Salvation Army launches campaign showing power of a second chance
The idea of a second chance at life may feel far-fetched—but at The Salvation Army Adult Rehabilitation Centers (ARC), this has become a reality for many of the roughly 150,000 individuals that go through the drug and alcohol recovery program each year.
The ARC offers a free 180-day residential work-therapy program funded by The Salvation Army Thrift Stores. The program provides spiritual, social and emotional assistance to those who have lost themselves to addiction. For many people, it’s their last stop on the path to recovery.
To share this continued success of the ARC with the public, The Salvation Army recently launched its Second Chances year-long campaign across Southern California. The initiative, designed to raise awareness around recovery, brings people together through hosted events that share success stories while de-stigmatizing addiction.
“We wanted to invite people in to see the strength of the ARC—and hear from individuals who have gone through the program,” said Captain Tanya Pemberton, Administrator for the Santa Monica Adult Rehabilitation Center.
Second Chances events kicked off across Southern California in Santa Monica, Anaheim and Long Beach during National Salvation Army Week—May 15-21—with future events to come.
On May 17, the Santa Monica ARC opened its doors to the public and invited recovery advocate celebrities Jennifer Jimenez-Ryan and comedian Jay Mohr to share their personal rehabilitation journeys, as well as special guests who have found sobriety through the ARC: Tim Ryan and Albert Vera, Culver City Mayor.
For Vera, coming back and speaking at the exact center where he worked to get clean is a surreal feeling.
“When I first came here I was broken,” Vera said. “Straight out of jail, I came here after having lost my sense of hope, dignity and respect. They gave that to me.”
He recalls receiving a level of support, guidance and encouragement from the current ARC Command leaders, Major Henry Graciani and Major Dina Graciani, over a decade ago that changed his life.
“They showed me that each and every person is an individual and a person who is loved by God,” Vera said. “14 years later, I’m the mayor of Culver City and I would have never thought this was possible back then.”
Having a chance to share his story and thank those who have helped him along the way is valuable to Vera. “The Salvation Army is not only transformative—it’s life-saving, and I would like more people to know about it,” he said.
Vera explained that the supportive environment and community the ARC provided him with guided him down his path to sobriety.
Part of the ARC’s mission is to create a community-centered, supportive environment that is different from what someone is coming from. Life structure is provided through work-therapy opportunities, spiritual direction, individual counseling and relationship building to ensure individuals are on the ideal path for rehabilitation.
“With The Salvation Army, you get embraced by a supportive community that’s inherent wherever The Salvation Army is operating,” Henry Graciani said.
According to the American Addiction Centers, environmental factors commonly increase an individual’s risk of addiction. These include, but not limited to, chaotic home environments, peer influences and community attitudes toward drugs.
For Gabriel Ornels, Santa Monica ARC beneficiary and Desk Operator, the support and guidance he received from the ARC allowed him to get clean and better himself.
“What they do at the ARC is that they plant a seed in someone’s life and they hope it grows and flourishes,” said Ornels. “The Second Chances Event lets people share how they’ve grown.”
Along with hearing stories of recovery, Second Chances events feature a red wall with the thought-provoking question: “What would you do if you had a second chance?” Attendees are encouraged to write down their responses and acknowledge the answers of others. An online board is also available for people to answer from anywhere.
Writing on the wall, “I’m living my second chance,” Jerry Baird, current Santa Monica Salvation Army ARC beneficiary, says he wouldn’t be where he is today if it wasn’t for the community he has found here.
Baird said he flew from Indiana to Santa Monica, by choice, to join the ARC and get clean once and for all. In June, he is celebrating 90 days in the program and looking forward to new beginnings.
“I’ve been given a second chance here,” Baird said. “I’ve found my community and my place at the ARC. I love people, so being here around this energy has helped me greatly, and it’s what I needed to get clean.”
He said creating awareness of the lives changed at the ARC is impactful and necessary to share with the public. As he said,“These events allow people to see the realness and the power of The Salvation Army rehabilitation centers.”
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