Where are they now? Tiffany 5 years later…

When Tiffany Sorenson graced the cover of our newsletter back in January of 2014, we told her story of repeated success and failure. Despite reinventing herself again and again, she could never get past the unhealed emotional wounds from her past or the alcoholism that always accompanied it.

Over the years, her addiction had cost her peace, a college degree, employment and eventually, her hope for the future.

“At one point I needed two 99-proof shots in the morning just to even out,” she admitted. “Peace was missing inside me and I stopped trying to figure out how to get it back.”

That is, until she connected with the Phoenix Rescue Mission’s Changing Lives Center. With the support of our counselors and staff, Tiffany was able to confront and overcome the root of her addiction for the first time in her life! But that was five years ago. Where is Tiffany now?

The simple answer is: busy!

Even before leaving the Phoenix Rescue Mission, Tiffany was busy giving back. In her final months, she worked for Safe Haven, a shelter for mentally ill homeless adults, and went back to school to finish the double major of psychology in criminal justice her addiction had forced her to give up on.

She graduated soon after, with honors and a 3.8 GPA, in 2015. Bachelor’s degree in hand, she earned a position as a case manager at Terros Health where, eight short months later, she was promoted to team leader as a clinical coordinator, leading one of the best performing teams in her clinic. While she worked at Terros Health, she also interned at Catholic Charities as a domestic violence counselor, and later at Chicanos Por La Causa Corozon as a substance abuse counselor.

At the same time, Tiffany started down the path of earning her Master’s degree in Social Work from ASU, adding an additional 20 hours of classes and study time to her already busy schedule, and graduated in 2017. Whew!

Today she serves as a therapist for Terros Health and is still hard at work improving herself and her ability to help others around her. She and her fiancé bought their first home 18 months ago and have set a date to get married in May!

But through all her success, Tiffany hasn’t forgotten where her life turned a corner or the friends she made while she was here. She keeps connected with other alumni through Facebook and the occasional lunch to catch up.

Tiffany’s is more than a life changed. Throughout her career, she will go on to touch and change more lives than we could ever have imagined. God’s mercy, your support and Tiffany’s hard work made that happen. We’re so proud of Tiffany! And we’re thankful for your support that gave her the chance to shine.

The Thankful Give Back

 

This Thanksgiving season is a time to remember what God has done in and through our lives and to count our blessings.

You might think that would be hard to do for someone in Lesa’s position. She lost her eyesight in one eye due to a stray bullet fired downtown. She lost her daughter to a bullet fired by her daughter’s friend. Now she lives on disability, and funds and food are tight. But amazingly, Lesa is still smiling.

Why?

Because of a little place you make possible, called Phoenix Rescue Mission’s Hope for Hunger Food Bank.

“I was at a nightclub one night and some people started fighting,” remembers Lesa. “I left to get a taxi and that’s when I heard some shooting. I started running, but then I blanked out. My friend said I went down grabbing my face. I’m not sure, but think something ricocheted and hit my right eye. I lost half my eyesight.”

Ever since that day, Lesa’s gotten by with the help of disability. But even with disability pay, sometimes the ends just don’t meet.

“A couple months ago I was getting low on food and I was looking for a job. A neighbor of mine knew about Hope for Hunger and he brought me up here. I heard they gave out food boxes, but when I got here, there was even more.”
Expecting to find help filling her pantry, she also found friendship, and a hand up.

“Ruben [Hope for Hunger Case Manager] helped me out with getting my state ID. He even helped me get this job with the convention center. I couldn’t see the application form on the computer, the type was too small, so Ruben sat and filled it out for me. I got an interview the next day!”

The whole process made a huge impact on Lesa. Now, every morning, Monday through Friday, Lesa walks 45 minutes from her home to serve as a volunteer at Hope for Hunger from 7:30 a.m. to noon.

“I help make the food boxes, pass the food out, and work the parking lot waving people in. I also help greet people and load the food in their car. This food bank is a good thing. People coming in can get help just like I did. Just sit down and talk with them, tell them what you’re going through and they can help you get through a lot of things.”

