ray kinder hope for the future


Love and acceptance helps Florida man reconnect with hope

Just a few months ago, Ray Kinder could not imagine being clean, being out of jail, being hopeful. When you look at him today, you could not, for one minute, imagine him being anything but.

Ray grew up in a church-going family, but all was not right. His father was a career criminal, coming and going from prison. When his father was not in jail, he was abusing his mother and modeling the alcoholic lifestyle. He eventually ended up with a life sentence for armed robbery. People would speak over Ray that he would be just like his dad. It had its effects.

Ray was in juvenile detention 12 times. He got addicted to drugs in middle school and continued to make bad choices for the next two and a half decades. Kinder was in jail, some maximum-security ones, 23 times. Each jail time was just a pause from his crack addiction, and the pause button would be reset when he got out.

“My reality was too hard to take,” he said. “I knew how much pain I was causing my mom, my family. It just pushed me deeper into addiction. It was the loneliest, most isolating, tumultuous nightmare. I was just a zombie that didn’t care about anything. I stepped off the cliff into hopelessness.”

Last year, while out on bond, Ray went to visit his aunt. He was totally out of his mind, high and incoherent. His aunt called the police, who took him to a local addiction recovery program. While there, he learned of The Salvation Army. He was sick and tired of being sick and tired, and he was willing to give The Salvation Army a try.

When Ryan from The Salvation Army, came to pick him up a few days later, Kinder’s brain told him not to get on the bus. He said something, maybe God, pushed him to get on the bus.

Ryan told him everything was going to be OK, this was a new beginning for him, and he was going to find his purpose and a plan. Ryan was his first exposure to the love and acceptance that he was about to receive.

During December, Ray volunteered to help pick up Angel Tree gifts and said he “overdosed on the love” that was shown to him at each location. He also realized that at The Salvation Army, he was surrounded by people who truly understood him and his addiction. He was also among other people who were just like him. He “was not as unique as (he) thought. They showed me there was a way out I could never see before. There is a reason they call this the Center of Hope; I do have hope now.”

Kinder is taking things one day at a time. He remarked that “The Salvation Army gave me my hope back; it saved my life. If God can do this for someone like me, he can do this for anyone.” Kinder is protective of the “precious and valuable gift he has been given and is not going to give it up.”

The biggest challenge for Ray now is employment. He will commence soon and is praying someone will give him a chance.

His advice in the meantime for others like him: “If you think for one second that your life is gone and you’ve tried everything else in life, but it never worked for you, there is a place, and the name of this place is The Salvation Army. If you are truly ready to live, give this place a try.”

MyPillow founder Mike Lindell was once so addicted to crack cocaine that his three drug dealers ran an intervention and refused to sell to him.

“I went up and down the streets of Minneapolis and couldn’t buy anywhere,” Lindell recalls. “I had been up for 14 straight days.

“One of my dealers said to me, ‘You’ve been telling us MyPillow is just a platform for a much bigger purpose for God and that you were going to come back and help us all someday when you quit. Well, we’re not going to let you die on us.’”

Lindell didn’t die and eventually pulled his life together after dedicating it to Christ. Today, he runs one of the world’s most successful companies and is a self–made millionaire who helps former addicts like himself. He believes The Salvation Army’s Adult Rehabilitation Centers (ARCs) are a model for the world in battling addiction (see A Model for the World below).

Lindell’s own battle began in 1982. He used cocaine then, but by the late 1990s, he was into crack.

“I was a cocaine addict, a very functioning addict, for 20 years,” Lindell says.

Lindell, whose parents divorced when he was seven, developed a “spirit of rejection” and “unworthiness.”

“I was shy and wouldn’t talk to people,” he said. “That followed me throughout my life. You can’t get rejected if you don’t talk to people. My addiction masked my rejection and feeling unworthy.”

Lindell would later develop a popular infomercial for his famous MyPillow. However, the producer of his first campaign texted someone and predicted it was going to be a disaster.

