An Amazing Journey

Ron busy at work for the City Mission

From Success to the Depths of Despair to Redemption

“I’m richer now with nothing than I was when I had everything.”  “I’m on an amazing journey right now,” said Ron, a current resident at City Mission.  “People here don’t see me as a failure.  They look at me like I’m a victor and not a victim.  ”Not that long ago, Ron was the General Manager of a car dealership.  “I made really good money.  I always had a new car to drive, and I was responsible for 87 employees.  I’ve been blessed with so many good things in my life, and I’ve ruined them all.  

”Ten years ago, Ron had gastric bypass surgery.  “I was a 500-pound man who was always treated like less than human.  I thought if I lost weight, I would get more respect.”  As he slimmed down, his career and social life both took off.  “When I started losing weight, that’s when all the promotions came.  All of a sudden, I started getting compliments, and they all went right to my head.  ”But there were complications from the surgery.  His doctor prescribed medication, and he became addicted to painkillers.  “I couldn’t eat that much any more,” Ron said “so I just exchanged one addiction for another.  ”Ron grew up with loving, supportive parents, and he attended church faithfully as a child, but there was always something broken inside.   “Looking back on it now,” he said.  “I see that addiction has always been a part of my life.  I was always overweight, and I believe that, even as a child, I was addicted to food.  ”After graduating high school, Ron felt called to go to Bible College and pursue a career ministering to overweight kids who were bullied.  That lasted one semester before he dropped out.  “One day, I realized I was never going to make enough money."  Instead, Ron transferred to Penn Commercial Business School and graduated with a degree in Accounting.  

He began his career as a lot attendant for a car dealership before earning a promotion to salesman.  “I was very happy working in the automobile industry.  I treated people with respect, and I made a lot of money.  ”Ron got married and had two beautiful kids.  “I gave my kids everything except time,” he said.  “My Dad was a great father, but we didn’t have very much growing up.  I thought if I could give my kids a lot of stuff, that would make me a good father.”  So when the promotions came, Ron jumped at the opportunities, but that meant less and less time with his family.  “My kids told me that they never wanted all the stuff.  All they wanted was to spend time with me.  That really hurts me now to think about.”Eventually, Ron’s addiction moved from painkillers to heroin, and his life began to unravel.  “I lost a wonderful job, my wife, the love and respect of my children, and ultimately a place to live.  ”Ron became a felon through his addiction and suffered two strokes that he says were a direct result of using heroin.  He lost his home, burned all of the bridges with his friends and family, and finally found himself living on the street.  

When he went into rehab for the sixth time, he was tired of being an addict.  “I didn’t feel like I deserved to ever be happy again, because of the people I’d hurt,” he said.  “I didn’t deserve to be forgiven, and I just couldn’t carry the shame and the guilt anymore.  ”He knew that his spirit was broken, and that the only way to heal was to find his spirit again, so he came to City Mission.  “City Mission is the perfect place for redemption.  It’s a place where I found love and compassion, self-respect and dignity.  

I have a light in my eyes again.  I’m a new creation, a new spirit, a new heart.  When I look in the mirror now, there’s a different person looking back at me.  It’s no longer the person that I hated.”Now that Ron has found redemption, he is hopeful to reconnect with his family and rebuild the bridges he had burned.  And he’s hoping to give back and help people who are as broken as he was.  “I’m praying that God can use my story to help people who feel they have to look a certain way, dress a certain way, or act a certain way to feel loved.  That’s the furthest thing from the truth.”“I chased and chased the things that I thought would make me happy, and when those things didn’t work, I put a substance in my arm,” he said.  “But through the love of Christ, I was able to forgive myself, and I’m richer now with nothing than I was when I had everything.”

September 5, 2018
Susan Gartland - Social Media Manager
Sue Gartland
Social Media Manager
Sue has a vast career in gospel rescue missions adding great value to the City Mission team. Sue has been in many roles in the mission and is always filling in where she is needed - which is A LOT!
sgartland@citymission.org

