Blog Archive:

Honoring an Unsung Hero

L to R: Patrick Pastoret, Bill Bishop, David "Hopper" Hopkins

Today’s Rescue Mission lunch was much like any other day save for a very special guest, Bill Bishop.  Bill has been a consistent and quiet presence in the Santa Barbara recovery community and particularly for the men in our recovery program for many years.  It would be hard to number the men he has sponsored in his 30 years of sobriety.  The men coming through our recovery program often face challenges as they reenter the workforce, Bill’s willingness to employ many of them in his construction business has been crucial in giving them confidence and practical skills.

We couldn’t let Bill retire and move back East without properly honoring him but, like many of our most prized volunteers, he would have refused the banquet, gala, or parade he rightfully deserves.  We had to lie just a bit to get him to show up for a simple Friday afternoon lunch with the guys, but we were so grateful to pay him tribute and hear a few graduates and staff speak of his impact on their lives.  In the few comments we could get him to make, Bill pulled out his big stack of chips—one for each year of sobriety—and encouraged everyone to stay the course in their recovery.  May we never forget how taking things one day at a time can add up so significantly.

Is the Santa Barbara Rescue Mission effective because of its clinical treatment model?  Certainly.  Do lives get changed in our buildings?  Sure.  But nothing is more instrumental than the people God uses to impart grace to the men and women He brings to us.  Some of them, as staff, are very visible day-to-day, but some of our most crucial team members are those quiet ones, like Bill, who serve as a model and guide through the way they live their daily lives.

Many thanks and blessings, Bill!  We will miss you but will be reminded daily of you in the changed lives we see.

Rolf Geyling

Signs and Wonders

The students of Providence Hall not only painted the walls that encircle our courtyard, but they also donated signs for each of the doorways.  This is the place where our homeless guests congregate and for those who do not attend a chapel service they’re now surrounded by a visual sermon.  We are pleased with the aesthetic improvement and so excited that the message of God’s love has become even more accessible to our guests.  We know that the word is living, active, and sharper than any double edged sword.  A big thanks to the students of Providence Hall for spreading the gospel for us.

Proud of Our Graduates

Last weekend, there were a number of familiar faces at the Santa Barbara City College Graduation.   We congratulate LB and Danny (SBRM graduates and staff) for completing their Certificates in Alcohol and Drug Counseling and are equally proud of Joel, Peter, and David (SBRM graduates) for the completion of their degrees and certificates.  These are significant personal achievements for these men on their own journeys of recovery, but we also expect them to benefit untold numbers of people in the future as these certifications raise the clinical level of care we are able to provide for people seeking treatment.

As our vision statement speaks of people “living as productive citizens” and “leading others to recovery,” we celebrate an event like this that so clearly recognizes the accomplishment of these men and the promise it holds for others seeking recovery.

Congratulations, Graduates!

Rolf Geyling

Tori’s Journey

Tori started smoking marijuana at the age of seven and entered her first program ten years later.  She experienced some clean time but relapsed and started using crystal meth.  At the age of 20, she went into another program while pregnant with her second child and stayed clean for six years.  Tori relapsed again and turned her house into a meth lab that was soon raided.  Her three children were taken in the process.  She said they were very angry with her, because they thought she lied to them.  Tori told them she wasn’t going to go back to jail but she did.  That’s when she knew she needed to change her life.

It was at this time that she heard about Bethel House and was very resistant to the idea.  She said “I’d been to programs before, I’m a hooked to die dope fiend and I needed something stronger.  I knew that God was the only thing that could save me.”  Tori entered Bethel House on February 3, 2010 and at the age of 27 her healing began.  Even though she experienced clean time in the past, she never changed her thinking.  She said “I came in like a hard little street thug with a bad attitude.  I turned into somebody that’s vulnerable, has compassion, and sincerely cares about other people.”  Tori graduated in March of this year and returned to her husband and three children.  What a gift!

Celebrating Partnership

The end of this week comes with much joy and gratitude, and not just because of the beautiful weather!  This week the Santa Barbara Rescue Mission held its 2nd Annual Celebrating Partnership Luncheon.  During this event we thanked some of the key partners of the Rescue Mission’s work and celebrated what God is doing in our community.  How great it was to take a step back and appreciate what we are so blessed to be a part of!

Beyond an expression of gratitude, the event is also an opportunity to update our partners about the work they are supporting.  Rolf shared in his speech, “I view this event as a type of shareholders meeting, so we believe it’s important for us to show how we’ve stewarded your resources.”  He went on to share that last year we assisted over 1,750 individuals in deep need through our homeless guest services, outpatient and residential treatment programs.  Furthermore, of the 175 men and women who received residential treatment in our one year program, 37 graduated the program last year and another 11 have completed the program this year.  Each of these people who have come to us for help have received tangible assistance to address their unique needs, but even more importantly they have experienced the grace of God through His Church.  They came here under difficult circumstances and were loved in the midst of those circumstances.