Lesa speaks from experience. After losing her eyesight and her daughter, she was in a dark place. Thanks to God’s love and the support of friends like you, she didn’t stay there for long.

“I saw it all cave in on me after I lost my daughter. But you can’t let it knock you down. You’ve got to keep going, because there’s a God and he’ll show you a better way. You don’t know what God has planned for you. That’s how you meet people like Ruben, very good people who put a smile on my face. As long as they let me keep coming here to get that smile, I can make it.”

Through your support, Hope for Hunger helps hundreds of families every month make ends meet, enabling them to stay safe and off the streets. But as the holidays approach and the numbers looking for hope this holiday season begin to swell, we need your support all the more.

If you’ve never had the privilege of handing a box of nutritious food to a hungry family, or help someone like Lesa connect with resources that can change a life, visit phoenixrescuemission.org/volunteer to sign up today!

Of course, we don’t all have the time or the ability to lend a physical hand. A financial gift works just as well to keep families safe this Thanksgiving!

No matter how you partner with us, you’ll know that, this Thanksgiving, when Lesa and hundreds of families like hers sit down to enjoy dinner, they’ll have a new reason to be thankful…

You.

Where Are They Now?

Here at Phoenix Rescue Mission, we’re thankful for God’s commitment to see lives changed. Every year, hundreds of men, women and families find freedom from addiction and homelessness through the life-transforming recovery programs at the Phoenix Rescue Mission.

But have you ever read one of our amazing stories of redemption and wondered “Can this be real? Is it truly transformation or just temporary?”

To answer that question, you’ll need to buckle up as we take a trip down memory lane and check in with some of the recovery stars of newsletters past to answer the question, Where are they now?

You may remember Elizabeth. We celebrated her recovery story back in August of 2014. After seven years of surviving on the streets, hopelessly addicted to methamphetamines, her life completely changed at the Phoenix Recue Mission’s Changing Lives Center. Your support helped her earn her GED, find freedom from her addiction, learn how to be a supportive, loving mother, connected her heart to the only one who makes true transformation possible, Jesus Christ.

Today, Elizabeth is still going strong, walking the path God has laid out for her. She’s celebrating her sixth-and-a-half-year of sobriety, recently saved up and purchased a new car and is a proud mother of an adorable and energetic first grader. She’s found a position at the Salvation Army offices as a receptionist, where God allows her to use her experience to pour into others.
“I love it! It’s a really humbling job. I get to see ‘me’ coming in all day long. There are women who come in and I can just tell where they are and where they’ve been – I can see it, because that’s how I was. I try and reach out when I can and share my story when it’s appropriate. It makes me feel good to help and makes them feel good to know someone understands where they are. It really helps.”

Although she’s a busy mom, she makes it a priority to stay connected for support and to give back.

“I try to stay connected to all the girls. I go to the Changing Lives Center alumni meetings every couple of months. I also have a mentee who is in the recovery program at the CLC.”

True transformation is never temporary and Elizabeth is a shining example of the truth of that promise. Stay tuned for some familiar faces as we continue to check in with our graduates to find out, Where are they now?

Our Graduates, Graduate!

Recently, in a collaborative effort between Phoenix Rescue Mission and the Governor’s office of Youth, Faith, and Family’s Arizona Angel Initiative (AAI) program, 15 of our graduates have become credentialed as Peer Support Specialists!

A Peer Support Specialist uses his or her lived experience to offer strength, insight and hope to others. Essentially, they are living proof that recovery is possible. But more than that, as trained specialists, they are able to journey with others on their own path to recovery.

“Having peer support credentials means that the struggles that held me back my entire life now enable me to help other people,” says Kasandra, who graduated from our recovery program in July of this year. “It’s exactly what I need to really make a difference.”

