“From the depths of my soul, thank you. You’ve given me a second chance and I’m going to make the most of it.” – Jamey
Because of You
Mission Services is a very special place, an intersection for goodness and generosity. It is a place where gifts of time, money, goods, and support come in, to be re-directed out again to the thousands of people who come to us for help throughout the year.
We work closely with government – provincial, municipal, and federal – to provide shelter, counselling and opportunity. We have been blessed, richly blessed, and amazed, by the generosity of over 20,000 people, foundations, and corporations who enable the work of the Mission through their financial gifts this year. And we absolutely depend on our 700 volunteers who contribute time and expertise, working alongside 100 wonderful employees answering God’s call to seek justice, show mercy and offer hope.
Our programs and services have grown and prospered since the Mission was founded in 1956. But the faith that inspires us remains the same; a deep and unwavering commitment to give what help we can to those in need. It is so simple. It is very important. It takes the passion and energy of many to deliver. And it brings light into a darkened world.
Recovery in My Own Words:
Family Life in Niagara
I grew up in Niagara on the Lake. My family were farmers. They were very hard working, but as the saying goes: they worked 8 hours each day and drank the other 16. My father really abused alcohol and set an example for the rest of us. He would go over the border to drink and come home at 4 am. He called it “going over the ditch.” All of his family did it, and eventually my brothers and sisters did, too. They were out of control. My mother was the only one who abstained, but she couldn’t control my father. It didn’t help things that he looked like Paul Newman and could get away with murder.
I was 5 the first time I got drunk. When I think about it now, I probably did it because I didn’t like what was going on around me. I knew I should have been getting more attention, more nurturing, from my family to make me feel safe and loved. I tried marijuana around 8 or 9, and when I was 12 my aunt injected me with cocaine. I knew it was wrong, but when families are sick they do perverse things to each other. Here I was only starting puberty, and I was already turning into a junky. But that kind of reckless behaviour wasn’t out of the ordinary in my family.
Somehow, I managed to stay in school, despite moving around a lot. I went to 6 different public schools, mostly due to behavioural problems. Around 16, I was diagnosed with mild manic personality disorder. But to this day, I’m not sure whether that is an accurate diagnosis. I was still in adolescence and had already been using needles for 3 years.
Trials and Later Addictions
Eventually, I was sent to juvenile detention centre. That was actually a great thing for me. I got clean for a while and managed to finish high school, start working and went to college. I always loved cooking so I studied culinary arts. I graduated and owned a couple businesses over the next few years. But the whole time I continued to drink and eventually started using drugs again. It was simply in my blood—at least that’s what I told myself.
My mother died from lymphoma when I was 25. When she was gone I felt like I had lost the last bastion of normalcy in my life. She was the only person who could keep me in check. My father, brothers, sisters, uncles, friends—we were all abusing drugs and alcohol. My father had three heart attacks and a kidney replacement but still drank a twentysixer each night. Over the years, there have been 30 deaths in our family from alcohol.
My own drinking exacerbated until I lost my second business, then my house. Initially, those crises only made it worse. I consumed hopeless amounts of Crown Royal and woke up with needles hanging out of my arm. When that happens, you suddenly think, Wow, my life is really screwed up. Then you decide something needs to change, and you think you can manage it on your own. But after spending decades forming addictions that have taken over every part of your life—it’s not something you can just wake up one morning and stop.
“All of the people who helped me at Mission Services, from my counsellors to the kitchen staff to the volunteers . . . gave me support and compassion and showed faith in me when I didn’t have any faith in myself.”
A Branch of Hope
I was admitted into a recovery program, which was great but I could only stay there for a couple weeks. So I researched recovery programs in Hamilton, found one, and got on a bus. When I arrived, however, it was closed. They had shut down and there was no one to contact. I had no money, nowhere to stay, and didn’t know anyone in Hamilton. That’s when I came to Mission Services.
The people I’ve met here are wonderful, each and every one of them—from the people serving in the kitchen, to the addiction counsellors, to the volunteers. They believed in me even when I didn’t. It was only because of the genuineness they showed me that I was able to continue working at my recovery. Because at the time, I hated every minute of it. It was unimaginably difficult. But I learned that recovery is as individual as our finger prints, and you need to have a sense of humour about it. I also learned that I can only give freely of myself, and that I was really just a broken little farm boy.
Today, I’ve been clean for 22 months. I continue going to group sessions and Narcotics Anonymous—but mainly for maintenance. It’s important to stay humble. I hang out with God every morning and ask him for help. All I want is to go to bed each night feeling clean and sober. And that’s what I’m doing with the help of staff here.
All of the people who helped me at Mission Services, from my counsellors to the kitchen staff to the volunteers—I cannot sing their praises enough. They gave me support and compassion and showed faith in me when I didn’t have any faith in myself. It’s because of them, as well as everyone who keeps Mission Services open, that I am still here. This is as good as life gets right now.
A New Slate: Life After Recovery
Today, I’m learning how to build healthy relationships with family, friends, and the people around me. I’ve done canning at a community garden and sold produce at a farmers market. I volunteer with a kids’ sports group. I even picked up disco roller skating with a friend from recovery. Every time we go, we joke that next week we’ll try talking to a girl!
It would have been nice to have my parents with me. For a long time, I resented them and bore them a lot of hate. But I’ve since found forgiveness. As damaged as they were, I still love them. Most of my family is gone, in fact, but I still have one brother and a sister and I talk with them on Facebook.
To be honest, I’m not sure what comes next. I’ve been so focused over the last two years on my recovery I don’t know where to direct my energy now. I may try to find work using my culinary background, or maybe I’ll try something completely different. God has given me a clean slate; I want to create something beautiful this time.
Lives YOU Touched This Year
New Partnerships in 2013-14
At Mission Services, we believe in working with other non-profits who share our principles and commitment to service in order to maximize our combined impact. Below are just a couple of the partnerships we established this year while working to create better outcomes for the people and communities we serve.
Hamilton Victory Gardens
Hamilton Victory Gardens is a volunteer-run organization that grows local, fresh produce to donate to food banks and meal centres. Over the last year, we started partnering with them to ensure our food hampers and drop-in meals contain more fresh, locally grown vegetables and fruit, and give them space to work out of at our Wentworth location. Through our men’s shelters and addiction recovery programs, Mission Services also contribute volunteers to help tend community gardens run by Hamilton Victory Gardens.
Hamilton Youth Steel Orchestra
Hamilton Youth Steel Orchestra (HYSO) gives at-risk youth the opportunity to experience positive group interaction and musical expression while gaining musical literacy. Last year, HYSO was in urgent need of space to continue storing their equipment and practicing. In the spring of 2014, HYSO started calling Mission Services’ location on Wentworth their new home. The joyful sound of their playing has quickly endeared all staff and volunteers to HYSO. We hope they will stay for a long time.