Overcoming the past

“I couldn’t talk,” Lindell said. “I was very shy. Even when I was on drugs, I couldn’t talk to people. I lived in Las Vegas for two months and never met a soul.

“I couldn’t talk to anyone. When I owned a bar, my worst nightmare was that somebody would come in while no one else was in there and I would be sober. When that happened, I would just wait on them and say, ‘Let me know if you need anything else.’ I think a lot of addicts have that fear of rejection. Addictions mask pains. They also mask inner fears.”

Lindell developed MyPillow in the early 2000s and had communicated well enough to make the company somewhat of a success, but his drug problems persisted.

The year 2008 was the beginning of his turnaround. The intervention by his drug dealers occurred in the spring. In December, a friend and former crack partner announced that he had found Christ and had been clean for three years.

“I could relate to him,” Lindell said. “I had all kinds of questions for him. That relationship planted a bunch more seeds.”

However, Lindell knew the window was rapidly closing if he wanted to take the company to the next level. On January 16, 2009, he said a prayer.

“I said, ‘God, I want to wake up in the morning and never have the desire again for crack, for cocaine, for alcohol, for anything.’ It wasn’t a complete surrender. It was more of a transformation,” Lindell says. “I woke up the next morning and thought I was going to have the weight of the world on my shoulders, which was why I was addicted in the first place, but it was a peaceful feeling and all the desires were gone.”

Two months later, Lindell went to an outpatient clinic and told his counselor of his plans for a book and to use MyPillow as a platform for God. The counselor went home and told his wife, “I think [Lindell is] still on drugs.”

“Everything I told him that day has come to fruition,” Lindell says.

Lindell’s self–published book, What are the Odds? comes out this year.

It’s a relationship

Lindell says his girlfriend, Kendra, whom he met in 2014, changed his life by challenging him to have a personal relationship with Christ.

“I would say, ‘Well, I believe in God.’ But it was different with her,” Lindell says. “I was watching her, and I said, ‘Wow, I want what she has.’ I didn’t have that relationship with Jesus that she did.”

In 2017, Lindell attended a spiritual retreat where he found that relationship.

“I went in there with the hope I would get what Kendra had, this relationship with Jesus,” Lindell said. “I totally surrendered. It was the most amazing thing for me. Since that time, I can now talk about Jesus Christ in the same way I used to talk about a pillow. I talk about it with the same passion.”

Kendra also urged Lindell to remain in prayer and study his Bible. Then he began to see miracles.

When MyPillow needed $30,000 to stay afloat, he miraculously found last-minute investors.

When he needed $300,000 to film his first infomercial, he, his family, and friends cobbled together the money.

“I used to only pray when I was in trouble or for God to get me out of this situation or that,” Lindell says. “Now, I am proactive in my prayers, I’m staying in the Word, praying, having the Holy Spirit, and being led by Him.

“Every day I’m reading the Bible and journaling and praying. I’m in prayer groups. During the day, any decisions I make, I pray about them at MyPillow.”

When you see Lindell on one of his late–night infomercials, you can’t help but notice the large cross around his neck.

Crack house to White House

In 2016, Lindell attended the National Prayer Breakfast and was picked to pray with Dr. Ben Carson, then a candidate for president.

That same year, Lindell had a dream he was in the same room with Donald Trump, as president. Soon, Lindell received an invitation to visit Trump Tower to talk about MyPillow. A year later, Lindell received another invitation, this time to the White House’s “Made in America” summit. Trump, now president, requested that Lindell sit next to him.

“All of my friends who have quit crack said, ‘This has to be a miracle. This has to be Jesus. There’s no way this crack addict from Minnesota could be sitting in the White House next to the president.’ For me, these miracles kept happening,” Lindell said.

Last year, Lindell was invited to Pulse, an event for young Christians at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis. He led 50,000 people in prayer.

“That wasn’t me,” Lindell says. “That was all Jesus.

