by Mary Rosewood
“I’m just so grateful to the Lord. I’m grateful to The Salvation Army. The Salvation Army gave me a place to start.”
“Salvation Army, where we’re doing the most good. How may I direct your call?”
Roxanne cheerfully answers the phone at the downtown Austin shelter with these words. When a person in crisis walks through our shelter doors asking for help, Roxanne is the first calm, caring person they meet at The Salvation Army. She stays busy: filling out paperwork for new clients entering the shelter, creating badges for them, answering questions, providing directions, giving out sack lunches, handing over the clipboard for laundry sign-up.
“I am proud to have this real, normal job. I work for The Salvation Army, Monday through Friday from six to three,” Roxanne says.
“I love my job. I LOVE it. I love it,” she adds. “I’m right in the hub of the building. It seems like everybody comes to me for all kinds of help. I try to encourage clients. My experience might be the one thing that helps that person or gives them some strength to go on.”
Grateful for Her Job
Roxanne does not take having a job for granted.
“It was the bottom of bottom” is how Roxanne describes her life in 2007 when she arrived at the shelter after spending ten years as a homeless drug addict.
At age 15, Roxanne began smoking marijuana. Within two years she was using cocaine and speed, then smoking crack.
As her addiction tightened its grip, Roxanne walked out on her six children, thinking that she was protecting them. But this decision led to years of living in cheap hotels, sometimes on the street, then in the woods.
Roxanne struggled to be sober. She tried different treatment centers. She attended Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, and Cocaine Anonymous. The programs would work for a while, but she just wasn’t getting what she needed.
One day she ran into her now-grown son; unsure of what his mother might do, he stayed in the car and showed Roxanne her one-month-old granddaughter through the window.
“I had been praying and praying and praying for God to help me find some kind of direction to get out of that mess,” Roxanne says. “And at that moment, I felt like that was my open door.”
Roxanne did not want her new granddaughter to experience what she had put her children through. She felt a strong need to go somewhere to straighten out her life so she could be a good grandmother.
“Literally, I just jumped on a bus,” Roxanne recalls. “I didn’t know where I was going, I had no clue I would end up at The Salvation Army. I had nothing with me, no clothes – nothing. I just kind of ended up there. I thought The Salvation Army was just some place you ate. When I got there, that’s when everything began to change for me.”
Over the next few months doors opened one after the other. Roxanne followed her caseworker’s suggestion to volunteer in The Salvation Army kitchen. Soon she was being paid for this work, and then promoted: dishwasher, kitchen assistant, cook. She hadn’t done honest work for sixteen years; she started to feel like a human being again.
“All I had to do was open myself up and be willing to do the next right thing,” Roxanne says. “Through The Salvation Army and through God, my entire life changed in a matter of months, I mean rapidly.”
Today Roxanne works as the ground floor receptionist at the downtown Austin shelter, a job she loves because she is able to share her story of hope with people coming in off the street.
The Blessing of Her Family
Now her children are in her life again, and she finds delight in spending time with her granddaughter. Her second grandchild was born in October, and Roxanne is delighted to be able to spend time with and enjoy her grandbabies.
“It is truly God’s miracle that my life is where it is today,” Roxanne says.
You can help people like Roxanne with your donation to The Salvation Army today. Click here to make a donation.
“What I am today, and who I am today, and what I have today has nothing to do with me, other than being willing to be open to what God has for me, what God’s plans are for me, and just stay sober. God is the one who keeps me sober, and he has allowed my life to be where it is today. I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I’m just so grateful to the Lord. I’m grateful to The Salvation Army. The Salvation Army gave me a place to start.”
Thanks to freelance writer, Mary Rosewood, for writing this story. Mary enjoys capturing the stories of memorable people and events. Find her website at rainydayrose.com .