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New Life Program graduate finds work, giving back essential to recovery: Tyrone's story

New Life Program graduate finds work, giving back essential to recovery: Tyrone's story
Tyrone understands that working and acting as a productive member of society is important for his long-term recovery and sobriety.

Not only is employment a key component to the structure of the New Life Program — it’s something he sees as a gift after spending the better part of 16 years struggling with unemployment, addiction and homelessness.Now 39, Tyrone was born in South Carolina and grew up in Widefield before joining the Army out of high school and leaving for Fort Bragg, North Carolina in 1999. During his time on the East Coast, Tyrone married his sweetheart and fulfilled his Army commitment. But after he got out of the military in 2002, he struggled to find a direction in life. He had a hard time finding and holding down a steady job. And when drugs and alcohol became a prominent part of his life, the young couple fell into homelessness on the streets of Fayetteville, North Carolina.“Me and my wife were on the streets and we were starving,” he said. “It was unemployment that really kept me on streets a lot, and then it became drug use. Then, even when I did have a job, I’d just spend all of my money on drugs.”After the two divorced, Tyrone made his way back home to Colorado. He thought it might help stabilize his life — a respite from the hard living he had become accustomed to back East. But the addiction had taken root, and Tyrone spent the better part of the next decade on the streets of Colorado Springs.

But God had other plans for his life.

Tyrone found his rock bottom during the bleak winter of 2018-19 and entered the New Life Program at Springs Rescue Mission on Feb. 27, 2019. He spent those 13 months focused on his recovery, forging ahead with a holistic approach to overcoming the cycles of addiction, unemployment and homelessness that had for so long kept him from truly living.Early in the New Life Program, Tyrone became a volunteer through the Work Readiness program for Samaritan’s Kitchen, where work and cooking became essential parts of his recovery.

“I got into Work Readiness right away — straight to the kitchen,” he said. “I had worked in kitchens in the past and that’s not where I saw myself. But my experience in the kitchen was amazing, and I got more out of it than just the culinary aspect. I didn’t expect to get a career out of it, but I did. I got spiritual growth and healing too, and some healing from past traumas. I built relationships with chefs who acted like teachers and spiritual mentors, and I got to help people who I used to be homeless with. It changed my outlook. And I knew that’s where I was going to be — it’s where I’m supposed to be.”As Tyrone regained his mental, emotional, physical and spiritual health, he also took job skills classes to learn the most effective ways to create a resume, complete job applications and succeed in the interview process; as well as explore his own career aspirations.“Before that, I really couldn’t put into words what skills I had,” he said. “There are skills we have that we don’t even think of that way.”He graduated the New Life Program on March 17, 2020 and used the skills he learned in work training programs to secure a full-time position at Samaritan’s Kitchen as a chef and culinary instructor. It was more than just an opportunity to earn a paycheck; Tyrone saw it as an honor to give back to the organization that helped him find freedom, and to mentor men with whom he identified.“It felt good, mainly because I had been telling people that SRM had been hiring me because I felt that’s where God wanted me,” he said.Tyrone is enjoying his new role and has also started helping with Mission Catering, a social enterprise business of Springs Rescue Mission. He continues to teach and mentor men currently in the New Life Program, both at work and during his time off.“We teach them the basic skills and procedures for culinary arts, as well as some restaurant management skills and mentor them to do the same,” he said. “Spiritual mentorship – be an example for them. It’s been really rewarding – shifting gears into leadership.”He is also working to become a certified chef through the American Culinary Federation and looks forward to taking on more responsibilities, and eventually a leadership position, in the kitchen.

“I’ve seen people get clean and sober and do really well,” he said. “I get to see that on a regular basis.”

Tyrone has a positive attitude and is a highly motivated self-starter. In the four months since he was hired by Springs Rescue Mission, he has become an exemplary employee, a skillful chef and a role model for everyone around him. He has a strong work ethic and continues to educate himself and others in the areas of cooking, restaurant management and administration.

“My next step or goal is preparing myself and get trained up to be a supervisor,” he said. “My goals are to get more familiar with the art as a chef and to become more proficient in restaurant management and administration … becoming involved with Mission Catering and working events … getting used to kitchen operations.”Tyrone’s employment has allowed him to secure permanent housing not far from his workplace, and he has become actively involved in helping to maintain a local community garden. He’s also working toward receiving his American Chef Federation certification and considering attending college for culinary arts.Tyrone is a valuable asset to Samaritan’s Kitchen and Springs Rescue Mission; and a shining story of success for the New Life Program. But more than that, he’s a beloved son of God.“I think the main thing I’m learning is that God has a desire for me,” he said. “Through all of this, I feel him saying, ‘you are mine.’ … But I’ve also learned a whole lot about cooking.”

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