Where Are They Now: Brianna 6 Years Later

Back in 2007, Brianna was young, overworked, and the victim of some pretty awful advice.

“I was working 16 hours days, I had my son’s father’s family with me and I was just exhausted. I was a pharmacy tech at the time. Someone gave me some heroin and told me it would help me sleep, and it did. I was clueless about how you can get addicted and how it can ruin your life.”

Brianna quickly found out first-hand. Over the next five years, her heroin addiction cost her everything – her job, her home, her freedom, even the custody of her son.

“I had really burned some bridges. I was lying and cheating and stealing from everybody. I was in jail multiple times. We were homeless for about a year; it was bad.”

It was her stepfather who convinced Brianna she needed help and pointed her to Phoenix Rescue Mission’s Changing Lives Center (CLC). Here she found the relationship and the recovery she needed to break her addiction, earn back the custody of her son, and learn how to become the best mother she could be.

“When I first went to the CLC, I wasn’t really a religious person. I didn’t believe God could do anything for me because He wasn’t real, it was just hope. But I found God here and He gave me the strength to move forward.”

Brianna graduated from our recovery program in 2014, but that was six years ago. Is she still moving forward? The answer is a resounding, Yes!

After leaving the Mission, she found a job at Forever 21, followed by a position in the billing section of a medical office, where she’s been employed for the past 5 years. She found the love of her life in 2017, got married and nine months later, had a beautiful baby girl on her birthday! Her son is also doing great; he just made the all-star hockey team.

"Back then, I thought that I was a good mother, but I wasn’t. I’m still making up for lost time. My son’s a great kid, he plays hockey, he’s great in school, he loves his new father, who thankfully has no sort of addiction in his life. We finally get to live how we’re supposed to live.

Brianna is another great example of the lasting change you make happen here at the Phoenix Rescue Mission – not just for individuals, but for their kids and families alike!

“It was life-changing being at the CLC. What I’ve gone through, I hope it gives others hope. Things can get better. YOU can get better!”

Mission Possible Cafe Grand Re-Opening

Talking Turkey: How turkey changed Fred’s life

What spurs people to volunteer comes in many different forms. Sometimes it’s the urge to right wrongs, or the need to share the love that overflows from their hearts.

For Fred, it was turkey.

“When I retired, I got a postcard from Phoenix Rescue Mission asking if I would donate a turkey for their Thanksgiving turkey drive.”

Thinking that was a fine idea, he picked up some frozen birds and looked forward to giving a couple of families a brighter Thanksgiving.

But God has a way of multiplying our efforts, sometimes, in ways we could never imagine. Fred didn’t know it, but the simple act of delivering those turkeys would change his life – and, with your help, the lives of hundreds more he hadn’t yet met.

“I brought my turkeys to an open house at the Mission. While I was there, I took a tour and when I saw all the amazing things they did, I told them to sign me up! I put my toe in first. Then my foot and then my leg, then both legs… I’m pretty well submerged now!” Fred says with a laugh.

That was three years ago, and Fred hasn’t looked back since. Today you’ll find him at the front of the line at our Hope for Hunger food bank where, up to five days a week, he’s assisting hundreds of families and individuals who come looking for food and hope.

“We greet them with hugs and smiles and ‘God bless you’s’, which, in our society, you have to be careful where you use that term. But around here, it’s not only allowed, it's encouraged!"

Like other volunteers can attest, service does so much more for Fred than what he feels it does for those he serves. When his friends question the number of hours he’s put in, he just smiles and shares one of the many stories that warm his heart and keep him coming back.

“I’ll never forget, a week or two before Christmas, an elderly gal came in a little apprehensive. She had never been here before. I greeted her and I put my arm on her back and said, ‘Dear, we’ll take good care of you. We’ve got lots of food today and we’ll fill this cart up.’ I watched her go around the circle, filling up the cart, and when she was getting ready to leave, I called out, ‘God bless you and have a Merry Christmas!’ Well, she stopped the line right there, walked over and gave me one of the most sincere hugs I’ve ever had in my life! I’ll never forget that.”

With the holidays approaching, we’ll soon see more families coming through our doors than at any other time of the year. That sobering thought has got Fred thinking. Turkey is what brought him to the Mission and with Thanksgiving right around the corner, turkey is still forefront on his mind.

