Envying the Dead | September 2015 Newsletter


“I didn’t want to live anymore,” says Rita. ”I would cry out to God ‘Why? Why do you take people every day who have responsibilities, who have kids and families who depend on them? Why do you take them and not me?’”

In 2005, Rita was 37 years old. She had been married for 14 years, had three beautiful children and owned a nice house in Arrowhead. She ran a successful child care business with a staff of 20 employees and every Sunday you could find Rita and her family attending service at Christ’s Church of the Valley.

To the outside observer, it seemed like she had it all figured out.

But inside, Rita was dying.

The previous year, she discovered her husband had had an affair. For months she held the pain inside, burying it with work and alcohol. But when a minor surgery also gave her access to prescription pain pills, the tight weave of Rita’s life began to unravel.

“I was a mess,” admits Rita. “I was not functional, my life was chaos. I went from having… what I thought was everything, everything I needed to complete my life, everything I ever wanted, to living in a box on the street.”

I went from having...

Rita had a nervous breakdown. Her husband moved out with the kids, she lost her business and her home, and tried to commit suicide. The attempt landed her in a mental institution for a month. When she left, Rita turned to drugs for help.

“I didn’t care anymore,” Rita says. “I let everything go. Over the next 10 years, I was in and out of jail and prison for unpaid child support. I spent the last three with a dope dealer who was abusive. He would shave off my hair, pistol whip me, sometimes beat me to within an inch of my life. But I didn’t leave because, deep down, that’s what I thought I deserved.”

In between trips to prison, Rita was sent to recovery program after recovery program.

She tells us, “I would go into recovery expecting that once I was sober, all the things that I had lost; my family, my home, my life, would come back. When it didn’t happen I would use that as an excuse to drink and soon I was right back where I started.”

Need help?

Then Rita found real hope when the judge sent her to the Phoenix Rescue Mission’s Changing Lives Center.

“None of the other programs had a spiritual aspect. Here I discovered that without God in my life, there was no way I was going to change… it was an incomplete recovery. Now for the first time in so long, I want to live. I wake up every morning and thank God for another beautiful day,” says Rita with a smile.

Thanks to the grace of God, the work of our counselors and staff and the support of friends like you, Rita is no longer wishing for death. Instead she’s sober, living a redeemed life, and looking forward to helping others find that same hope.

Rita profile photo

“This place gave me all the love and support I needed when I needed it most. It saved me,” says Rita. “I had given up on life, but this place gave me hope… it gave me – me. And I’m going to pass that on. If I’m flipping cheeseburgers for the rest of my life, that’s ok, because every spare moment I have I’m going to give back and I’m going to do His work. If I can touch one person the way this place touched me, it will all be worth it.”

See Rita in our new Mission video by going to "The Mission" page.

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Paying It Forward

Richard at desk

You may remember Richard. Just 16 months ago Richard was homeless, addicted to alcohol and sleeping in the bushes behind a church. He had lost ties to his family, his own daughter considered him dead… his life was in total shambles.

Then one day in a search to find food, Richard heard about the Phoenix Rescue Mission.
We reported that thanks to the hard work of our team of counselors, chaplains and support staff, Richard found sobriety, reconnected with God, he got his own place, a truck and even rekindled his relationship with his daughters.

But Richard’s story didn’t end there. Since we reported on his recovery he’s been using the second chance you helped give him to Pay it Forward.

Richard in his nurse uniform

Today he’s working as a Behavioral Health Intern at Banner Heart Hospital, helping men and women attain sobriety and find their way back to wholeness. In his spare time, he volunteers at the Mission, signing up families who come for help. He’s even become a financial partner to the Mission, supporting the work that changed his life and allowing others the same opportunity to find transformation.

Richard tells us, “I believe in giving back to my community because of all the help that’s been given to me. It’s not something I have to do; it’s something I want to do.”

But the best thing about Richard’s story is that it’s not unique. The truth is, the life change God produces in the men and women here at the Phoenix Rescue Mission doesn’t end at the door. Each new life is another opportunity to touch and transform countless others. Scores of graduates like Richard have gone on to make it their life’s work to do just that.

One meal represented a turning point, not just for one man, but ultimately for many. Because someone cared enough to Pay it Forward and purchase a meal for Richard, today he is a changed man. But more than that, he is a man who is giving back. Through him, countless other lives will also be changed…. some of them forever.

Visit us on social media @phxmission and share with us the ways you are Paying it Forward. Use the hashtag #payitforwardphx to join the conversation.

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Phoenix is Rising!

Contained in the pages of this newsletter are stories of lives burnt to the ground by addiction, loss, illness, and misfortune. Their beginnings reflect the heartache and desperation we find behind the eyes of so many who walk through our gates. But thanks to your prayers, countless volunteer hours, and your financial support, these adversities only represent the beginning of each story.