All of this is only possible because people like you have been intent in caring for the men and women who come to us for help.  We thank you and celebrate your partnership with us!

Joe Foster
Director of Operations

Easter Feast

Photo by Dale Weber

We are holding our annual Easter Feast on Thursday, April 21 from 12:00 to 2:00 p.m.  The celebration will occur in the Rescue Mission’s dining hall. Our staff, along with the help of 40 volunteers, will serve meals to men, women and children in need.  Through charitable donations of food items and gifts from the Santa Barbara community, we are prepared to serve up to 300 people.

Joan, one of the Mission’s guests, refused to panhandle.  She’d lost her job and her home –– but not her dignity.  She kept on searching for work, praying an employer would look at her skills instead of the fact she was sleeping on the streets.  If she was careful, she could afford to eat one small meal a day…anxiety is what Joan felt as she calculated how long she could afford even that.  Without the Mission’s immediate help, through good meals and a safe place to sleep, she says “Worst case scenario, I would be on the streets and relapsing, which is my worst fear after having seven and a half years clean.”  Instead, “I’m going strong.  I don’t know where the Lord is leading me, but He’s going to lead me somewhere.”  The Mission will put a lot of people, like Joan, on the path to a better life this Easter season.

Tribute to Patsy Shealy

Anyone who makes even a brief visit to SBRM comes away impressed by the team of people who are dedicated to serving the homeless and addicted.  We are proud of the way our residential model and clinical approach have such incredible results, but tools like this are only effective if they are in the hands of skilled and compassionate individuals.  Among the best of these has been Dr. Patsy Shealy, who we bade farewell to this week after six years of directing our Bethel House and Clinical Supervision.

Patsy oversaw the establishment of the Bethel House in its new location on Arrellaga Street and this ministry will always bear her unique imprint.  She combined expertise as a psychologist with a compassionate heart and an engaging sense of humor that impacted scores of residents, staff, interns and volunteers.  Her investment in our staff raised the bar clinically across all of our programs and several staff have her to thank for the certifications they were able to earn under her tutelage.  I am so grateful for the many lives we were able to see God transform through Patsy’s efforts and expect to marvel all the more in eternity at those who were indirectly impacted by her and the team she led.

While we grieve her departure, both personally and professionally, we recognize God’s leading in this process and honor Patsy’s decision and the family concerns that are calling her out of the area.  She will always be a part of our family and our love and gratitude go with her.

Rolf Geyling

Photo by Christie Gabbert

Tom P. Moves On…

Today is an exciting day for Tom, one of the recent graduates of our Men’s Recovery Program.  After a year of challenging self-examination, key life skills training, and vital relapse prevention counseling, Tom is leaving SBRM and moving out into the community.  Having already made the move from our Men’s Program to our independent Sober Living facility, he is now moving on to his own place as he begins his new full-time job as Assistant Manager at a local fuel station.  What an encouragement he is to those men and women still in the program who hope to follow in his footsteps!

Even more exciting than the present success of independent living and a full time job, Tom is also a stunning example of our vision here at SBRM.  Just a little over a year ago, he was homeless in Santa Barbara and lost in his addiction.  But today he stands tall as a healthy, productive citizen who continues to rebuild his relationships and who is leading others to recovery.  That’s exactly why we do what we do, all to God’s glory!

Farewell to “Old Blue”

Saying farewell to a friend usually implies a person but in this case it happens to be a vehicle.  The Rescue Mission enjoyed the service of a 1984 Dodge van that was donated to us in 2001.  Steve Goralski, our men’s program director, said “It had more miles on it than the space shuttle.”  However, a week ago it burst into flames and after dousing the fire with five extinguishers, “Old Blue” is no more.  This was the only means of transportation for the men in our 12-month residential program, and we’re in desperate need of a replacement.  Please contact Rebecca at (805) 966-1316, if you’re able to help.

The Streets of Santa Barbara

The News-Press reports on Robert Raseta’s recovery from a lifelong alcohol addiction in this article:

The Streets of Santa Barbara

A Different Kind of Christmas

Last week I was chatting with Molly*, one of the residents in our Bethel House recovery program.  As you might imagine, our conversation touched on the upcoming holidays and how she was looking forward to a markedly different Christmas than last year.

She had a hard time reconstructing the series of events, but the tale involved drinking, living in a tent under an avocado tree, arguments with family, drinking, hitch-hiking, angry phone calls and more drinking.  What was clear is she woke up behind a dumpster at Denny’s.  The relative emptiness of a parking lot usually packed with breakfast customers gave way to the realization that it was Christmas morning.

Her Christmas breakfast consisted of coffee and food in a takeout container handed to her by an irritated manager with the expectation that she would go away.  She thought of her daughter waking up that morning and receiving Christmas presents from family members who had made the gut-wrenching decision to keep Molly away lest she do any more damage.