“It’s an important time for everyone, especially families. Turkeys can feed a family for a good long while. I remember last year, thinking how exciting it was going to be because we were supposed to have 500 turkeys to distribute. When I pulled in to Hope for Hunger that morning, there were at least 300 vehicles outside waiting. To make a long story short, we fell far short of our goal last year.”

Fred is determined not to let that happen this year.

“I’ve already started making contacts to make sure of it. I’d like to get some corporate support and help from individuals and churches. If they could donate 10 or 20 turkeys or whatever they can possibly do, I’ll pick them up and we’ll have a turkey for every family this year. Our goal is 500 turkeys, but maybe we can do more. If so, that’d be wonderful. The need is definitely there.”

The other thing on Fred’s mind is the need for volunteers.

“We have a good crew, we have a lot of fun, there’s a lot of laughing, and a lot of teasing. But we don’t have nearly enough volunteers. You really need 10-12 people per shift back there to make it flow. Last Friday, when there were just four of us, it was tough. It makes it difficult.”

With three two-hour shifts, that’s 30 volunteers a day needed to keep Hope for Hunger humming along. If you’ve never had the opportunity to watch someone’s face light up when you hand them a box of much-needed food, take a moment to join Fred and the crew by visiting our volunteer page at prm.volunteerhub.com and signing up today!

Help Stock the Pantry!

We're running low on food - our neighbors need your help!

It’s 110 degrees outside. Turkey dinner with all the trimmings is probably the furthest thing from your mind right now. But the holidays are right around the corner – a time when so many hungry souls find their way to the Mission and our Hope for Hunger Food Bank, first for food, then for transformation.

The bad news is: our pantry is almost empty!

This summer has stretched our resources close to the breaking point. That’s bad news for the men, women, and children we serve. We need your help today to replenish and restock our pantry in time for the Thanksgiving rush!

It’s not just the homeless who benefit. Your gift this month will mean a world of difference for hard-working families on the edge like John’s:

“No matter how much my family plans financially, things happen unexpectedly,” says John. “Places like this help us out a lot.”

We can’t possibly turn our hungry neighbors away – not during the holidays, not ever. Together we can provide nutritious food and slip an arm around every famished soul that walks through our doors this coming season.

Thank you for your support as we gear up to give the chance to chow down and choose new life to as many hungry and hurting families as we can.

Increasing Hope.

The hotter it gets, the more urgent it becomes to reach the least, the last, and the lost, on the streets of Phoenix. We’re in a race against time and temperature. The good news is, we’re ramping up our Hope Coach program to reach even more lives.

Recovery graduate Rich Heitz, who operates the newest Hope Coach, along with his partner and fellow recovery graduate, Brently Kiesling, says they’re doing much more than that.

“We help them with water and hygiene, but we also help people get their IDs, Social Security cards, birth certificates, and of course, take advantage of one or more of our programs. We also do something we call diversion. If any of the homeless we meet have family in another state who are willing to let them live there and help them find employment, we’ll help them to get back to them.”

As part of Code:Red, each Hope Coach hits the road for eight or more hours a day, searching different parts of the valley for opportunities for transformation. This week, it changed the life of a stranded family.

“We met a mom and her three kids who drove down from Vegas looking for work. Their car broke down two months ago. She was pregnant at the time and had premature twins (girls) 10 days later, who are still at the hospital. They’ve been living out of that car ever since. Instead of getting DCS [Department of Child Safety] involved, we were able to bring them all to the Phoenix Rescue Mission’s Changing Lives Center. Now mom’s safe, the kids are safe; it was a good day.”

This is the kind of rescue you make possible every day with your support of the Phoenix Rescue Mission. It’s hard to imagine how stories like these would end without friends like you!

“It’s really cool,” says Rich. “Every day is different… I couldn’t ask for a better job. I was homeless myself for a lot of years, drug-addicted, needle-junkie; I have scars that’ll never go away. It gives me a lot of empathy when it comes to the homeless and addicted. I never wake up and say, ‘man, I’ve got to go back to work today.’ Every day is exciting! Every day is an adventure.”