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Thankful for Second Chances, New Clients Share What Brought Them to Guiding Light

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New Clients, Sam, Ryan and Alan, Share What Brought Them to Guiding Light

About Guiding Light

Founded in 1929 as the West Fulton St. Mission, Guiding Light has grown into a robust recovery and re-engagement community designed to help those living at society’s margins fulfill their God-given potential. The nonprofit has been building on a near century of compassion and celebrated 90 years of serving Grand Rapids in 2019. Through its Back to Work, Recovery and Iron House programs, Guiding Light works with men struggling with addiction and homelessness to return to society. Since 2017, Guiding Light has earned a Platinum Seal of Transparency from GuideStar, which underscores our commitment to accountability and transparency. For more information, visit

/Guiding Light

In mid-March, Guiding Light halted intake of new clients into our Recovery and Back to Work programs. We loaned our building to the Kent County Health Department so individuals experiencing homelessness who contracted the novel coronavirus could be taken care of with proper medical equipment and personnel. Only recently were we able to move clients and limited staff back into our building in the Heartside neighborhood. 

After lots of planning and coordination on a COVID-19 Preparedness Plan, we have begun accepting new clients into Guiding Light programming.

“It’s not about just getting sober. It’s about a new way of living,” stated Sam, after he was recently accepted into the Guiding Light Recovery program. “I recognize that I cannot do this alone. The desperation is there and I know I need help.”

He is thankful to be at Guiding Light instead of living on the streets.

Another new client, Ryan, recently heard about Guiding Light from a doctor at Pine Rest Christian Mental Health Services.

“Dr. Bob had seen me too many times and he knew I needed long-term help,” Ryan said, “I have lost everything due to my drinking. My job as a nurse. My wife and two children. My home. I have hit rock-bottom. I guess that is what it takes to finally realize you need help.”

We asked Ryan what he hopes to gain from being at Guiding Light.

“There are wants and needs. I need to be a constant part of my two children’s lives. But I have to earn that privilege again,” he answered.

“This place does recovery differently,” Ryan continues. “The Seven Focus Points – Willingness, Honesty, Self-Awareness, Responsibility, Vulnerability, Spiritual Formation, and Self-Compassion – concentrate on the whole man. From day one, I was taught responsibility. I have chores. I must be up at 6 a.m. every morning. I keep my personal items and space tidy and neat at all times.”

Alan has been here just 10 days. This is his first time willing to ask for help with his alcoholism that he has been fighting with for more than 35 years. He has no family or friends left in his life. The shame is overwhelming. He recently attempted suicide and ended up at a local hospital. Thankfully, Alan survived and was recommended to go to Pine Rest. A case manager at the facility knew that Alan needed more sustainable help to work through his demons and years of addiction and loss.

“I saw a flyer about Guiding Light stating that 77% of clients remain sober after one year. That is what I need. Right now, I don’t trust myself to do this alone,” Alan shares.

Alan said he looks forward to slowing down. He knows there isn’t a quick fix. He wants real help in his recovery and is excited to meet his appointed spiritual director next week.

“My heart has been hardened. God is giving me a second chance,” he said. “With His help, day by day, I will chip at it. I am 51 years old. I want to live until I am 80.”

Guiding Light is grateful for donors and advocates that keep our doors open for every man that comes seeking God’s forgiveness and our help.  

As Alan said this morning, “Thank you for giving me this second chance.”

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