Program to employment- life of dedication to mission
In 2000, Delmar Scott was dropped off in front of American Rescue Workers door by his sister. After spending years drinking, using drugs, and spending time in and out of jail, Delmar was ready for a new beginning. Delmar, known to friends as Deli, was out on probation and ready to turn his life around. He did so through American Rescue Workers work rehabilitation program, which he was able to complete in one year and four months.
“The program was strict. You had to walk a straight line- there were no more chances for me anywhere else.” Which, Deli stated, is exactly what he needed.
In 2007, he moved in with his girlfriend at the time and had become unemployed for 6 months. He went to directors, Sam and Dawn Astin, looking for a job within the mission. The next day, Sam called Deli and told him to be in his office the following workday at 9:30AM.
Deli started out working on the baler, baling donated clothing, but for the past two and a half years, he has been one of American Rescue Workers truck drivers. With his combined time as a resident and as a staff member, Deli had been running the baler for 18 years and was ready for a change. That change was possible when ARW was in need of a new truck driver, and Deli worked to get his driver’s license to be considered for the promotion. Every day Deli can be found out driving truck, conducting home pick-ups from the generous donors in our community, or lending a hand in the warehouse.
Deli’s dedication to ARWs mission certainly steams from his time as a resident. “It got my mind straight, the program really helped me out. If it wasn’t for the program, I would still be in and out of jail…or probably dead.”
When Deli isn’t driving truck or in the warehouse, he can be found visiting with other staff members in their offices, cracking jokes, and telling people that it’s snowing out…even in August. He is a class clown who brings a little sunshine to everyone’s day.
American Rescue Workers is glad that Delmar found his way to the doors of our mission and that he spends his days giving back to the ministry that saved his life. We wouldn’t have it any other way.
A journey to freedom and hope
At the beginning of 2018, Central Pennsylvania resident Jon Hagan found himself at the lowest point in his life. Although he was college educated, grew up in a loving, middle-class family, was married, a father, and up to that point gainfully employed – Jon found himself homeless, without work, on the verge of divorce, and with no prospects. The reason? For years Jon had been battling severe alcoholism. And for a long time, Jon was convinced that he could handle it himself. The reality was – he could not.
After seeking treatment in a 28-day rehabilitation program, Jon’s counselor suggested that, since his wife of almost 8 years did not want him returning to their home, he should enroll in a half-way house program. The only problem – halfway house programs all but don’t exist in Lycoming County and surrounding areas. “Yeah…there weren’t a whole lot of options for me,” confessed Jon, “while I was in treatment a counselor shared his story of how he got sober utilizing both a 12 step program and living/working in a Salvation Army shelter for 6 months. So, being from Northumberland County, I searched for something like that instead.” And that’s how Jon found the American Rescue Worker’s Men’s Shelter in Williamsport.
Enter the ARW Men’s Shelter director (at that time) Mike Kane. “Boy, I’ll tell you! Mike helped save my life! I owe him so much!” explained Jon, “He gave me a chance when no one else (other than my recovery family from my 12 Step meetings) would! He showed me love, support, and was an ear for my concerns/issues early in recovery! Mike even saw hope in me when I didn’t see any in myself!” According to Jon, Mike also allowed him a chance to chase after and grasp his recovery with both hands. “I can’t tell you how important it was getting to meetings early on,” explained Jon, “ARW had a guideline where new residents can’t leave for the first 30 days. But Mike made the exception for me with meetings. He allowed me to get connected right off the bat and get picked up by a sponsor and taken to meetings. It really made the difference.”
Jon started attending meetings regularly and started working/living at the ARW. “I started out being a helper in the warehouse. Then, I got to become the laundry guy for the whole shelter!” Jon laughs, “That was a great experience. Washing, drying, folding, and delivering other people’s laundry really humbles you and teaches you discipline! Discipline was something lacking in my life while I was hitting the bottle! I got that back!” Within a few months, Jon was hired on as a full-time warehouse employee. “That was a great stepping-stone for me! It allowed me to be gainfully employed as I made the transition back into the real world!”
