OGDEN — The traditional Easter message offers hope and the promise of a fresh start.
By last November, Andrew Allen realized he desperately needed both.
The day after Thanksgiving, Allen packed two bags and left the rest of his earthly belongings behind in his Clearfield apartment. His destination of choice? The Ogden Rescue Mission. Allen chose the humble, homeless shelter at 2775 Wall Ave. because of a residential rehab program it offered.
“It was the name — the New Life program,” Allen said. “That’s all I wanted was a new life, because I was miserable with mine.”
After more than a decade of drug addiction, Allen said he quit using in 2016. But his lifestyle didn’t change much. He’d go to work, come home, isolate himself and repeat that routine the next day.
Addiction fueled that tendency to isolate for a number of years, making it a hard habit to break even after eliminating the drugs..
“People started isolating themselves from me, and I started isolating myself from them as my mental and (physical) health state deteriorated,” Allen said. “Just because you quit the drugs doesn’t mean the damage goes away. Even though you start coming to terms with that most things were your fault, it doesn’t mean other people see the change or want to be around you. And it doesn’t mean you want to be around other people. You feel jaded.”
After depression settled in and snuffed out other life-giving activities, Allen knew he’d had enough. Something had to change in a big way.
“You can’t expect different results by doing the same thing over and over and over again,” Allen said.
So he began dropping in for dinner at the Ogden Rescue Mission about once a week, got to know the staff, and inquired about an open spot in the program. By late November, he got the green light to head on in.
Now more than five months into the yearlong program, the 46-year-old Allen works night security at the Mission and anticipates getting a job soon and moving into his own place by Christmas.
Armed with new habits and a host of new friends that function like a close-knit family, Allen said his future plans include taking life day-by-day and also giving back.
“This place has served me well. I’m out of that cycle,” Allen said. “I love this place, but I don’t want to be here forever.”
Rosemary Gallegos, formerly of Denver, Colo., found herself in the throes of a raging drug addiction when a friend sent her a bus ticket to come to Ogden. If she hadn’t made that move, Gallegos believes she probably would have wound up dead or behind bars.
Unfortunately, Gallegos found that her friend also had a serious drug habit. After living with her for a month, the woman lost her house and car. With nowhere to go, Gallegos made her way to the Lantern House in Ogden last February, later moving to the Ogden Rescue Mission.
“With this being a house of religion, it felt more like home,” Gallegos said of the Mission. “And this has become my home, my family.”
However, spirituality had not always been a part of her life.
“I never took the time to get to know God,” Gallegos said. “Coming here, there’s no way I don’t believe in God. My studies have taught me a lot about religion, and I respect it.”
Gallegos is in charge of the women’s dorm, a job she takes seriously. And Ogden Rescue Mission Director Judy Doud said that household chores and responsibilities are purposely part of the program.
“They’re all invested in keeping their home up here,” Doud said.
For Gallegos, her day begins at 7 a.m. with Bible study, at 8 a.m. she moves on to help a group of volunteers clean the dorm and restock necessary items such as toilet paper. From 10 a.m. to noon, she works in the donations closet. Then she has a break until 6 p.m. when night check-in starts.
“I check in my guests and get them tucked in for the night,” Gallegos said. By 9 or 10 p.m. she finishes up. “I just make sure everything is in top shape for my women, then I go to bed.”
Now six months into the New Life program, the 37-year-old Gallegos looks forward to getting some technical training, a good job and her own place. But she credits the support network at the Ogden Rescue Mission for giving her hope and a fresh start.
“It’s helped me get my life back together,” Gallegos said. “I’m very fortunate and grateful to have all these good people around me ... it’s my family.”
This Easter weekend promises to be both celebratory and reflective for Mission residents, staff, friends and families.
“On Saturday, the girls in our program will dye eggs. So whoever you are, you’ll get a colored egg for Easter,” Doud said. Easter baskets for visiting children are also in the works. Then on Sunday, the Mission will serve a ham dinner “with all the goodies.”
But the centerpiece of the day will be the chapel service detailing the significance of Christ’s death and resurrection.
“That’s the very heart of what we do here,” Doud said.