Pat's Story: Receiving Love to Giving Hope

By the time Pat Blackman was in her 30s, she was living with her mother in Detroit and had been battling devastating patterns of spiraling addiction for more than ten years. As a young woman, Pat struggled to form healthy relationships and made damaging connections that led her down a path of alcohol and substance abuse. 

Pat had also suffered health problems including two aneurysms and a stroke, which left her with mobility limitations and a limp. In her physical condition, she was unemployed. She hid in her mother’s house when no one was home and quietly fed her addictions.

Along her journey, Pat had grasped at chances to take control of her life. She sought help to address the addictions she struggled with. She even tried a rehabilitation program, but she left after just 28 days, never finding the support she needed. She would stay clean and sober for years but would slip back into dependency—until Pat got the nerve to give rehab a second try. At her mother’s recommendation, Pat found The Salvation Army.

“She got the information for me, and I made the phone calls,” Pat recalled. “And that was the beginning of my true life.”

Pat and her then-10-year-old son arrived at The Salvation Army women and children’s shelter in Detroit, where she began the drug and alcohol rehabilitation program. There, Pat found what she had been missing.

“The difference at The Salvation Army was the embracing. I was embraced,” Pat said. “I could be me; I could become better day by day. They dealt with me for who I am, which made me a better person.” 

Most importantly, Pat was met with love. “The Salvation Army really showed me a lot of love. That’s all we need. Just to be shown love. For someone to say, ‘I love you, it’s going to be okay.’”

The second day at The Salvation Army, Pat remembers attending a ceremony for rehabilitated addicts graduating from the program. She knew she would walk across the graduation stage one day. “I told my son, ‘That’s going to be us. Listen to what I tell you,’” she said.

Pat’s faith in herself and The Salvation Army’s care was rewarded. She soon found a mentor who would change her life: Ms. Eileen Poole, a teacher in one of Pat’s rehabilitation classes.

“[Ms. Poole] just believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself,” Pat said. Ms. Poole’s caring allowed Pat to trust in The Salvation Army and find the motivation to make the necessary changes in her own life. “She looked at me like I was a person. The Salvation Army believed in me because Ms. Poole was a big part of The Salvation Army.”

Through Ms. Poole’s classes, Pat learned many life skills to control her addiction, meet life’s challenges and deal with consequences, good and bad. 

“What Ms. Poole said in class sticks with me every day,” Pat said. “I didn’t know a whole lot about life, and she taught me that it’s not over. This is just the beginning.”

Pat’s growth through The Salvation Army’s program helped her meet goals outside of conquering addiction. Through Ms. Poole’s encouragement, Pat began to overcome the physical limitations of a limp and mobility limitations in her hands, so she could attempt to re-enter the workforce after ten years without a job.

“Ms. Poole said, ‘Just because you have a disability right now, you won’t always have one,’” Pat recounted. “Once I started working, that was a goal hit. And then when I started driving, that was a goal hit—and that was because The Salvation Army didn’t see anything wrong with me.”

Pat successfully finished her rehabilitation. And just as she had promised her son on their second day with The Salvation Army, they walked across the stage together. “He got a Bible, and I got a Bible at our graduation. And that was the beginning of a start for us,” she said. “The Salvation Army gave us that start that we desperately needed together.” 

Today, at age 49, Pat has been clean and sober for 13 years. 

“The Salvation Army was a big part of my staying clean,” Pat said. “That’s a part of my life that I refuse to go back [to]. I don’t even worry about that. I learned from The Salvation Army… that I don’t have to use drugs and alcohol. I was given a lot of love and I was given strength from that love.”

Pat attests that she has also found her purpose in life—working for The Salvation Army herself. 

“I used to pray that God would just take me because there was nothing left for me to do,” Pat said. “After giving and receiving so much at The Salvation Army, I was able to see that there is something out there for me to do. God left me here for a reason. I’m here to give hope and give love through The Salvation Army.”

Pat can be found working the front desk of The Salvation Army Detroit Harbor Light, and helping others overcome their struggles by showing compassion and sharing her own success story.

Recently married to her significant other of 13 years, Pat rents a house in Detroit and visits her now-adult son and grandchildren at least once a week.

“I wake up every day with a smile on my face,” Pat said. “And every day you walk in The Salvation Army, the first thing you see is me, with a smile on my face.”

