from dark to light brings me so much joy!”

Cierra is another shining example of what God’s grace and your support can do in a life – and by extension, the lives of hundreds of others.

From Broken Trust to Transformed Life | Lorenzo’s Story

Lorenzo has new hope

Lorenzo finds real trust takes faith.

There’s nothing more central to who we are than where we place our trust. Scripture tells us it’s the very foundation our lives are built upon.

When Lorenzo was 13, that foundation was shaken to its core when his father left home. His grades slipped and participation in sports and other activities waned. But when he used that broken trust as an excuse to rebel, things went from bad to worse.

“I started hanging out with my cousins and getting involved with the side of my family that sold drugs. I dropped out of school my junior year and never went back. I couldn’t hold a job. Eventually, my family closed the door on me.”

Alone and homeless, Lorenzo felt like he had no one left to place his trust in but himself. Thankfully, there was one other option he hadn’t yet discovered – a solid place to put his trust that would change everything.

Early on, Lorenzo’s stepfather, a longtime detective for the Phoenix Police Department, recognized in his son the familiar patterns of a drug dealer and immediately put distance between Lorenzo and the family.

“My stepfather kicked me out when I was 23-years old. After that I never had a steady home; I was always jumping from place to place, in and out of jail, selling drugs and sleeping out of friends’ garages. I started stealing and even my friends in prison didn’t want to have anything to do with me. My addiction swallowed everything up.”

It wasn’t long before the emptiness inside Lorenzo began to manifest on the outside.

“I wasn’t maintaining good hygiene. My arms were torn up from IV usage. I stood out like a sore thumb. People wanted to stay away from me. The last 4 years were very rough. I just wanted a way out.”

After hearing about our recovery program in detox, Lorenzo came to Phoenix Rescue Mission in October of 2018. It was a step in the right direction. We helped him recognize the destructive patterns in his life and introduced him to Christ. But having been burned so many times in the past, Lorenzo wasn’t quite ready to put his trust in God. After 36 short days, he left the program and fell back into his addiction.

It’s a good thing for Lorenzo that God doesn’t give up that easily. Soon after leaving, Lorenzo was caught violating his probation. He was given the choice between prison time or building a solution pathway through recovery at the Mission. It was a no brainer.

“I’ve been to other places, but this was the only one I found where people were honest about trying to get clean. They taught me how to serve God and what it means to be a Christian, not in a judgmental way – they don’t do that here. We uplift each other and help each other out. It’s what I needed to finally buckle down and hit this head on.”

Lorenzo and Orin
Here with his fellow graduate Orin, Lorenzo is another transformed live. He is sober, a recovery graduate and part of our Ministry Training program. His relationship with his family is restored and he says, “It feels so good!”

In other words, Lorenzo finally found a safe place to put his trust – and it’s changed everything.

“I’ve learned that you can’t rely on your own strength. Only God can help you persevere.

With solid ground under his feet for the first time in his life, Lorenzo got to work correcting the mistakes of his past.

“Since I’ve been here, Phoenix Rescue Mission has helped me handle my legal issues, gave me the resources to pay back the restitution fees on my own and even helped restore the relationships with my family.”

All that time, God never let him down. Month after month, our counselors and staff helped him face his addiction and, more importantly, the roots that maintain a hold on his life. Through God’s grace and his diligence, he’s experienced true transformation.

His family, even his sharp-eyed stepfather, has seen the 180 degree change in Lorenzo over the past year – a revelation that has restored bonds broken for more than a decade.

“My family is starting to trust me again and it means the world to me. I’ve become a role model to my brothers. My stepfather and I are closer than ever now. They allow me to come over and spend the night, even drive their cars and use their bank cards! It feels so good.”

Today Lorenzo is sober, a recovery graduate and is currently helping others put their trust in God as part of our Ministry Training program. From rejected to role-model, he’s become a different man.

“The counselors and mentors here are all genuine. They’ve shown me that people do care. I have value and hope in my life now. They’ve instilled these values in me and now I’m working to help others.”

If there’s one thing to learn from this story, it’s that trust goes a long way. When you entrust Phoenix Rescue Mission with your time and treasure, you’re not only helping transform lives like Lorenzo’s, you’re reaching every person who sees that transformation and finds that it’s real. Your partnership is powerful.

Thank you for helping change our city life-by-life and day-by-day!

Lorenzo

Sweet, Sweet Recovery | Maggi’s Transformation Story

God used a little sugar to transform a bitter situation.

Drugs have been a part of Maggi’s life as far back as she can remember. Both her father and her older brother were avid users. Her mother, though not addicted, enabled the behavior by financing them both.

Maggi seemed all but destined to follow in their footsteps.

By the time she was 16, she was hooked on heroin. By 20, she was homeless. By 28, she had lost custody of kids, possessions, and even broken ties to family because of her growing addiction. Squatting alone in an abandoned house in Sierra Vista was a bitter way to live life.

She had no idea something sweet was waiting for her just around the corner. In her wildest dreams, she never would have imagined that God would use cookies to turn her life around.

“I always thought that God had forgotten about me or that He hated me,” Maggi admits. “I didn’t know anything about grace or redemption. I was just so done. I was tired of being homeless and I hadn’t seen my son in months. I knew I needed to do something.”

That “something” found her quicker than she thought. Police surrounded the abandoned house Maggi had been calling home. She was arrested, but thankfully, instead of jail time, the judge sent her to the Phoenix Rescue Mission for recovery.