“It’s one thing to go to church or to pray when things are bad, but to have that relationship with Jesus, that’s where it’s at. That’s what changes everything.”

by Robert Mitchell

A Model for the World

Mike Lindell has donated thousands of his MyPillow creations to bell–ringers and homeless clients of The Salvation Army in Minneapolis, Minn., which he calls home.

Lindell, a former drug addict who formed the Lindell Foundation and the Lindell Recovery Network, is a strong believer in the Salvation Army’s Adult Rehabilitation Centers (ARCs).

“I heard about all The Salvation Army does with addiction and I was absolutely blown away,” Lindell said. “I was like, ‘Are you kidding me?’ It’s the most amazing program I’ve ever heard of. They are doing so much that I know would match up with changing this country.

“It was an education and I was excited because a lot of the stuff that works in addiction, The Salvation Army is already doing based on Jesus. I’ve talked to people in the field and done my own due diligence and I think they’re the best in the country.”

Lindell said addicts often come out of traditional treatment centers “with more shame than when you went in,” but the faith-based centers get results and help change lives.

“You get out of those secular places and you’re a ticking time bomb waiting to relapse because you don’t have what I believe The Salvation Army gives a person, and that’s an amazing platform of faith and training in life,” Lindell says. “It’s almost like you’re an apprentice while you’re in there getting your life back together.

“You’re coming out with a foundation and mentors. The Salvation Army’s centers should be the model for every center in the world.”

Lindell is such a believer that he sometimes sends his employees to a Salvation Army ARC. “I can usually tell what drugs they’re on,” he said. “I talk to them directly and we get them help.”

Lindell runs MyPillow more like a ministry than a business. The company doesn’t have a traditional human resources department. All the employees have his direct phone number.

“We do not have traditional human resource problems,” Lindell said. “If there is a deviation in behavior, we get them help. Our employees tell on each other to get help. We basically become a big help center.”

For example, when one employee uncharacteristically started showing up late for work, Lindell quickly found out why.

“He was walking 14 miles to work. So, I bought him a car,” Lindell said.

If employees lose a loved one, they can take as much time as they need to grieve, and Lindell pays them. He also pays when they go to rehab with The Salvation Army or another facility.

Find out more about The Salvation Army Adult Rehabilitation Centers.

Original Article

Psychology Behind AddictionEdwyn Hector has worked for The Salvation Army for six years.

By Abagail Courtney –

In the U.S. Marine Corps, semper fidelis, or “always faithful,” signifies the dedication and loyalty that individual Marines have for each other and their country, even after leaving service. For Edwyn Hector, that couldn’t be more fitting.

Though he’s now retired from his six-year command as a Reconnaissance man, Hector’s still faithfully serving his fellow comrades. Only now, he’s doing it through his work at The Salvation Army’s shelter.

Shortly after leaving the Marine Corps, Hector found himself a spectator in a civilian world. What he saw were veterans, not unlike himself, wrestling with psychosis, addiction, homelessness and the unresolved traumas that stemmed from military life. Between his military experience and background in psychology, he knew he could make a lasting impact for these men and women but wasn’t sure where to start.

One evening, not long after, he saw a commercial promoting The Salvation Army’s local shelter. It mentioned the facility’s work to help those facing addiction and homelessness. Hector showed up the next day to the shelter with a heart to help and a resume in hand.

Fast-forward six years, Hector is now one of two facilitators in charge of education and training at the shelter and has helped more than 3,000 individuals work through recovery and gain control of their addictions. Much of that work focuses on training thoughts and mindsets through positive reframing and the ability to recognize, accept and manage feelings.

Conquering addiction—a disease that the Surgeon General says will affect one in seven Americans—can be accomplished by consistently practicing these four things, according to Hector: Recognizing your feelings, identifying what they are, processing them and getting back to glad.

“Your actions come from your feelings. We allow a lot of people and places and things to dictate our feelings; this means we allow people, places and things to dictate our lives,” he said.