Jessica's Christmas Story

Good people don’t plan for bad things to happen. Jessica Dwyer never planned for a debilitating disease. She never planned for a flooded basement that resulted in the loss of her family’s belongings. She never planned to lose her job. She most certainly didn’t plan on Santa skipping her house last Christmas. In August 2011, Jessica was diagnosed with interstitial cystitis (IC), a severe bladder disease which limited her work. The disease went undiagnosed for years until she couldn’t take the pain anymore. Ongoing doctor’s office visits and surgeries made it difficult for her to work. Two months after the diagnosis, her basement flooded and the majority of her family’s clothes were lost. Jessica felt like she couldn’t catch a break.

And, just when she thought things couldn’t get worse, her disease forced her to lose her job. Michael, her husband of 18 years, then became the sole provider for their family making it difficult to provide for their two children, Austyn, 14, and Harmony, 9. With Christmas just around the corner, Jessica wanted to make sure that both of her children had something underneath the tree. So, he researched where she might be able to get Christmas assistance. In early December, she reached out to several organizations, but they all turned her down, citing either cutoff dates or children’s age limits. “I understood they had cutoff dates, but was shocked when organizations wouldn’t provide gifts for children over the age of 12,” she said. “Just because you have a teenager, it doesn’t mean they don’t deserve a Christmas, too.”

“No mother wants to think about not being able to give her children Christmas"

Jessica kept faith in God and found The Salvation Army. Two weeks before Christmas, The Salvation Army Dearborn Heights Corps Community Center provided toys, clothing and financial assistance... with no cutoff dates or age limits. “No mother wants to think about not being able to give her children a Christmas,” said Jessica. “It broke my heart thinking what a sad morning it would have been, but the support I received was amazing. The Salvation Army unconditionally welcomed me and made me feel loved .” The Salvation Army has inspired Jessica to do the most good for her community. Her goal is to get healthy and have her family participate as bell ringers during the next Red Kettle campaign. She is also developing a community donation drive with her church to help older teens so they won’t go without at Christmas.

The Salvation Army has lifted Jessica and her family’s spirit. Jessica didn’t choose to lose her job. She didn’t choose to be diagnosed with a painful disease. But, Jessica did choose to make sure her kids had a wonderful Christmas and The Salvation Army of Metro Detroit chose to help them.

Royal Oak's Afterschool Program

For years The Salvation Army of Royal Oak, Michigan has provided a safe, fun, helpful environment for children to come after school. Participants can expect a snack, home work assistance and a chance to make new and healthy friendships.

Rochelle - A Denby Center Story of Hope

A look in to services offered by our Denby Center and how it has empowered lives like Rochelle's

Rozzette's Story

Rozzette describes her story and how The Salvation Army Royal Oak Citadel renewed her hope when she found herself unable to provide for her family.

Abide Program

Nine teens spent three weeks of their summer in intense fellowship and community service; this is their story. To learn more about Abide, or other programs in The Salvation Army Eastern Michigan Division Youth Department, reach out to Sara Johnson at For a more intense synopsis of the 2013 Abide program, visit

Dan's Story

When an illness hits, it often affects more than just the sick. When Dan Sheldon’s father fell ill in mid-2011 he stepped in, full force, to take care of him. This meant around-the-clock care and no time for a paying job. And when his dad was finally laid to rest, Dan made all attempts to keep their apartment, but there just wasn’t enough money. While flipping through the classifieds, he found a local homeless shelter where he stayed for more than a year. “They didn’t really help me, though,” said Dan. “We just sat there all day and went to church at night. When summer came around, they told us we could go to The Salvation Army in Royal Oak to shower. That’s where it all started.” Dan visited The Salvation Army Royal Oak Corps Community Center for a hot shower and a meal, but the support didn’t end there. Through the Royal Oak Corps, Dan has not only received food and shelter assistance, he’s also found employment at the Pontiac Corps Community Center doing maintenance work. The next step is for him to find a nice place to rest his head at night, and The Salvation Army is committed to helping him every step of the way. “Thank you to the volunteers and to the people who have donated. Thank you for what you did for me. It’s a whole new life,” he added. “[The Salvation Army] has shown me hope. [Those struggling] need to keep trying. Help is out there.”
Listen to his story here:

Constance's Story

Outcomes are true measure of our success. How does The Salvation Army help break the cycle of poverty, homelessness and hunger? The answer is found in the stories of those we serve. The Bed & Bread Club® changes lives on a daily basis. Below are real life stories of individuals who were helped by The Salvation Army through the Bed & Bread Club®. Constance Hargrove is a single mom who lost her job during the economic collapse. Donations to the Bed & Bread Club help people like Constance get back on their feet and return to independence by providing two things we often take for granted: food to eat and a place to sleep.