Recent Articles

City Mission Vets Give Back

2nd Annivesrary Crabtree-Kovacicek Veterans House
July 8, 2020

On July 3, City Mission’s Crabtree Kovacicek Veterans House celebrated two years of life transformation for homeless veterans. “This house is a testament to what can happen when a group of guys trust and believe in each other and work together to accomplish one another’s goals,” said Steve Adams, City Mission’s Manager of Veterans Services. Since opening its doors in 2018, the Crabtree Kovacicek Veterans House has helped restore 27 homeless veterans to independent living and helped 33 residents gain sustainable income. Boasting a 74% overall success rate for housing, employment, income, recovery, and spirituality, the Crabtree House is helping to restore hope and confidence for the 22 veterans they serve. City Mission’s program is about veterans helping veterans. The response from local veterans’ organizations who have donated money, clothes, food, and time to the residents has been overwhelming. “The donors have been so generous to this house,” said Tim, an Air Force veteran who came to the Crabtree Kovacicek Veterans House in October 2018 after breaking his hip. “The amount of donations that come in -- it’s just an overabundance. For me, it’s important to find a good way to give back.” In addition to getting help for our veterans, our residents are also finding ways to give help to other veterans. Every day, they are helping, supporting, and encouraging each other. “Vets are more willing and able to open up to other veterans,” explained Adams. Tim agreed, “It’s a matter of taking an oath and making a commitment. We all held up our end of the bargain for our country. And maybe that’s what sets us apart. An oath really does mean something to each and every one of us.” Veterans helping and supporting each other is key to their recovery. According to the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans, “The most effective programs for homeless and at-risk veterans are community-based, nonprofit, “veterans helping veterans” groups. Programs that seem to work best feature transitional housing with the camaraderie of living in structured, substance-free environments with fellow veterans who are succeeding at bettering themselves.” But the veterans in City Mission’s program are also reaching out to the community and giving back. Wendi Kraemer is the President and founder of Angels Journey Home, a rescue shelter for animals. A few years ago, her organization partnered with the Veterans Administration to create the Angels For Everyday Heroes program, which rescues animals, trains them to be service animals, and then connects them with veterans in need all over the country. “There are so many homeless veterans in need,” she said. “So many suffering every day.” Her organization donates to the Crabtree Kovacicek Veterans House every couple of months. “We’re here for vets,” she said. They were able to donate a nice suit to a resident who said he had never owned one. They even donated special shoes to a resident who suffered with foot pain related to diabetes. Last spring, a small group of residents from the Crabtree Kovacicek Veterans House went over to Kraemer’s 10-acre facility to give back. “They came and picked up trash, laid mulch all around the property,” Kraemer said. “We have a cat sanctuary, and they helped us out with that. It was great watching them laugh and joke around and just disconnect from their problems.” Joe, an Air Force veteran who came to the Crabtree Kovacicek Veterans House in April of last year, was there that day, helping to give back. “It was a lot of fun. I love doing that kind of stuff,” he said. Joe replaced some roof boards on the cat sanctuary. Tim helped Kraemer sort through donated pet supplies. Joe and Tim both agreed it felt good to give back to an organization that is doing good in the world. “It’s good to feel productive,” Tim explained. “That’s rewarding in and of itself.”

A New Lease on Life

Resident 'Tim' takes a smoke break
June 12, 2020

“A New Lease on Life” In 2018, Tim, an Air Force veteran, was living in a hotel behind a bar. He had lost his Mom and his job of nearly twenty years in 2010, and his life had been slowly unraveling ever since. “Before I came here,” he said, “there wasn’t a single activity in my life that didn’t involve a drink – even taking a shower.” On July 6, he tripped over a pine root in the dark and broke his hip. “I was intoxicated,” he explained. “I haven’t had a drink since that night. That just woke me up. I firmly believe God laid His hand on me.” That freak accident eventually led him to City Mission, where, in August 2018, after hip surgery and eight weeks in physical therapy, he began the work of healing his mind, body, and spirit. Tim was born and raised in Monongahela. His Dad, who had been a Navy gunner in World War Two, was a crane operator for a steel mill in McKeesport, and his Mom was a Registered Nurse for a local hospital. He spent 12 years in Catholic School and received an excellent education. After graduation, he knew he needed a change of scenery after dabbling with drugs and alcohol his last few years of high school. Also, his dad foresaw the closing of local mills and knew that times would be hard financially in the Mon Valley for years to come, so Tim joined the Air Force, attending Basic Training at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, TX. After Basic Training, he trained to be an Air Crew Life Support Specialist. He would pack and maintain emergency items for the flight crew, such as flight helmets and survival kits – a job requiring significant attention to detail. In 1991, several years after leaving the military and returning home to the Mon Valley, he began working as a custodian for a school district in the South Hills, and he worked there for nearly twenty years. “It was the best job I ever had,” he said. “It wasn’t a high-paying job, but I really liked the people I worked with. It was very close-knit. And it was something different every day. It was the only job I ever had when I didn’t dread going to work.” Then in 2003, his drinking started to become more and more of a problem. “It was my own fault,” he said. “I can’t blame anyone but myself.” In 2010, he went to rehab, but he couldn’t complete the outpatient part of the program, because his mother, who had been ill, passed away. Completing the program was a requirement for returning to work, so he lost his job. Devastated, he moved to Oklahoma with his sister just to get away and start fresh, but that only lasted a few years. “This is home,” he explained. “The roots are sunk deep.” He moved back to the Mon Valley, but with his family all gone, he had nowhere to stay, so he lived for the next five years in a hotel behind a bar until the night he fell and broke his hip. He came to City Mission in August of 2018 and then moved into the Crabtree Kovacicek Veterans House that October. “This place affords you all the opportunities you need to heal,” he said. “It’s not a homeless shelter in the way you think. They offer career placement and medical care and classes. It’s a place to heal your mind, body, and spirit. When you heal physically, it helps with your recovery, and that helps you re-establish your relationship with Christ. And you’re just a walking shell unless you have a relationship with Christ. Mind, body, and spirit -- they all three mesh together.” “City Mission gave me a sense of self-worth and put me back in touch with the Lord,” he added. “Knowing that I could be of service is important to me. I just want to do something positive, effect positive change, and I know I’ve made positive contributions here.” “At the Crabtree House, we have confidence and self-respect. Perhaps it’s from our military experience. We’re all brother veterans, all working together for the betterment of all. I’m grateful to be able to have a sense of pride in something. And we take pride in that house.” “Thanks for saving my life,” he said to all the staff at City Mission. “For giving me a new lease on life.”