City Mission Gave Me Hope When I Had No Hope Left

pete relaxing for a fun photo

The City Mission Saved Pete's Life - Now He Gives It All Back

Pete was only six years old when he developed a taste for beer .   As an only child he spent a lot of time at his grandparents home while his dad worked as a Painting Contractor and his mother worked as a waitress. Pete was a highly intelligent child and was always looking for something to do.  His curiosity led him into trouble and he started sneaking beer from his grandfather and father.  He liked the way beer tasted and especially how it made him feel.  Eventually Pete’s grandparents discovered what he was doing  and scolded him fiercely for stealing and drinking.  He remembers telling them that a person can’t become an alcoholic from drinking beer.  


Unfortunately for Pete that was not the case.  Pete’s parents divorced when he was eight years old and he and his mother moved in with his grandparents.  Weekends were spent at his father’s house and week days were spent with his grandfather.  Pete was his grandfather’s namesake and they had a close relationship. They became even closer when Pate and his mother moved in with him.  When his grandfather became very ill and passed away Pete was heartbroken and didn’t know how to deal with the pain. Together with  the breakup of his parent’s marriage and the death of his grandfather Pete became very anxious and depressed.  He remembered the feeling he got when he drank beer and started using alcohol to take away his pain.

Pete continued sneaking beer when visiting his friends house and  started experimenting with harder liquor by the time he was thirteen.  Pete drank all through his high school years.  He drank wine, beer and hard liquor but it was the beer he needed the most. His mother and father warned him that he had a problem but he didn’t see it that way.  He was an above average student and made decent grades in High School.  

He graduated in 1991 and went to Duquesne University to study marketing.  Pete’s drinking really picked up in college. He commuted from home but would frequent the bars and drink at school parties. He was hung over a lot and started experiencing blackouts.  Pete says, “I definitely had all the symptoms of alcoholism back then.  ”Pete met his wife in 1993 and they were married a year later.  Marriage was good for him and his drinking slowed down - for a while.  He and his wife had three children, had a nice home and a good family life.  

In time Pete went back to his old patterns of getting drunk and blacking out.  His wife and kids tried to help Pete and went as far as videotaping him when they found him passed out, drunk on the floor and showed it to him, hoping he would stop.  They tried very hard to help him.  By 2008 he stopped working and started living with friends, using food stamps and money from the government.  He lost all interaction with his wife and children.   Alcohol was destroying his life.  Pete  recalls, ”At that time I was drinking a 5th of whiskey every night along with beer.” He calculates that he consumed 1200 5th’s of Johnny Walker over a twelve year period. He was trying to drink himself to death.

pete eating
Pete catches a light snack

By 2009 it looked like he was going to get his wish. At the age of 41 he was diagnosed with cirrhosis of the liver and was in the last stages of liver disease.  In 2010 he weighed over 300 pounds, was yellow with jaundice and had ascites disease.  He was in so much pain that he couldn’t lie down on his back.  Even with these serious alcohol related illnesses Pete continued to drink up to a case of beer a day.  

In 2010 Pete says that God delivered him, He remembers, “I had developed a hematoma in my right knee and thought  I was going to lose my leg.”  Pete was admitted to Ohio Valley Medical Center in Wheeling, West Virginia t to be detoxed from alcohol.  Miraculously the doctors were able to save his leg and Pete stayed alcohol free for the next three years.  

Pete went on to share, “The City Mission saved my life. I knew I had nowhere else to go when I came here.  The City Mission gave me hope when I had no hope left. ”Pete recalls some of the lessons he learned while staying at the City Mission, ”I learned to forgive, to be teachable, and to have true compassion.  I’m not the center of attention.  It’s about helping others.

In 2013 Pete started drinking again. Within 40 days he had received four DUI’s and spent 11 days in jail.  His girlfriend threw him out of the house and a friend in took him in.  It wasn’t long until his friend had had enough and kicked him out too. Pete went to Mercy Hospital Detox Center and from there was taken to a homeless shelter in Pittsburgh.  Pete recalls standing in the middle of a downtown street when the realization that he was homeless hit him.  He said, “Lord, I’m homeless. Then talking to himself he said, “Pete, you’ve finally done it.” It was then that he cried out to the Lord for the first time.  He wanted to stop drinking.  He wanted to recover.

Pete found his way to the Greenbriar Treatment Center - the Lighthouse for Men where he began to learn about recovery.  He also learned that he had no-one to count on and nowhere else to go.  The staff at Greenbriar referred him to the Washington City Mission. Pete recalls, ‘I came to the City Mission in June of 2014.  The first couple of weeks were rocky for me.  I was running on self-will. After a few weeks I broke down to the Lord. I needed his help.”  

