Union Gospel hosts makeover event for 50 recovering men at Burien facility

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Photo Credit: Sasha Reiko Photography @sasha_reiko_photography

By Cydney Moore

On Tuesday morning (April 16), Seattle’s Union Gospel Mission hosted the ‘Hope Springs Anew’ event at their Burien location, providing full makeovers to 50 men participating in their recovery program.

Residents at the Riverton Place transitional housing facility have entered the program after facing homelessness and addiction, and the Hope Springs Anew project is a way to signify participants’ new take on life, preparing those who have completed the recovery program for their upcoming graduation ceremony, and getting others ready to celebrate the Easter holiday in style.

Hair and wardrobe stylists from Gene Juarez Salon, the Beyond Project, and Styled Seattle fashion consultants spent the morning giving participants a whole new look from top to bottom, tailored to fit each individual. Residents received haircuts and shaves, as well as tips on how to coif their new do and jars of pommade to take with them, then proceeded over to racks of clothing donated for the event, where personal shoppers assisted in sizing them and selecting an outfit, including new shoes and suits.

Each participant was given a free professional photo shoot provided by Sasha Reiko Photography, capturing the before and after of their makeovers, demonstrating the monumental difference just a little time and care can make. The stark contrast between the before and after photos was evident not just in the way the men were dressed or their hairdos, but also in the shine of confidence instilled in them after donning their new look; the breadth of their smiles changed, the way they held themselves displayed a heightened level of self-esteem and renewed sense of pride, and it was clear their transformations had an impact that was more than just skin-deep.

Mark before…

…and after.

Mike before…

…and after.

Photos: Sasha Reiko Photography @sasha_reiko_photography

“It’s a fun way for the men both to have immediate and physical change through haircuts and shaves and clothes, but really it’s symbolic of the inward change that’s happening in their lives,” said Terry Pallas, Chief Program Officer for Seattle Union Gospel Mission.

Participants of the recovery program receive counseling, case management, life skills, training, and connect with a career and education manager. “We’re trying to give people a firm foundation to be able to have long-term success,” said Pallas. Seattle Union Gospel Mission also helps pay for program participants to go back to school if they want to pursue a degree, and hosts an internship program to help get people integrated back into the workforce.

Many of the residents spoke of their plans to take advantage of the options offered to help them move forward after graduation from the recovery program, with goals set towards building a brighter future for themselves.

Mike Cook, age 49, came to the Riverton Place facility in July of 2015 after a heroin overdose stopped his heart twice, and has spent his time volunteering as a lead for search and rescue missions with UGM. After graduation, he had a relapse last year, and re-entered the program in October; since then, he has been working diligently to get back on track. When asked what he would want people to know about the program, he said, “It saved my life.”

Blake Crosby, 29, flew in from Las Vegas, Nevada after hearing about the recovery program here. He arrived in January, and has 90 days clean and sober as of today, April 17th. “I was quick to jump to come out here because Las Vegas is really just a party scene, and I like the outdoors, the woods, mountains, hiking, and there was really none of that to do in Vegas. It’s a change of scenery, new life, new city, new me.”

Sedrik Tyson, 45, entered the recovery program after a life of alcoholism that started when he was just 12 years old. At the time, he felt alcohol helped him combat the fear and self-consciousness he dealt with in his life, and cope with scars from childhood that went unaddressed. Eventually he ended up homeless, drinking two fifths of alcohol a day, using meth and crack, and driving away many people in his life that he loved. Since coming to terms with his addiction, he has been on an inspiring path to recovery, joining the program at UGM 6 months ago, and being sober now for 7 months.

Anthony Werre, 33, joined the recovery program in May of last year, and is set to graduate at the end of June. “I spent almost 20 years in addiction, being homeless, living the lifestyle of criminal activity, in and out of prison. Never really had any kind of structure in my life,” Werre recalls. “I had just gotten out of prison in 2017, and within 10 months was looking at going back for 100 months, and so that really opened my eyes to the repetitious chaos my drug addiction was bringing. So I was sitting in jail on March 15 of last year, and I just kind of had an awakening that something had to change, or I was going to end up in prison for life, or dead. I found out about the program and met a guy who does coordination for the prison ministries department of Seattle Union Gospel Mission, and he came and spoke with me, and a few months went by and he went to court on my behalf, and here I am.”

Anthony is celebrating 13 months clean this week. “It’s the most I’ve ever had in my life, since I was a kid.” After graduation, his goal is to move to downtown Seattle to start working at the internship program that got him out of jail and into recovery, and to go back to school. “I’ll be starting at Highline Community College for a degree in behavioral science and developmental psychology this summer. I’m hoping between that, and the internship with prison ministries, that maybe my life is headed towards helping the troubled youth that are incarcerated with their addictions and their criminal behavior.” Speaking to the Hope Springs Anew event, and what it meant to him, he said, “Someone asked me when the last time I had worn a suit was, and the answer was never. Maybe when I was a child going to church with the family, but never in my adult life have I ever gotten dressed up like this.”

Here are more photos from the event, taken by Cydney Moore:

Every person who was asked how they felt about their new look echoed the exact same sentiment:

“I love it.”

The graduation ceremony for members who have finished the recovery program at Riverton Place will be on Thursday, April 18 from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Mission Theatre in South Seattle. Graduation ceremonies happen once a month to celebrate each participant as they finish their stay at Riverton Place, and move on to their new lives in recovery.

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