Here at the Phoenix Rescue Mission, the weary and the downtrodden find rest, nourishment and healing, but most of all, they find hope. Like the namesake of our city, every man and woman who pass through our doors discover the chance to rise anew from the ashes, transformed, confident, walking in faith, and better than they were before. We love to share these stories with you every month through our newsletter.

To better reflect the amazing transformation we see in lives every day here at the Mission, we’ve changed the name of our monthly newsletter. We chose this new title, Rising!, because it’s the perfect summary of what effect your support has on the lives of those we serve, what happens to each of these lives, and what effect all of it has on our city as a whole. Since Phoenix Rescue Mission updated its look we thought that should extend to our newsletter.

We hope you enjoy reading Rising!

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Motivated by Love | August 2015 Newsletter

Motivated by Love

Jesse came from a broken home. His parents’ constant fighting filled his childhood with feelings of fear, depression and anger. Turning to drugs in high school to alleviate the pain, Jesse started down a road that not only cost him his possessions, his home and what was left of his family ties – it robbed him of his freedom.

“It’s hard for me to grasp how I was back then because God has changed my life so much. Even the way I think isn’t the same anymore,” says Jesse, a recent graduate of our recovery program.

He was just 19 years old when he found himself homeless in Phoenix, standing outside the gates of a government-run shelter downtown.

“That place was filled with the mentally ill, violent criminals, sex offenders and the addicted,” remembers Jesse. “It was unnerving at first walking through those gates, but because of the numbing effects the drugs had on me, I soon adapted. In fact, my addiction flourished so well there that it eventually became too much for the shelter to handle. So I left and took up residence for the next year under a bridge in southeast Phoenix.”

But the craving wouldn’t let him sit still. Each day would be spent looking for places he could shoplift, finding those who would buy the goods he stole and visiting the dealers who would help him feed his expensive habit.

“I was a lifeless machine driven by nothing but desire. It was exhausting but I couldn’t stop. Each night I gazed with dead eyes at the star-filled sky, listening to the cars pass and wondering if I was destined to do this forever. The hopelessness I felt was overwhelming.”

Over the next few years, Jesse spent time in and out of jail on shoplifting charges, eventually landing in prison. But through it all, Jesse’s addiction survived. As soon as he was released, the vicious cycle continued.

That is, until he had a run in with one of our graduates.

“I traveled to a detox center in east Phoenix and checked in for the night. Right before I was getting ready to leave, a woman who worked there pulled me into her office. She told me about how she had been an addict and the brokenness she had experienced. It freaked me out to hear how similar our stories seemed and how her words seemed to describe the pain and longing in my heart perfectly. She had been through the women’s program at the

Changing Lives Center where God had touched her life and changed it forever. I wanted that.”
The next day Jesse went to see his probation officer to ask her for help – she sent him to the Phoenix Rescue Mission.

I found a friendship and fellowship here...

That was one year ago. Today, Jesse is a brand new man. He’s completed our recovery program, has become a servant leader through our Servant Leadership Training program and is currently working part-time as the assistant to our Vocational Development Manager Rhonda Blake.

“Being able to use my skills and talents to help others find employment has been a real blessing to me,” he says.

The future is looking brighter than ever for Jesse. Recently, after a tour of our center, Grand Canyon University offered to provide one of our graduates with a full college scholarship. Jesse submitted a six-page, single-spaced essay describing his story and his hopes for the future and was chosen to receive $25,000 toward the major of his choosing! He’s set to move into GCU dorms on August 25th!

He plans on majoring in counseling with a minor in Christian studies with the goal of becoming an addictions counselor.

Thank you so much for the prayers and financial support that not only transforms the lives of people like Jesse, but also sets them on a path to bringing hope and healing to countless others! It’s a gift that keeps on giving!

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For those we serve, finding employment is the last, and many times, the hardest step on the road to transformation. Despite the changes that have been made on the inside, many still carry the wreckage produced by their past lives. Things like vagrancy-related fines, criminal records and large gaps in their resumes all send giant red flags to any prospective employer.

Rhonda teaching

To combat some of these barriers, the Phoenix Rescue Mission offers one of our most vital services – our Vocational Development Program. Rhonda Blake, our Vocational Development Manager, teaches classes and works individually with the men and women we serve to give them access to everything they need to find success in the marketplace.

  • Some of what we offer includes:
  • The latest in resume building techniques
  • Job leads
  • Interview preparation techniques
  • Assistance with online job search
  • Professional attire
  • Direction in obtaining certifications and licensure
  • Financial counseling
  • Assistance with obtaining a GED or High School diploma

Because transportation is usually an issue, we also provide bus passes once an interview is obtained and continue to provide them until the first paycheck is received.

