(Photo: RICHARD QUINN/SPECIAL TO THE STAR)
Posted in the Ventura County Star – June 11, 2017
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Drugs took Frances Ramirez’s brother Paul Ramirez away from her and morphed him into someone else.
Addicted to methamphetamine, the once kind-hearted 25-year-old from Oxnard became rude, withdrawn and selfish, his sister said. She began keeping her two children away from their uncle, although they adore him.
On Saturday, Paul Ramirez was back to his old self. He goofed around with his nieces and nephews, smiled and played games. After three months in a recovery program at the Ventura County Rescue Mission in Oxnard, he was sober and ready to see his youngest family members again. The reunion was part of an event at the mission called Family Day, where men in the program spend time in a relaxed atmosphere with family and friends, some of whom they haven’t seen for months or years.
“Look at him. He’s full of life again, it’s like he has a purpose and a reason for living again,” Frances Ramirez said, as she watched her brother walking around the Rescue Mission’s courtyard with his 6-month-old nephew in his arms. “It’s nice to see him doing so well and everybody else here with their families. You see their happy faces compared to always seeing problems, and upset and stress.”
More than 50 men are currently enrolled in the 10-month recovery program that provides rehabilitation and vocational training to the poor, homeless and drug addicted. Saturday marked the Mission’s second Family Day event, which included a barbecue, carnival games, a pie-eating contest, raffle and magic show. The men invited wives, children, girlfriends, siblings, parents, and friends.
Rescue Mission Director John Saltee said the day is a chance for program participants to begin mending relationships with loved ones they’ve alienated through past behavior.
“We want to provide restoration. We want dads to go back to their children and be dads. We want sons to go back to their families … We want brothers to be reunited with brothers,” Saltee said. “This provides the first step in a safe environment for the family to see their brother, dad or son again.”
Volunteers from Calvary Community Church in Westlake Village — including their senior pastor — helped with the event. The Rev. Shawn Thornton said some of the volunteers have been mentoring the men on how to rebuild their relationships.
“There’s a lot of brokenness and pain among these families, so to have the children laughing at dads, and dads seeing them laugh, it’s part of the healing,” Thornton said.
For Shane Dietsche, Family Day offered a chance to strengthen the bond he has with his 9-year-old son, Jack, by having fun together. Dietsche choked up as he recounted a descent into depression, anger and drug abuse that ultimately landed him in jail. During his 13 months behind bars, Dietsche said he only saw Jack four times. Now in the Rescue Mission program, he said he’s beginning to reestablish his relationship with his son.
“For me, it’s unbelievable because this is a priceless time that I get to spend with him,” Dietsche said, putting an arm around Jack. “It’s been unbelievably painful to be in a position where I didn’t have it all together.”
Ramirez, meanwhile, said getting to see his nephews and nieces again gave him more inspiration to complete the rehabilitation program
“It’s joyful,” he said. “It’s motivating in every way.”