With that in mind, Hector focuses on the six emotions with which all people are born: happiness, sadness, fear, anger, surprise, and disgust. Once understood, the goal pivots toward recognizing, identifying, processing and taking responsibility for those emotions in order to avoid a relapse when life gets difficult.

Hector often poses questions during group sessions to help get the proverbial wheels turning: How can somebody make you a certain way? Do your feelings not come from your own mind? Who operates your mind? So where do your feelings come from?

“When they say ‘from me,’ I say ‘there you go—now you aren’t putting it on people, places, things,” he said. “Now you are putting it on your own self and now, what we need to do is practice on changing our perception.’ We can work with that.”

While such exercises have proven immensely helpful to many clients, Hector says the most valuable thing anyone in the program can extract from group sessions is knowing their worth.

“There is not another person on the planet that will ever exist like you again,” he said. “Everything you have on that body of yours is unique, and guess what? Our creator gave that to you to work with—just you—no one else. That’s how priceless you are—that is your worth.”

Many of the men Hector’s worked with at the shelter credit him with helping to kickstart that process. One of them was Dillion Toscano, who landed at the shelter several years ago after racking up a “resume” of 25 years of drug addiction, seven misdemeanors, four felonies.

“I had to learn the difference between sobriety and recovery and understand the emotions behind why I was using all of those years,” Toscano said. “There was one man who was responsible for me understanding that and ultimately being successful in recovery, and that was Edwyn Hector.”

After seeing so many of his friends come back from war without limbs or sight or hearing and still being eternally grateful for every breath given to them, Hector said he’s learned that loving yourself is where healing, peace, and change begin.

“You don’t get a second go around at this thing, so it’s time to be kind to you,” he said. “It’s time to love who you are to the fullest.”

Original Post

“It gets ahold of you. If you didn’t have drugs, if you didn’t know how to get drugs, if you didn’t want to share your drugs, then I didn’t need you in my life.

I was a monster.

This used to be one of the capitals of methamphetamine production. My own stepfather was heavy in the production — my mom’s second husband — so I had a front-row seat.

We’re actually sitting in the house that I lived at when — at 13 years of age — I started smoking marijuana. This 10-house complex here was later known as Heroin Alley. It had a really bad reputation; drug dealers and drug addicts.”

“My parents are both alcoholics. All my brothers and sisters used and drank. When my sister offered me crank, it started from there.”

“I battled with drug addiction for 25 years. I came from the bottom: from the streets. From the river bottom; homeless.”

“My husband walked up out of the river bottom every day, taking the kids to school, giving the kids a bath in the river, that kind of thing. He would make an open fire and we’d cook that way.

The kids knew, you know, that we were using. At the time, we weren’t ashamed of doing that; it’s just what we were doing.”

“I was always preoccupied with getting high instead of taking care of our children like you should. It was dysfunctional. My oldest daughter actually left home when she was 13 because she got tired of us.

I was there physically, but not so much mentally most of the time. Definitely not emotionally.”

“When you’re an addict, that’s the life you know. I was sick and tired of getting high; sick and tired of dragging my kids from one spot to another; sick and tired of not getting along with my husband, and I wanted a normal family.

I just couldn’t see him saying, ‘okay we’re done with this,’ and ‘let’s stop.’ So someone had to.

So I went to the motel and we stayed. We got the call from The Salvation Army right on the same day we had no more money to stay at the motel any longer.”

“The Salvation Army is the shining light of hope for people in need. There’s no other homeless program in the area like it.

I went kicking and screaming into the program in 2006. I didn’t want to get sober. Did not want to be sober.

The next morning I got up, walked down the hallway of the program, past the dorm room and the other families. I walked into the kitchen and here’s my family sitting around a table eating breakfast that I hadn’t been able to supply, under a roof that I hadn’t been able to give to them.

It was at that moment I realized that everything I’ve done in my life up to that point had been for nothing. It was all self-centered, self-seeking and worthless and I cried out to Christ.