This program has helped countless graduates of our recovery program find a way off the streets for good and back to living normal, healthy lives. But there is more we can do. There are countless families in our community who are living right on the edge of losing it all, for whom a better paying job would mean all the difference in the world.

Robert was one of them. That is, until he lost his job last year and couldn’t find another in time to keep his apartment. He ended up staying at the Mission where he volunteered between interviews. His luck changed when he met Rhonda. With her help, he was able to obtain government grants to pay for classes and obtained two certifications in computer programming. Today he’s found a job he loves, working at Sears as a Technical Support Specialist.

It’s for people like Robert that we opened these services to more than just the men and women in recovery. As of July 2014, anyone in our community who needs these vital services is welcome to take advantage of them. In that time, we’ve assisted 354 individuals from both inside and outside the Mission to become job-ready – resulting in 210 permanent job placements!

Robert tells us, “Through this experience I’m finally convinced that if you pray to God and keep faith in him, in your time of trouble, he will deliver you 100 percent of the time. Everything will be alright as long as I stay seeking God.”

These are the kinds of programs that are making waves here in Phoenix and changing lives before they end up on the streets like Robert. Together, we are building a better city, one job-placement at a time!

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Jerry Waehner

Retired park manager Jerry Waehner oversaw the operation of some of our biggest city parks, including South Mountain, for quite some time. When he retired 3 years ago, he became a regular in our cafeteria, serving hot, delicious food to those who needed it most.

But it’s when he got a taste of the life-altering power of the Hope Coach that things changed.

Watch the Story on the Street video with Jerry to find out what happened out on the streets that led him to seek more challenging ways to serve and live out his faith by clicking here.

Rest for the Weary

Shelter Renovation Interior

A cool, safe bed at the Phoenix Rescue Mission is a godsend for those who have been living on the streets. It gives them a place where they can get real rest, a hot meal, and a chance to take stock of their situation. More often than not, it’s a place where real transformation begins.

This past year, our Community Services Center has been undergoing construction to provide more of those life-changing beds than ever before. Soon we’ll have 80 brand new beds in addition to our current beds, but first we need bedding to get them ready for use.

Shelter Renovation Exterior

Just $50 supplies an XL Twin bunk bed with commercial-grade sheets, comforters, and pillows that will stand up to high-temperature washes and constant use for years.

Would you consider sponsoring a bunk and giving someone a night’s rest that may change his or her life forever? Just check the box on the enclosed reply and send your gift today.

Thank you so much for your continued support! Together we’re transforming lives one good night’s sleep at a time!

August Mission Mileposts

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Women in recovery honored as first graduating class of culinary arts vocational training program


Humana Foundation to donate $3,000 to program at Phoenix Rescue Mission ceremony

WHO: Phoenix Rescue Mission and Human Foundation.

WHAT: Six residents of Phoenix Rescue Mission’s Changing Lives Center for Women & Children, a long-term recovery program for women struggling with addiction and/or abuse, will be honored as the first graduating class of a culinary arts vocational training program funded in part by the Humana Foundation. Humana will present a $3,000 check during the ceremony so the Mission can continue providing the 16-week program. The grant is part of Humana’s commitment to volunteerism.

WHY: The Changing Lives Center serves a targeted group of homeless women and children; many of whom have suffered domestic abuse, substance abuse and addiction. The culinary arts program is just one of the many ways the center helps these mothers transition to a healthy and independent lifestyle so they do not return to the streets.

WHEN: Wednesday, July 29

WHERE: Contact the media contacts below for location information.


  • The Humana Foundation and Phoenix Rescue Mission will honor the four women of the first graduating class.
  • Graduating class members may be available to speak on what the program means to them and their future independence.
  • The Humana Foundation will present a $3,000 check to the Phoenix Rescue Mission.
  • Spokespersons from the Humana Foundation and Phoenix Rescue Mission will be available for interviews.

Phoenix Rescue Mission provides Christ-centered, life-transforming solutions to persons facing hunger and homelessness. The non-profit Mission, which has been operating since 1952, is asking the public for support of its many programs designed to save lives, including Hope Coach Street Outreach, Homeless Emergency Services, Men’s Addiction Recovery Program and the new Changing Lives Center for Women and Children.


Media Contacts:

Josh Skalniak, Fingerpaint, office: (480) 368-7999; cell: (480)352-2050, jskalniak@fingerpaintmarketing.com

Nicole Peña, Phoenix Rescue Mission, office: (602) 346-3342; cell: (602) 516-8576 (Onsite Contact) npena@phoenixrescuemission.org


Click here to download the Press Release PDF.