A painful, lonely memory like this is something Molly may only be able to share because of the hope that this Christmas might be different.  Life got more difficult before it got better, but in the three months that she has been with us, a process of hope has begun.  Through our Family Day program, residents begin the process of reconciliation with their families and Molly is hopeful that this will happen for her.  As Christmas holds the prospect for a long-awaited visit with her daughter, we are praying not only for this, but that God would do a larger work of restoration as she goes through the recovery process.

Molly and her family are one of many who are working to restore what has been lost through addiction.  Please join me in praying that the simple Christmas wish of being with family would be realized for them and that this would only be a small part of the reconciliation that is to come.

Rolf Geyling

*name changed for privacy.

Dinner in the Dark

The power went out recently.  We responded to it like one usually would when it’s a mid-afternoon interruption—wandering into the lobby and wondering aloud a bit over what might have caused us to suddenly loose our electronic lifelines.  Assuming that it would probably come on any minute, I returned to my office and started to venture into some tasks and housekeeping I could do without the computer.

But it didn’t come back on.

It was getting dark as we closed up the office and our guests for the evening were gathering on the sidewalk outside.  A walk into the kitchen showed me that not everyone in the building was as hamstrung as I was in not having any electricity.  The gas appliances were still working and the residents on kitchen duty had flashlights in hand as they went about preparing dinner—after all, the power would probably come back on any minute.

But it didn’t.  The utility guys down the street told us they were waiting for a major part to get flown in.  It would be that way until morning.

Once or twice, I’ve wondered what we would do if something like this ever happened—and now I know.

Without awaiting any executive conferences and decision, the staff and residents got ready for the 200 community members in need who join us for dinner every evening.  The generator someone found in maintenance didn’t start up right away so there was a brief experiment with opening up all the window shades to light the dining room with headlights of cars parked outside.  They finally got it running (phew) and were able to light the room (albeit dimly) with a few temporary lights.  Any and all residents were on hand and they used every flashlight, glow stick, and even the occasional cell phone screen to help our guests through dinner, showers and to bed.

It was peaceful.  It was remarkable.  No chaos or stumbling about—people working together and guests enjoying the novelty of the evening.  It so clearly demonstrated the heart of our work and the passion this team has to extend God’s love and grace to people in need.  Nothing comes in the way of that; it doesn’t get put on hold because of little thing like not having electricity in the building.

It leaves me so proud of our team (thanks, Kevin and Rick) and so moved to be a part of it.  Thanks for being a part of making this possible.

Rolf Geyling

THANKS for all that was GIVEN!

Rolf Geyling and a new volunteer, Billy Baldwin.

I love the way we kick off the holidays here at the Santa Barbara Rescue Mission.  For as long as anyone can remember, we hold our annual Thanksgiving Feast on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving.  For our family, it serves as a memorable start of the holiday season.

On the one hand, it’s not very different from what we do here every other day of the year—providing food and care for those who are hungry.  But thanks to many who give their time and resources, there are special touches which we trust communicates the incredible love God has for the lost, hungry and broken.

As the date approached, more and more people dropped by with turkeys and food for the feast.  While most people only get one day to savor the aroma of their dinner in the oven, we enjoyed the aroma for the better part of a week as our residents got everything ready and even found time to decorate the dining room.  On the day of the feast, we were joined by a dear group of volunteers—many of them regulars who’ve been coming for years—who helped us welcome and serve the hundreds who came for our feast.

I pray that those who came got more than just a plate of delicious food.  I hope they felt the love and concern of our team as they interacted with them.  I hope they sensed the extra time and effort that went into making the day special.  I pray that each guest was able to experience God’s great love for them and that this brings hope.

I am so proud of our staff and the work they do each day, but something as big as the Thanksgiving Feast lies beyond our capabilities.  We can only do it because people GIVE—their time, their resources and their prayer.  All of this giving is a moving thing to see firsthand and I can’t think of a better way to start off my holiday celebration.

Thanks and God’s blessings!

Cox Communications and SBRM

Cox partners with SBRM to raise funds by promoting Holiday Meals for $1.50 in this 30 second PSA. COX_SBRM_answerthecry

Winter Newsletter

In this issue of Milestones, you will discover how Felipe and Deborah were restored by love.  Winter 2010/2011 Newsletter

Turkey Drive

The Santa Barbara Rescue Mission is accepting turkeys, canned food, and monetary donations in preparation for its annual Thanksgiving Feast on Wednesday, November 24 from 12:00 to 2:00 p.m.  The Mission, along with the help of 45 volunteers, is planning to serve over 300 meals to community members in need.  This festive celebration will be held in the Mission’s dining hall located at 535 E. Yanonali St.