I told him, ‘Lord, I don’t know what you want from me but I can’t do what I’ve been doing anymore and the only thing that I feel inside me that I can do is cry out to You.’

We graduated the program and they wanted to move us to a little house — something transitional. They moved us into the exact same house I lived in when I was 13 years old and started using.

It kind of creeped me out at first, you know, except I was dealing with a lot of past things already and we just stepped back in to this place. But what was really weird is that as we stepped into the house, it felt like home.

If you can live a life of recovery and follow the will of God where you had the most trials and tribulations in your life, then you can do it anywhere.

I went back to school after I started working for The Salvation Army and got my AA in business and BA in ministry. I’m one class away from my Masters in Business Administration. If can do it anybody can do it.

I always thought that I could stop using and everything would be fine. No, you stop using and that’s when you have to start addressing everything.

There was many a time in my own sons’ and daughters’ lives that I wasn’t the best role model that they needed in their lives. But God changed that.”

“Today, I take a lot of pride in being the best wife that I can be to him because he’s the best husband. And I’m being the best mother to my kids because of the way I was in the past. I still feel guilt and shame because of the things that we put them through.”

“We both did some things in the past that we weren’t proud of. But we worked through them.

It was only through coming together as a husband and wife who honor God that we were able to do that.”

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The Salvation Army Hope Crest Transitional Living Center  is there to serve homeless families in Clearwater and Upper Pinellas County. If you know someone like Rick and Bobette, please send them this story and tell them to call The Salvation Army at 727-446-4177 for assistance.

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My name is Jerry. I arrived at The Salvation Army drug and alcohol program on February 29th, 2011 because I’d come to the end of the road.

Life wasn’t happy anymore. I had no joy. I wasn’t accomplishing anything. I was drowning in self-pity and ‘not having.’ I was suffering.

Being the addict I was, I never shared my pain with anyone. So I began to talk to God in my addiction. I explained how I was feeling, where I was at, how I was sick and tired and didn’t want to go through what I was taking myself through.

I decided one day that I need help. I needed to change my life. I wasn’t getting anywhere and I was tired of being in handcuffs, going in and out of jail. It was a vicious cycle and revolving door.

So one night I decided to give The Salvation Army a try. I walked down there and they accepted me.

I sat down outside and cried because I finally had some hope and a chance to regain what I’d lost.

Without them allowing me into this program I’d be sitting somewhere in prison, suffering like so many who don’t think they have a problem.

At one time I didn’t think I had a problem.

I came in like most people that you hear about, fighting, kicking, and being rebellious. This is not the ‘dream’ program you thought it was; it’s not a resort. I fought the program for about the first 45 days.

Then I heard a young man say one day, ‘if nothing changes, nothing changes.’ For me, that was my spiritual awakening because I realized that I needed to change me — my inner actions and my thoughts.

I can honestly say that when I stopped fighting, when I saw that I’d be the same person if I didn’t change me, I threw my hands up and surrendered.

My surrender was to my higher power, something greater than me, God. I needed to be restored to sanity so I put the 12 steps into action.

I felt a sense of relief, a joy. I was a new me and I liked the new me.


The Salvation Army personnel showed me what love is. They told me to stick around, ‘stay until we finish loving you and you can love yourself.’

I began to receive and allowed people to embrace me. I set my mind on change.

Somewhere through this program — at work, in the kitchen, I don’t know where — I had a change of mind.

My ultimate goal was to come here, get clean and go out still being me.

But my eyes were opened to what The Salvation Army really does for people. They give you a solution and a hope that if you change and do what the program asks you to do, your life will get a lot easier.

I jumped in with both feet. I figured that I’d tried everything else, I might as well try this.

I decided that for this organization to be world-wide, God must be in it. So I attended the classes and became a soldier [a church member]. I didn’t stop there because I felt a sense of purpose and I was hungry to give back.

