By: Katie Sobiech
Everyone has a story as to why they are the way they are and what created them. We are all affected by the events in our lives, whether for good or bad. These circumstances either make us, break us, or do a little of both.
Many of the men and women who find themselves in the line of a soup kitchen, or holding up a cardboard sign at a stop light have been broken – emotionally, spiritually, or in some way or another.
It only takes one person to step in and be the catalyst for change in their lives.
The Salvation Army, Springtime of Hope, and the Adult Rehabilitation Center have taken the time and dedicated their lives to looking past the cardboard signs, addictions, and diseases and into the eyes of individuals created by God. Their hope being to help restore each individual’s dignity and help them find purpose.
The Story Begins
Dustin Redmond’s life has been forever changed by the Salvation Army.
At just three years of age, his mother was killed right in front of his eyes.
“I didn’t have a mom since I was three and my dad and I never had the best relationship,” Redmond shared.
His father got re-married when he was five years old and he and his step-mom didn’t get along.
“When I was 17, I started getting into partying and stuff and one day I skipped school and stole my dad’s truck,” he said.
After this incident, he was kicked out of the house.
“I didn’t care about school. I didn’t care about anything,” he said.
Life for Redmond consisted of hanging out with friends, partying and running from the cops. Somewhere between that he found time to get his High School diploma and even attended Akron University for 2 years.
But, though he was trying to get his life together by going to school, and even had a job at Pet Land, partying had a stronger hold on him.
Trouble with the Law
At 17 years old he got his first conviction for underage consumption.
“I took a bunch of beer from the gas station and put it in my trunk and had all of these girls in the car,” he said, recalling the wild days of his youth.
He was caught again, not long after, and was given more community service – which he did not do.
“I just didn’t care at the time,” he said.
Four months later he was caught again by cops who “busted” the party he was at.
He was given a $3,700.00 fine, 2 months house arrest, and a year of probation.
All the while, he was going to school to become a cop.
Something’s got to Change
“Time went on and I met up with Jon (Soza) and started going out to feed the homeless, going to church, reading the Bible and following God’s word. As I started to do more of that my life started getting better,” Redmond says.
“I stopped drinking, partying and hanging around with that crowd, and the more I kept veering away from that, the better things got,” he continued.
As Redmond began to walk in obedience to God’s word and allow Him to transform his life, doors of opportunity began to open.
He got a job as a truck driver at the Adult Rehabilitation Center (ARC), and eventually became a counselor there.
Today he loves his job counseling, teaching life skills and how to build a resume.
“I spend a lot of time here with the guys, getting to know them,” Redmond said “That’s why I like what I do and not just being a counselor because I can have a relationship with the guys instead of just counseling.”
Many days, he is there from 9 in the morning until 9 at night. This is his life. He enjoys spending time with the guys, playing cards with them and building relationships.
“I like to go out with the guys and go with Jon and the guys to do Bible studies and feed the homeless,” he shared.
It is a continuous cycle of giving that seems to flow in many of the lives of those touched by the Salvation Army, Springtime of Hope and ARC.
Many times after searching for homeless men and talking with them they will end up at the ARC or Salvation Army.
“When we went out last night one of the guys came in. I told him ‘Just get here tomorrow and I’ll make sure we have a bed for you’,” Redmond said.
This assurance makes men feel safe during their transition from homelessness to getting help.
“It’s nice to have the job that I have,” Redmond shared on how rewarding it is to lend a hand to the down-and-out and see lives change.
Teaching Men to Dream
The beauty in all of this is equipping men to fulfill the vision and dream that God has placed within each and every one of them.
The Salvation Army, Springtime of Hope and the ARC allow these men to dream again. It gives them a second chance, when no one else is helping.
“My plan now is to become an Officer (at the Salvation Army). I just became a Soldier at the Citadel, so that is the next step,” Redmond said.
Redmond is trusting God to map out his future.
“I know that if I do what I’m supposed to do more doors will open up,” he said.
So he’s staying out of trouble these days.
As for becoming a police officer, he says he’s done with that.
“I plan on staying with the Salvation Army for the rest of my life because I believe this is where God wants me. Where exactly He wants me in the Salvation Army, I’m not sure, but wherever He wants me to be, that’s what I’ll do,” Redmond said.
He’s just 23 and has his whole life ahead of him.
“I’m just glad I caught myself when I did instead of getting deeper and deeper in. I could have ended up in jail because of something stupid. I’ve learned and stopped myself real quick because I saw where my life was going and how it is now and how I changed my life, it was a 360,” he said.
This is the goal, to reach teens and young adults before they even get to the point that many men and women do. Before they end up in jail or prison or are entangled in years of a strong addiction that feels impossible to break.
Each of these amazing ministries and organizations allow people to dream, who never thought they could. They allow people to achieve, who never thought they would.
“I never thought I was going to have an office job. Never doing this,” Redmond said of his surprise.
“I never even knew if I was going to make it in life to be honest with you. When I was younger, I got kicked out of my house I just wanted to give up, but now things are slowly coming (together),” he continued.
Redmond still doesn’t have a relationship with his father yet, but has learned from his mistakes.
Redmond followed the model he saw growing up, which goes to show that many men are just simply following what they’ve seen, and need new models to follow. Thankfully there are organizations out there that are willing to model Christ-like lives before these men. By changing one life at a time they are slowly impacting the community as a whole.
If you would like to find out more about this mission and how you can help please call Jon Soza at 330.958.2684