A decade before they founded Springs Rescue Mission to help the homeless and hungry in Colorado Springs, Marilyn and Paul Vyzourek needed some help of their own.
When the two married in Rhode Island back in 1981, drugs and alcohol were a big part of their lives. But they soon realized something needed to change. “We needed to get away from a bad situation — we wanted to get sober,” Marilyn said.
By 1993, Marilyn and Paul had moved to Kansas, both gotten clean, rededicated their lives to God and adopted three children with special needs. Hungry to deepen their faith and learn more about the Bible, they both enrolled in Bible college and moved the family to Colorado Springs in 1994.
“That’s when we knew God had a call on our lives,” she said.
Then in 1995, they accidentally started a ministry.
“God led us to start making sack lunches and boxes of clothing to take to the homeless,” she said. “We went around to people under bridges and in parks all around the city.”
Marilyn and Paul knew God had a plan, even if they couldn’t see it yet. They just did their best to remain humble, allowing Him to direct their path.
“God just spoke it into our hearts,” she said. “It was really just something we knew God was telling us. We didn’t start the Mission thinking that it would grow to what it has become. We were just doing what he told us to — we took it one step at a time.”
Soon they dreamed of creating a place where homeless men and women could find a good meal, encouraging company and spiritual support. In 1996, they rented a small space in downtown Colorado Springs to use as a soup kitchen — and Springs Rescue Mission was born.
“In the beginning, it was just meals and clothing; but as we went along, things just grew and grew,” she said. “And we always had a gospel message. That’s what made us different from the rest.”
Long before they started a shelter program, Marilyn and Paul housed small families and men recovering from addiction in their own home. Marilyn said it felt particularly meaningful because of her own sobriety. “We started with four beds in our basement,” she said. “I can understand what it’s like for many of these people. I know how it feels to need help.”
As new programs were added, the campus began to grow to accommodate demand: from one floor at 5 W. Las Vegas St. to what is now a sprawling homeless resource campus. For Paul, who died in 2014 at age 64, it’s a beautiful legacy. For Marilyn, now 68, it’s an unending passion.
“Homelessness is an important issue,”she said. “But what I really care about is transforming the lives of individuals who want to change. Springs Rescue Mission is all about changing hearts, not just behavior.”
With a strong desire to help women struggling with homelessness, addiction and domestic violence, Marilyn started Gospel Homes for Women shortly leaving SRM staff in 2002.
“It’s dangerous out there,” she said. “A woman can be robbed, raped, beaten or even killed on the streets. There are women who are in their sixties who can’t afford a place to live with their SSI benefits. They just need help.”
After the death of her husband, Marilyn once again felt a call to volunteer at the Mission and now serves once a week admitting guests into the entry shelter.
“I never want to give that up, because I love it,” she said. “I just love the ministry and what it means for people. It blesses me every time I go down there.”
Reflecting on the 25 years since Marilyn and her husband Paul started the Mission as a small soup kitchen in downtown Colorado Springs, she’s overcome with emotion. It’s almost incomprehensible, she says, to have been part of such a grand story of God’s grace for his children.
“Look how big it is and how many people it’s helping,” she said. “It just blows my mind and brings tears to my eyes when I see what God has done. He did it, not us. We were just blessed enough to be a part of it.”
Consistently provide nutritious meals, a bed and compassionate care for neighbors in need by becoming a Good Samaritan Sponsor today! For just $25 a month, you’ll help transform the life of a homeless man or woman in Colorado Springs.
Visit springsrescuemission.org/gss to learn more.