“When I came here, my hair was breaking off and was matted; it was bad. Then I met a friend, Rebecca, who came from a Christian family, and she helped walk me through what grace is and taught me that hope is possible and that God hasn’t given up on me.

As she continued her recovery, little by little, Maggi started to change. Our staff equipped her with tools designed to help her effectively deal with cravings and avoid triggers. Counseling sessions helped her zero in on the root of her addiction and find healing. Weekly Bible studies brought her closer to a Savior she had never known and through that relationship she began to find transformation. That change only accelerated when she joined our social enterprise team.

In addition to her work with Mission Possible Cookies, Maggi helps tutor children at the Changing Lives Center, allowing their mothers to concentrate on their own recovery.

“Joining the Mission Possible Cookies team was the best thing that could have happened to me. You get to go off campus; it feels like a real job. Instead of just rehab, I felt like I was working towards something and learning new skills that I’d be able to carry out with me.”

Maggi learned how to work in a team setting, how to do inventory, receive orders, package those orders, and more. She earned her Serve Safe certification, qualifying her to work in a large range of areas in the food industry. She thrived. She did so well, in fact, that it wasn’t long before she was promoted to a leadership position.
“Leading a direct team of people to complete a project was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but Michelle was by my side through it all. She takes her job as a role model very seriously. Whenever anything happened, she helped walk me through it. She would encourage me not to give up and taught me to find joy in everything I do.

Today, thanks to God’s ingenuity and your support, Maggi is a recovery graduate and a new creation in Christ. She’s sober, she’s earned back split custody of her son, and even has the skills to build a bright new future.

Of course, none of this would be possible without the time, talent, and treasure you give! Thank you for the prayers and support that continues to change lives, one sweet story at a time.

“Cookies changed the trajectory of my life!”

No Longer Homeless for the Holidays | Brian’s Second Chance

Brian’s second chance at the Mission brought an end to his homelessness.

Brian came to us looking for a good meal in 2007. Back then he was addicted, homeless, and miserable – and had been that way for about four years.

“I wasn’t able to maintain a job. Whenever I would try to get back on my feet or clean up for a little bit, I’d end up repeating the same mistakes.”

Then he enrolled in our recovery program, got clean, found Christ, and started on a new path… only to find himself stumbling again a few years later. The Mission is always clear that we value restoration and care for the long-term health of our clients. We do not stigmatize those who relapse but instead invite them to rebuild a solid, Christ-based foundation and community for their long-term well-being.

“I knew the only chance I had to turn my life around was to be a part of a community of people who were going to support one another; that’s the brotherhood you find at Phoenix Rescue Mission. I knew people would support and encourage me there. I went back there and tried to get in. That was one of the best decisions I’ve made in my life.”

This time, he’s plugged in. Instead of going it alone, he’s making sure he maintains the accountability and connections that make all the difference. In fact, he’s found an apartment of his own next to three other graduates who’ve traveled a similar path, to make sure the connections he needs are within easy reach.

His second time around, we were able to connect him to a grant that enabled him to get his Commercial Driver’s License. He’s using it to drive dump trucks and couldn’t be happier.

“I’ve been doing this for over a year,” he says, “and I love it. I have to pinch myself sometimes because I can’t believe I’m doing it. It feels good to have a great career and make good money doing it.”

Thank you for giving the gift that made it possible for Brian to have a home for the holidays.

A Return to Recovery | Brandon’s Story

Three years ago, Brandon was running amok in Show Low, drinking and doing drugs with abandon. It wasn’t until he ended up in prison that he realized he had been caught by the same trap as his cousin Danny.

“I remember hearing from my parents about Danny growing up. Sometimes we would overhear them saying, ‘Danny messed up again,’ and we all knew what that meant. But then I found out that he was doing really well. (So well in fact that he’s managing our Hope for Hunger Food Bank, see cover story.) And I wondered what happened. That’s how I found out about Phoenix Rescue Mission.”

After nine months, Brandon was released into rehab. Figuring that what had worked for his cousin would work for him, he enrolled in our Men’s Recovery Program. But he soon found out that recovery is more than just going through the motions.

“When I graduated, I left campus and pretty much fell flat on my face. I went back to drinking and taking pills almost immediately. That’s when I realized that I hadn’t been honest with anyone during recovery. I just told the counselors and staff what they wanted to hear.”

“I was honest with them. I told them I had relapsed and they recommended I start the program over from square one.

Looking back, it was the best decision I’ve made.”

"But there was something different this time. Even though I was back to doing drugs, God convicted my heart each time I did it, and it just got worse each time. I knew I had to go back.”

Recovery is a long road, full of ups and downs. Just as Christ grants us all the grace to return to Him time and time again, every graduate knows the doors are always open to them at Phoenix Rescue Mission if they stumble.

During his recovery, and before Covid forced us to close our Mission Possible Café temporarily, he found that working in the kitchen both complemented his studies and gave him a new perspective.

“I had a lot of animosity in my heart toward authority figures. I didn’t like them telling me what to do. As I worked in the Café, my attitude began to change. I started seeing how it wasn’t them versus me, it was us working together. They showed me how criticism can be constructive and to not take things personally. They basically helped me become an adult, to see the bigger picture, and I started loving going to work. Once you begin putting God first, everything changes and you start to transform.

Today, Brandon has completed recovery for a second time, but for the first time with an openness and honesty that has given him a real foundation for a new life. He’s found a steady job and is looking forward to graduation in October. He’s saving for a car and his future is looking bright, thanks to the grace afforded by friends like you.