Pete talked his counselor, Leroy Harris, and began to work through some of the issues he was having.  He realized even though he wasn’t drinking, he was still behaving like an addict.  Pete says, “I started to view things differently.  The Lord stuck with me and brought me along slowly”.  He started to attend other classes at the mission and grew in his faith and in recovery.  He shares,” Pastor Leroy helped to light a fire in me to read the Bible.  Another counselor, Paul Smith, led a discipleship class that taught him he should always make time for God in his schedule.  

pete preaching
Pete leading some hearty meal time prayer

Pete went on to share, “The City Mission saved my life. I knew I had nowhere else to go when I came here.  The City Mission gave me hope when I had no hope left. ”Pete recalls some of the lessons he learned while staying at the City Mission, ”I learned to forgive, to be teachable, and to have true compassion.  I’m not the center of attention.  It’s about helping others.  ”Pete helps the other men at the mission  every chance he gets.  He was recently hired by City Mission as a Resident Support Specialist in the men’s shelter.  There he’s able to lead daily devotions and provide encouragement and a listening ear.  

He says sharing his faith keeps him in the twelfth step of AA –  which says,“Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principals in all our affairs”.  He goes on to say, “Everyday is a new day to experience strength and hope.  He continues, “I’m responsible for my recovery today.  I know I have another relapse in me, but I doubt if I have another recovery in me.  Pete ends by saying, “I’ve been restored to independent living.  I love my job. My gratitude goes beyond recognition  for the Washington City Mission."

Because you GIVE to City Mission, Pete and countless others find HOPE and a chance for a NEW LIFE. Thank you DONATE today!

April 3, 2020
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!

Recent Articles

Life Changing Call

September 10, 2020

Michael always knew he wanted to go to college. It was his best opportunity to live out a calling to help people. He wanted a job he could be passionate about, one that truly made an impact. But he felt stuck. “He was hoping for a future path that included a career in the medical or counseling field,” explained Colleen Riker, City Mission’s Manager of Medical Services, who worked closely with Michael during his time at the Mission. “His desire was to attend college, but he wasn’t sure that was even a viable option since he was living in a homeless shelter and had no income.” Michael had a very difficult few years. In 2016, he lost a close friend to suicide. “We really didn’t know how he was feeling,” he said of his friend. “I want to be able to help prevent that from happening to someone else.” He even volunteers as a Crisis Counselor for the Crisis Text Line to provide support for those who have lost hope. But his opportunities to help people are limited, and he has long dreamed of earning his degree and becoming a nurse or a social worker. When Michael graduated from Wash High, he began the process of completing his college application, but he hit a roadblock completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). He and his family also had a falling out at that time, which resulted in him getting kicked out of the house. For several years, Michael moved around and hopped from job to job. “I was couch-surfing for a while until I ran out of options,” he explained. When he had exhausted all other options, he made a call to his longtime friend, Brianna Kadlecik, who happened to be the Career Training and Education Center Coordinator at City Mission. “Michael and I met in the youth group for West Washington and Jefferson Avenue United Methodist churches,” Kadlecik explained. “We ended up becoming part of a praise band called the Fools for Christ, where we both sang.” It was a life-changing call for Michael. “I don’t like asking for help,” he said. “I always like to do it myself. When I had to reach out, it was a big step for me.” In May of last year, he moved into City Mission. At first, he was not at all sure that City Mission was the right fit for him. “The first day was really scary,” he said. “There are a lot of people in one room. Disagreements are going to pop up. I tried to stay out of it.” Many of the men around him were much older and in drug and alcohol addiction recovery, which was not one of Michael’s struggles. He felt out of place. “When Michael first came to City Mission in May of 2019, he had a lot of anxiety issues,” said Riker. “But he worked with our Medical Clinic and Drug-Free Pain Management Team to establish a doctor and utilize Alpha-Stim technology to manage his anxiety.” And he managed to stick with the program. He had some meaningful conversations with City Mission staff and his fellow residents, and he eventually decided to stay. “The Mission taught me to not be in a rush, to just let the process work.” He started going to the Career Training and Education Center at the Mission, and he used the computers there to work on his college application. Now that he was living at the Mission, he could complete his FAFSA application form as an independent, and that helped him out tremendously. “We were able to help him finish his application,” said Kadlecik. “This was a barrier that I had seen Michael run up against for years with no hope of getting past it, and It was so rewarding to see him finally get past it. Michael was filled with hope where there had been so much disappointment and frustration.” Kadlecik also helped him write a resume, which eventually helped him get hired at Gabe’s in Washington, where he was able to save up money toward the additional costs of college that his loans would not cover. He was even able to save up enough money to purchase his own vehicle. Then, one day, a letter from California University of Pennsylvania came in the mail at the Mission with Michael’s name on it. “The moment when I was accepted into college, that was a fun moment,” he said. “Everyone was excited!” “There were high-fives and tears of joy when he received his acceptance letter,” said Riker. “Michael was excited when he got the acceptance letter,” remembered Kadlecik. “He made the rounds to all the staff that he’d been working with, and we were all so excited for him. His dream was finally going to become a reality.”

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.”