Editor's Note: For many charitable organizations, the holiday season, like the rest of the year, is a time to connect people in need to solutions to some of life's toughest problems. It's also a great time to look out for your neighbors. That's why, in the week leading up to Christmas, we're using our "A Christmas Wish" series to showcase community members whose lives have been enriched by the work of United Way of Central Missouri partner agencies and, by extension, generous community members.
Amanda Rasse is four and a half months clean.
It's one of her biggest accomplishments, she said, even though it might not seem like much to others.
"I never thought I would say that, never in my life. I thought I would be an addict for my whole life," Rasse said, her smile beaming as she remembered how far she has come since August.
Opioids and meth ruled most of her 37-year-old life — opioids for 20 and meth for seven — and her addiction continued to worsen, reaching its peak earlier this year.
Then, in August, her mother had a stroke in front of Rasse and her 9-year-old son Baron.
Rasse relied on her mom for food, shelter and money, but when her mom was admitted to the hospital, Rasse's family told her she needed to address her addiction before she continued living with her mom.
She checked into a mental institution and left after a week.
Without her family, friends or drugs, she attempted suicide. After the failed attempt, she sought help and checked into a hospital that "got me back on my feet," she said.
After three weeks at the hospital, a social worker brought her to Jefferson City to check into Preferred Family Healthcare's treatment center, but the facility did not have an opening for her at the time.
"I was so freaked out because I didn't know where I was going to go," said Rasse, who is originally from Sedalia. "I didn't have anybody here or know anybody here."
That's when she found The Salvation Army's Center of Hope Shelter and Social Services.
The Salvation Army, 927 Jefferson St. in Jefferson City, has more than 30 beds and is the only homeless shelter in Jefferson City that accepts single men and women, along with families, shelter Director Brian Vogeler said. It offers a wide range of resources including the shelter, a food pantry, showers, laundry services and legal advice. Workers also help those struggling to pay rent or utility bills, find housing, receive proper medical care and set up financial savings.
"We're much more than a shelter," Vogeler said. "There are so many facets that we can do to help people out. Everyone at one time or another has struggled, and everyone needs a little help. The Salvation Army's mission is to be there for those people when they need that help."
The Salvation Army requires three forms of identification, which Rasse did not have at the time. After she tried several ways to get identification, Salvation Army workers gave her a bed on the condition she seek treatment and get identification.
A week later, Rasse found herself at Preferred Family Healthcare, where she received treatment for close to a month. While there, The Salvation Army checked in on her and held her bed.
"They really went out of their way to help me there so while I was there, I didn't have to worry that I didn't have a place to live," she said. "They don't do that normally. Once you're out, you're out."
With the help of Preferred Family Healthcare and The Salvation Army, Rasse began talking to her son, her mother and her father again. She said they have been her rocks as she continues to work toward improving her life.
While she is looking forward to buying Christmas presents for her family this year, Rasse said her Christmas wish is to see her mom. The most difficult part of her journey has been gaining back the trust of her loved ones, she added.
"There are a couple of people who I love to death that I hurt so bad with my addiction that, even though I'm better, they're not coming back — and I miss them so much," she said, a tear rolling down her cheek. "I don't like to think about what I did to the people around me, but I have to. That's part of recovery and making amends with the people you've hurt."
Since leaving Preferred Family Healthcare in late September, The Salvation Army provided Rasse food and a bed, helped her get a job and encouraged her to remain sober.
They also helped her fill out housing applications. Last Tuesday, she learned she had been approved for affordable housing.
The same day, she found out she will see Baron for the first time since August around Christmas.
"This is a big day," she said, grinning from the back pew of The Salvation Army's chapel. "It's all happening. I'll have an apartment, and I'll see my son. It feels amazing."
Her next goal is to get her career back, she said. Rasse had been a licensed esthetician, a skin care specialist, for more than 10 years. Lately, she said, she has considered becoming a drug and alcohol counselor.
Rasse said while Salvation Army staff provided material support, she thinks the most valuable things they have given her are life lessons like staying positive, being patient, having motivation and striving for success.
She began praying at the encouragement of Salvation Army staff. Rasse said she talks about her goals, family and past, but the main thing she prays for is strength.
"I just pray to stay sober — because if I could stay sober, then all of these things could happen," she said. "If I stay sober, I could go back to school, and if I stay sober, I could have a career. If I stay sober, my son and my family will be in my life."
Vogeler said hearing stories like Rasse's is heartwarming but added it is a team effort. The Salvation Army partners with several groups like Preferred Family Healthcare and Pathways Community Health, which provides family medicine and health resources.
"It makes you happy knowing that your job actually has an impact," Vogeler said. "It's all of us working together to help make people's lives better. It's amazing to see Amanda's story, and we see several stories like this all the time where people are coming out of substance abuse or maybe people just had a house fire or they lost a job or something happened and they're rebuilding their lives — and it's amazing to see a community like Jeff City and how we all partner together to help people out."
Rasse plans to volunteer at The Salvation Army as she continues to work and looks toward going back to college.
"I don't think I would be anywhere near where I am now without them," she said. "I don't even know if I would have made it into treatment without them. I don't know where I would be because it's not just a building for a place to stay. It's the people here that helped me become a person I never thought I would be."