The Salvation Army extended a hand to me and pulled me up. So I took a community care ministry course and was appointed to volunteer in the ministry that visits the veteran’s hospital. I felt that I’d found my purpose in life. It brought joy to see a smile on another’s face.

God met me right where I was. He didn’t change my past, He gave me a new beginning.


Now, I’m the production supervisor in the warehouse. At first, I was an assistant manager but I started as a volunteer.

My job is to make sure everything we get from our donors is treated with special care. The donations we get helps pay for the program and puts a smile on someone’s face when they buy it in the store.

Nothing is more exciting than putting a donation out in our store that brings joy to someone in need. But everything we get in donation benefits the men and women in this program: another meal, another bed, and everything they need for a transformation in their own life.

The Salvation Army makes the men and women comfortable so they can focus on what they need to do to live a changed life.

The reason why I love coming to work is that I get to encourage the men and women in the program. I show them the joy of giving back what was so freely offered to me.

I love speaking solutions into other’s lives. I can offer them an easier path. I tell them to stick around and wait for the miracle to happen.

In order for me to speak a solution, I have to walk it.

I have to come in joy.”

~ All the photos in this story were taken by John Docter. ~

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Everything you donate to or buy from a Salvation Army Family store helps men and women just like Jerry get no-fee drug and alcohol rehabilitaiton in a structured group setting that focuses on helping them become the individual God created them to be.

If you’d like to find one of our Adult Rehabilitation Centers near you, visit our website and plug in your zip code —

Or, if you’d like to make a life-changing gift of gently-used clothing, household appliances and furniture, find a drop off site or schedule a pick up here:

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“I graduated from The Salvation Army’s drug and alcohol program 5 years ago, in April 2011.

I was using for a long time. My life spiraled down and I ended up in jail so they sent me here to go through the Army’s program. I truly believe the Army saved my life.

They allowed me to work here [at The Salvation Army’s Adult Rehabilitation Center] and help others. It’s a blessing.

It makes me cry every time I see one of the guys graduate. I cry all the time. I love the men and women here who are trying to change their lives like I was 5 years ago.


Photo by John Docter.

Addiction is hard. There were when times I could quit. But staying ‘quit’ was hard. This program showed me how and gave me the tools, along with Narcotics Anonymous.

In September 2012 I was hired as the assistant resident manager at the Army. Two years ago, I got promoted to resident manager.

My job is to manage the house, hold the residents accountable, be a good example as a man in recovery by showing them what change looks like.

I also make sure their stay is comfortable and safe, and make sure their needs are met.

The most rewarding part is watching people graduate and when they come back reconciled with their families, with jobs and a car and living life. Being part of that is just amazing.

Dealing with 80 different personalities is a challenge. Holding them accountable is difficult. I believe everyone deserves a second chance but a lot of times we have to discharge men in the program. That’s definitely the hardest part.

I try to be consistent with everybody and treat them the same. When I’m inconsistent, they know and will take advantage of it. Just because they’re alcoholics and addicts doesn’t mean they’re not smart!


Charles helps the men in the program keep their rooms neat and tidy. Photo by John Docter.

There are people from all walks of life here but caring for them is part of giving back. I wouldn’t change a thing.

I came to the program through the courts when I was heading for prison. I got up and told the judge I needed help so he looked at my past and said he could send me to The Salvation Army.

I was honorably discharged from probation after 18 months; I’d was supposed to be on probation for 5 years.

If not for The Salvation Army I’d be in jail, an institution or dead. No doubt about it.”

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Everything you donate to or buy from a Salvation Army Family store helps men and women just like Charles get no-fee drug and alcohol rehabilitaiton in a structured group setting that focuses on helping them become the indivudual God created them to be.

If you’d like to find one of our Adult Rehabilitation Centers near you, visit our website and plug in your zip code —

Or, if you’d like to make a life-changing gift of gently-used clothing, household applicances and furniture, find a drop off site or schedule a pick up here:

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This is music to Jose’s ears:

“I’m proud of my dad because he’s there for me now.”