Peer Support credentials are highly prized in the recovery world. They open doors to employment in primary care offices, medical centers, emergency rooms, clinics, inpatient and outpatient facilities, recovery centers, faith-based organizations and criminal justice settings, just to name a few. As such, they are not easy to obtain. Each graduate is required to attend five eight-hour classes to prepare for the 100-question competency exam at the end of the course.
We’re proud to say that EVERY ONE of our graduates passed this grueling exam with flying colors!

“The anticipation was heart wrenching!” says Billy. “They called us one by one and when I heard my score I jumped in the air, clicked my heels and yelled. ’98 percent!? Woo-HOOO!’”

We would like to thank CHEEERS, a non-profit focused on individuals and families affected by behavioral health conditions, and their members, Lisa Zaran and Carlie Shillet, for providing excellent Peer Support training that made earning these credentials possible for our graduates.

Carlie shares, “It was a wonderful experience and I have learned so much about what Phoenix Rescue Mission does for the community. It truly was a pleasure to train the 15 men and women. I would love to come back and train more! These men and women exude the mission statement and the values that Phoenix Rescue Mission was built on.”

The Ripple Effect

One way or another, God's work leads to new life.

Ken was a success story in progress...

It had been a whirlwind couple of months for Ken. First, he had reconnected with his estranged brother, Randy, after more than 10 years, only to discover Randy had been homeless for a while. Then a few weeks later, Ken was evicted from his apartment and became homeless himself. When the brothers decided to pool their resources and rent an apartment together, Ken showed up on move-in day but Randy was nowhere to be found. Sitting in front of his new apartment bewildered, he was approached by a stranger.

“This guy comes up to me and asks, ‘What’s up?’ and I don’t know him from anybody so I say, ‘I don’t know.’ And at that point he says, ‘I take it that you don’t know what’s happening.’”

The man was our recovery graduate Rich Heitz, the driver of our newest Hope Coach. He explained that he had met up with Randy on the streets and that Randy was currently enrolled in Phoenix Rescue Mission’s Men’s Recovery Program. Randy had asked Rich to meet up with his brother and explain what happened.

“I was in shock. It sounded to me like my brother had abandoned me. So I took my stuff and told Rich, ‘Goodbye! I’ve gotta walk.”

Ken went to live in the river bottom in lower Buckeye, but Rich continued to keep in contact, hoping to convince him to leave the streets. Nothing Rich said seemed to have an effect, until he approached Ken one day with sad news – Randy was in hospice.

“I got to talk to him one last time. He told me that he was sorry for leaving, but that he had to do it. He passed away shortly after.”

At Phoenix Rescue Mission, we believe God’s work never returns void. This was a perfect example of the ripple effect of God’s love in action.

“That was a wake-up call for sure. I knew in that moment I needed to turn a corner, find something better. I called Rich and told him to sign me up.”

Ken enrolled in our Men’s Recovery program. He accepted Christ and was baptized on June 18th!

Ken wasn’t the first to benefit from the ripple effect and he won’t be the last. You may have heard about a young man named Joshua Staggs. He had been homeless in Goodyear for five years, until a partnership between Phoenix Rescue Mission and the Goodyear Police Department started a ripple effect of its own.

“He was a heroin addict and used meth,” says Officer Martinez. “We had many prior encounters with him. He was one of our frequent flyers.”

But that soon changed. In September of last year, Goodyear PD formed a special “Homeless Outreach Team,” comprised of Officer Martinez and Sergeant Ward, designed to offer resources to the homeless.

“We go out and look for individuals on the streets or in camps. Together with Phoenix Rescue Mission, we offer them hygiene kits, water, shoes, and clothing. The ID vouchers are the most popular, that’s a door-opener. Once we started the homeless outreach and began offering Joshua resources, he decided to go to the methadone clinic to try to kick the drugs.”

Nine months later, Joshua was back on his feet, off the streets and living in his brand-new home.

“Phoenix Rescue Mission helped him a lot with transportation, with bus passes and actually driving him to get his ID. From what he tells me, it was that feeling that somebody cares that helped him decide to make the change.”

That’s more proof that when you meet people where they are, there’s no telling what God can do or how many lives you’ll transform. Thank you for the support that’s making big waves in our city!