Approximately 900 turkeys are needed for all of the meals that will be served during the holiday season.  The birds are prepared and cooked in advance.  The Thanksgiving dinner will include turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, pie…and all the trimmings.

Rolf Geyling, president of the Rescue Mission, stated “On November 24, more than 300 homeless and poor people will come ‘home’ to our dining hall for the Thanksgiving Feast this year.  Isolated from their families…some struggling to cover emotional scars with drugs and alcohol…these lonely people are just searching for someone who cares.”

Donations may be dropped off Monday through Friday between the hours of 8:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. at the Yanonali St. office.

Kathy Ireland Bayou PSA

Kathy Ireland, our ambassador, produced this 30 second PSA to promote our upcoming annual benefit “Take Me Out to the Bayou.”

“I’m not going to let your donations go to waste.”-Tony

Tony readily admits he’s been in and out of trouble—and in and out of jail—for most of his 52 years of life.  But until last year, when he came to the Santa Barbara Rescue Mission, he didn’t know why.

A Santa Barbara native, Tony had come home to live with his mother, a few years earlier.  His addictions were completely out of control, and then, “I was the cause of her almost getting thrown out of where she was living.  I’d never taken any responsibility until then, but I had to straighten that problem out.  As a result of that, I had to leave the home, and I became instantly homeless.”

Out on the streets and in the grip of drugs and alcohol, Tony was helpless to protect himself from the violence that threatens the whole homeless community.  “I’d have blackouts and wake up cut up or beat up,” he remembers.  Every year, some of our homeless die from exposure, violence, and other dangers of the streets.  It looked like Tony would be next.

Then Tony got arrested, and seeing that jail had never helped him before, the courts sent him to us.  Here, for the first time, Tony explored the feelings he used to cover up with the drugs—the abuse he suffered from his mother as a child.  “She did crazy things,” he says sadly, but at the Santa Barbara Rescue Mission he’s learned the skills to work through those memories to healing.

If you met Tony today, you’d never believe he was the same man!  He’s an avid student at our Learning Center, and his family is amazed at his new life.  One brother, struggling with addiction himself, is even following in his footsteps!  “Not only do I want to be a productive citizen out there,” he says now, “I want to give back the way they gave to me.”

Meri Finds Mercy at Bethel House

Meri’s father was a “functioning” alcoholic who couldn’t seem to show his children any love.  So Meri went looking for other ways to fill that hole in her life.  “All my life I’ve struggled with drug addiction and abusive relationships,” she says sadly.  “They kind of went hand in hand for me.”

Things went from bad to worse when the end of another bad relationship left her homeless.  Now, she faced the nightly danger of violence on the streets—even rape.  Thank God, Meri was spared, but her life was chaos.  Her three children were living in three different states.  She no longer felt she had any reason to live . . . until she was granted a year at our Bethel House women’s program after a drug-related crime.

Now, if she could sit across a table from you, she’d say: “I wouldn’t have been able to do this without the donors who support the Rescue Mission.  There was a time I was literally crying by myself under a bush, thinking I was going to die and there was no hope for me to ever recover.  I had given up all hope for life.  Because of the Bethel House, it’s like somebody came along, held me in their arms and said, ‘It’s OK.’  Without Bethel House I would not have had the opportunity to heal and be the person I always thought I could be, a servant of God who wants to help restore other lives.”

Meri’s making the most of her second chance, restoring her relationship with her parents and her children.  “I never felt like I could raise these children and give them a better life,” she says, “Now I do.”  And for the first time in her life, she looks forward to the future!

“Without the Mission, I know I would be dead.”

Alana is the proud mother of an amazing 19-year-old boy named Nicholas.  Although they have an incredible relationship today, it was not always the case.  Alana comes from a long line of alcoholics, and her family worked hard at presenting a normal appearance to the outside world but on the inside it was far from the truth.  She said, “In my family you were taught that big girls don’t cry.  I was supposed to do everything on my own because it was weak to need anybody.  I was angry and hurt and I learned quickly that drugs were an escape from painful thoughts and feelings.  Using drugs made me feel powerful and for ten years I was under their spell.”  When Alana became pregnant with her son Nick, she was able to stay clean for three years, but she began to use, sell, and make drugs, which led to trouble with the law.

When she was released and out on bail, she realized that she could be locked up for 12 years.  Alana said, “I began to look at this hole I’d dug for myself.  I swallowed a bunch of Methamphetamine (speed) and had a loaded gun in my lap.  I prayed ‘God forgive me for what I’m about to do.'”  Thankfully, she woke up to a friend pounding on her door and asked for help.  He told her about the Mission and she filled out an application and was accepted.  Alana is the Mission’s Outpatient Treatment Coordinator and celebrated eleven years clean and sober this year.  Alana said, “I am so thankful that I did not pull that trigger.  Without the Mission, I know I would be dead.”