“Now I can count on him to be here for my birthday.”

But it wasn’t always like that for Jose’s kids. Before he got help his kids said he wasn’t himself. He was a stranger.

I got mad at my dad when he would drink.”

“It wasn’t him. It was a different person.”

“I was worried something might happen to him.”

Here’s Jose’s story in his own words:


“I started with alcohol. I always drank socially but it became so much that it consumed my life. I drank at night then again in the morning.

I was working at a nonprofit that helps formerly gang-involved folks transition to employment. They cared about me and even though they didn’t want to do it, they had to let me go because of my drinking.

After I lost my job, alcohol just wasn’t enough and I started messing around with drugs.

I left my family and slept in the car because I didn’t want them to see my like that. Every two or three days I could sober up but it wouldn’t last.

I didn’t understand why I couldn’t stop. I was white knuckling it and went downhill fast.

I stayed in touch with the folks at my old job and they suggested I get help from The Salvation Army. Once I entered the program, I finally figured out what the problem was: I had a powerful addiction.

Now that I’m clean and sober, my old boss hired me back. I started at the front desk and was recently promoted. Now I’m helping people in our community.

I have a life beyond my wildest dreams.

Every night when I come home from work I open the door and my 2-year-old son comes running to me saying, “dad, dad!” My older kids show me their homework and tell me about all about the day at school.


All my life I wanted what I have today. If someone offered me a million dollars to give it up, I wouldn’t. No way.

At The Salvation Army I surrendered and got the help I’d been needing. The Salvation Army is our church now. My wife and kids go there with me as a family every Sunday. I can’t thank them enough.”

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There are Salvation Army programs in almost every community in the US that make families whole again. This Father’s Day, can you help give kids like Jose’s their dad back?

:: Click here to make a financial gift to The Salvation Army that will bring healing to local families through our transitional living, shelter and addiction recovery programs.

:: And remember, everything you give to our buy from a Salvation Army Family Store helps someone like Jose with no-fee, residential drug and alcohol rehabilitation. Find a center near your or a drop off location for your gently-used in-kind gifts.

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“Yeah, there’s something about being out on the ocean. The intensity of Mother Nature.

The exhilaration of catching all that fish started at an early age — eight years old — then it just became a part of me.

One of my grandparents adopted me. They were my parents and I just followed my grandfather everywhere. I remember going to church and falling asleep on his chest when I was four years old.

So we built that father-son relationship. He was my mentor and my teacher and pretty much my world.

I started drinking at the age of 12. I was drinking pretty regularly with my brothers. I thought that’s what all kids do.

I was at this friend’s trailer and we were drinking. The state troopers found me and said that I needed to call home, ‘Bad news, your grandfather passed away.’

I didn’t know how to respond and just said, ‘okay, okay.’ There was just a lot of pain and I remember sitting in the middle of the floor crying.

It really hurt and I think about it right now and a lot of memories come back.

wilson happy

I drank a lot. My alcoholism really picked up. The [boat] captain said, ‘Wilson, we just can’t have you when you’re drinking,’ and he fired me.

We got rid of the family boat. I was homeless. I had no direction in life.

I kept bugging employers about mining and they said, ‘we have a job‘ and I said yes.

I’ve lost some good friends underground. Myself, I’ve been very close to death.

That kind of lifestyle — a lot of drinking, a lot of drugs and sleeping with other wives — was just a really dysfunctional lifestyle.

I was an alcoholic for 30 years. I struggled so hard with my addiction, living that kind of lifestyle.

I said to myself, ‘you know what? I’ve worked so hard and been through so much danger that I deserve to drink.”

I was always drinking almost half a gallon every two days. I was smoking crack and I got introduced to heroin.

One night at about three in the morning I panicked. I didn’t know where I was. I needed something to drink.

I remember drinking a whole bottle of wine in two drinks. That calmed my nerves.