Jon also started to rediscover his spirituality and re-formed his relationship with God – thanks in no small part to Pastor Sam Astin and his wife Dawn. Jon elaborates, “Every morning Sam or Dawn would have all of us meet in the dining room and we would listen to scripture and/or pray. At first I didn’t care for it at all – to be frank I was pretty bitter to have ended up in a shelter. But I went every day and I wasn’t late… and it’s a funny thing, as your head clears and you listen… really LISTEN, I started to believe that my God had a plan for me.” Jon further explains, “Working a recovery program and having a God in your life affords you the ability to see what I call ‘God Moments’. It’s those little co-incidences that happen in your life that you can’t explain. But they’re not co-incidences! That’s God working in your life – doing for me what I can’t do for myself!”
Just like the counselor who shared his story to him, Jon ended up staying with American Rescue Workers for around 6 months. In that time, Jon was able to work a 12 Step Program, he was able to reconcile with his wife, he got to be a father again to his son, he was able to move back to his home. But most importantly, Jon is still sober today. “I’ve learned that my sobriety and my recovery program come first – before anything else. I’ve learned that God can and will work in my life if I let Him - as long as I stay out of my own way. I am happier now than I have ever been before! And I owe a lot of that to American Rescue Workers!” Jon further elaborates, “About 2 months after I moved home – my wife and I found out that we were expecting again! We now have 2 beautiful children and I get to be a father in their life! About 3 months after moving home – I got a job with a large company doing something that I really enjoy. I get to be a provider (along with my wife) for my family. Now, don’t get me wrong – not every day is all sunshine and rainbows, but, no matter what happens – I know now that I don’t have to take a drink over it! And that is real freedom!”
Jon states that usually once a week he still drives by the Williamsport American Rescue Workers on his way to work so he can remember where he came from. “Maybe one day soon I’ll park and come in to say hi and see everyone there who helped me. I know some of faces are different now, but the mission is still the same! And that mission is to save lives and give second chances - I owe that mission my life!”
Second chances and hope for a better life
Back in the 1980s Dave was a resident of the American Rescue Workers. "I was homeless due to some wrong choices I made in my life. I came upon the doors of American Rescue Workers for help, not knowing what to expect, but knowing that I did need help and a change in my life."
"I was not turned away because of the mess in my past or my present situation, but graciously taken in and sheltered by the staff of ARW. I was offered hope and a way to better my life."
Dave made the choice to accept the help that was provided and went through the work program that American Rescue Workers provides.
"Soon after entering the program, I was able to get a job, a place of my own, and have worked in restaurants and kitchens all over the area because of the second chance I was given. In 2001 a job opened up at ARW and I became an employee. I was employed as a cook for the Rescue Workers for thirteen years, and then became a night-watchman for the men’s shelter, for which I will always be grateful.
During these years I have been able to give back and pay forward the grace that had been given to me because of the staff and supporters of these programs. Thank you for supporting individuals and families who need the opportunity to get that second chance and the hope for a better life."
How American Rescue Workers helped one woman go from homeless to healed
In 1988, Doreen White had her daughter on her hip, her son by the hand and had nowhere to go. She was a person in recovery who suddenly found herself homeless and didn't know what to do.
Things hadn't always been like that. She was a good worker, a good mother, who had always taken care of her children, but recently her addiction had taken control.
"I was in active addiction for two years from the age of 26 to 28," she said. "I was beat up out in the world, just beat up ... the bottom fell out on me and I knew I needed to get help."
She called American Rescue Workers, a national religious and charitable organization that had just opened a center for women and children, and told them that she and her children didn't have anywhere to go. They invited her over and her life was never the same.
"When I got here, I saw it was a church and I thought, 'This is where God wants me,' " White said.
Even after 26 years, Linda Tokay, who is now a Captain in ARW, remembers the day Doreen came.
"Downstairs in the kitchen, at three every day, the women would cook and serve for people on the street," Linda said. "Doreen came in and at the time, Oodles of Noodles was on the stove. She said she didn't want any because she had lived on that stuff. With her addiction, that was all she ate."
Doreen said that Linda was one of the special workers who was crucial to her transition from addiction to recovery.
"Linda helped me go through so much: all my emotions, all my feelings, all my hurt, all my pain," she said. "Through all of it, Linda was there for me. Even to this day, I feel indebted to her because she did so much for me."
Doreen moved into ARW and took an active role in the recovery program. She began as a volunteer sorting clothes and quickly moved up to shift supervisor. Then she added a part time job at the Transitional Learning Center, which, at that time, was next to ARW.