At about 6:30 my brother was taking me to my job. I was still intoxicated and I started to feel I was trembling.

That’s where I hit my rock-bottom emotionally and I looked at him and said, ‘can you just take me to the ER?’

At that moment I decided, ‘I’m gonna commit myself to sobriety,’ and I took it very seriously.

I felt so relieved, like I was released from bondage.

I thought about all the ugly feelings and I never ever want to feel that way again.

I remember the peacefulness when I reflected back on waking up Sundays and going to church.

I was thinking about how I grew up in The Salvation Army so I went to it and I really felt the holy spirit in me.

You know, I was just overwhelmed. I started to cry and I was just so happy. I said, ‘I really love you God.’

After that I was different.

Every day of my life I wake up so happy. I’m not drunk. I’m not shaking. I’m not in that despair. I just love the new life.”

>>>> <<<<

“My name is Dennis. I am a member of the Santa Monica Salvation Army Corps [church]. It’s a major, major, major part of my being.

I started playing at age 12 and I was in a Top 40 band at 13, 14 years old. I didn’t graduate High School and I was making three, four, or five hundred dollars in a weekend.

I was living in South Central Los Angeles: that’s where I got into the alcohol and drug thing.

I just started with a beer and smoked a little weed.

‘One’s too many and a thousand’s not enough.’ That was written for me.

And it escalated. When crack came out 1980 my brother said, ‘hey let’s get on this ship,’ and it was like that for like a long period of my life.

I was hustling at the Shell station. I was doing people’s gas and their windows. And when women came up, I would help them put air in their tires.

There was an abandoned car behind my mother-in-law’s place. I stayed behind my mother-in-law’s for a month. The car in front of that my father-in-law drove.

He would walk my daughter to the park or I would peek around to see my daughter going to school. They didn’t know I was back there.

I said, ‘I got to stop this!’

For a quick second, there was a small inkling of suicide in my head.

I thought, ‘I’ve got to bust a move because I’m too scared to kill me!’ I love life too much but the thought came by.

I was headed downhill and my turning point was that one month of sleeping in that car. I went to a minister at my old church which is Liberty Tabernacle Ministries in Gardena. They drove me to [The Salvation Army’s] Harbor Light.

December 7th, 2007 is when it all started.

I was happy to walk in there. That is God’s impeccable timing.

I got into the AA [Alcoholics Anonymous] process and I was going to church there at the Harbor Light with different nationalities, some gangbangers, or maybe some that’s just out of prison. Maybe I’ve slept next to murderers, or whatever the case may be.

All I know is that I was focused on getting my act together.

You have maybe, a couple hundred men staying at the Harbor Light and next door, maybe 50 or so women.

For their Christmas program, we ate good and got a beautiful service and gifts like a tote bag with stuff in it. I left that little Christmas service with more than I came in with.

Every day I stepped out: I’m walking through skid row and everybody isn’t doing the right things down there.

You’ve got your prostitutes, your alcoholics, your downtown gangsters and you’re in the midst of it.

If you can get sober in Skid Row, you can get sober anywhere.

I’m truly grateful to The Salvation Army because my life came together when I came here.

My drug usage and everything got so deep that I wasn’t playing my drum set. I started playing immediately when I got to The Salvation Army.

When I hadn’t not really gotten deep in my alcohol usage, I had a pretty black pearl drum set.

I was out running the streets and stuff so our guitar player had part of my drum set and he took it to The Salvation Army thrift shop. The rest of my drum set was with the bass player and he ended up taking it there too.

So when I started playing at [The Salvation Army] in Santa Monica, I went in for the rehearsal and they had my drum set!

So I said, ‘okay Dude — and I was talking to God — you’re the Man. I’ll bow down.’”

>>>> <<<<

The Salvation Army Harbor Light Center in downtown Los Angeles closed more than a decade ago, but The Salvation Army still has drug and alcohol rehabilitation programs in most major metropolitan areas.