"I worked third shift at American Rescue Workers," she said. "It was a sleeping shift. I was able to sleep maybe three or four hours, then I would go home, get a shower and go to the Transitional Learning Center, where I work, to this day, helping women offenders. In July, it will be 25 years that I've been at TLC."
Doreen has gone above and beyond simply being on her feet, she's been so successful that in 2011, the YWCA named her one of the "Women of Excellence." She also works with the United Church of Christ's Journey House, a transitional living program, teaches a weekly re-entry course at a local prison and recently became a member of the YWCA's Board of Directors.
Doreen is dedicated to helping those who find themselves in difficult situations, just like she had so many years ago. She's also humble about her success. She said, "I don't believe I'm a woman of excellence. I just believe that what was given to me I have to give back."
She can't say enough about the American Rescue Workers and what the organization did for her.
"I didn't think that I could get the help that I needed," she said. "I really believed in my heart that I was on my own. But American Rescue Workers are exactly what they say they are: rescue workers. They rescued me, they worked for me and then I worked for them and I loved it."
Every year, one special trip
In 1982, Clifford Dehond ran away from his apartment in Hendersonville, N.C., to "clear his mind," as he says. He didn't know what he was going to do or even who he was going to stay with, but he had a vague idea of where he wanted to go: Central Pennsylvania. He knew that he was originally born somewhere in Lycoming County, and perhaps hoping to discover more about his past or possibly just trying to get as far away from North Carolina as he could stand, he bought a one-way ticket to Williamsport, Pa.
After a bus ride that spanned two days — totaling around 26 hours — he arrived in our small city and entered the doors of American Rescue Workers, who took him in.
"I don't remember if the police brought him here or what, but he just showed up," General Claude Astin said. "He had run away from his home in North Carolina and we started trying to determine something about him."
After a lot of coaxing, Claude was able to get the name of Cliff's caseworker, who made arrangements to bring him home in a few days. But Cliff, a lively, willful person despite his intellectual disability, would only agree to go back home to Hendersonville if ARW would allow him to come back and visit every year. Impressed by his determination, Claude agreed and for more than 30 years, each year that he was able, he has reliably made the exhausting trip.
"I keep coming back because this is like a family to me," Cliff said. "It's like a family that I come to spend time with."
"He calls it his vacation," Colonel Sam Astin said. "But he likes to come here every year around Easter. It used to be one week and now it's two weeks. There's a lady in his church, her name's Carolyn, and she contacts us to make sure that we have space. Then he does the two-day bus trip and comes to stay in the shelter."
Although Cliff calls it his "vacation," when he stays with ARW, he helps in any way he can.
"He's a worker," Sam said. "He'll do whatever he can do. He has done a lot of physical work here. He's worked in the baling room where they bale clothing. He's worked in the kitchen, where they wash the dishes. He's worked with the trucks, helping to load and unload. He's not one to sit idle."
Cliff's also not one to give up either. In 2002, he suffered a surgery-related stroke that put him in a coma for two weeks. After he woke up, he was mostly paralyzed and had to learn how to talk and walk all over again. This was the only time when he didn't make his journey to Williamsport - when he was physically unable.
"I've been through brain surgery, foot surgeries and knee surgeries, but I never gave up because I'm a Christian. As a Christian, you can't give up," Cliff said. "God will always be there to help you. God will fight the pain with you."
Clifford has used his time to help others as well, taking mission trips with his church, the First Baptist Church of Hendersonville, to disaster recovery zones in New Orleans after hurricane Gustav and in New Jersey after hurricane Sandy.
"It's hard seeing these homes after they've been destroyed by flooding," Cliff said. "I help to tear down the walls and stuff inside the houses."
His proudest moments have come from bowling at the Special Olympics, which he's done several times over the last 20-plus years. He's won six medals, and in 2010, he was flown on a private jet to the games in Lincoln, Nebraska, where he "brought home fourth, fifth and sixth place ribbons," according to the Blue Ridge Mountains' Times-News.
But no matter what happens during his life throughout the rest of the year, each Easter, he'll return to his family at ARW, the one that took him in all those years ago when he needed someone the most.
"It's an amazing story," Sam said. "And we're happy to have him keep coming as long as he's able."
"They couldn't keep me home," Cliff beamed.