A New Holiday Experience

Gary working behind the kitchen at the program.

If you take a trip back to Open Door Mission’s kitchen, you’ll meet Gary Hughes, Hospitality Director. He might be distracted singing, but as soon as he sees you, you’ll receive the warmest welcome. And if you give him a chance, he’d love to share all about his transformed life through Christ.

The joy Gary has now is in stark contrast to the years of struggling through pain and addiction. Growing up, Gary learned from his father that the men of his family drank. So from age 15, alcohol and drugs were present in his life. Gary’s mom was a positive influence, taking him to church and encouraging him. Yet, Gary pushed God away more each day.

Gary worked in restaurants, always excelling and moving up the ranks at each, then switching to a new restaurant for a new challenge. This financial stability allowed him to move out at 17, which only deepened his addiction.

Gary’s mom fell ill, which encouraged him to begin his recovery, but she quickly passed away.

“Once she was gone, there went my reason to be sober,” said Gary. “Then when my dad died, I completely pushed God away.”

Gary began traveling with bands to set up lighting for their shows. He met his wife at a show, and together they had two children. But the lifestyle on the road allowed for him to be in full-blown addiction.

“That cost me a marriage and my relationship with my kids,” said Gary. “I just wasn’t there. I abandoned them for my addictions because I didn’t want them to see me using, after growing up watching my dad.”

Steadily, Gary’s addiction took everything from him. He was living on the streets staying drunk to avoid the pain of thinking about all the things he could’ve done differently.

Then one day, Gary was sitting in a park, drinking, and a man sat next to him. He began telling Gary about Open Door Mission and how they could help with his addiction and provide a place to sleep.

“When he asked if he could pray for me,” Gary recalls, “I said he had to leave. He left, and I started weeping. Then I threw my bottle of alcohol and started walking to the Mission…Blind faith was tugging me to the Mission.”

Gary met with Men’s Center Director Pat, who told him, “Mr. Hughes, I think you’d be a great fit.”

“That was the best thing I’d ever heard in my life,” said Gary. “You guys want me? No one wanted me…But the Mission fed me, gave me clothes, and gave me hope when I didn’t have any hope for myself.”

Sadly, Gary’s ex-wife passed away while he was in the program. But it was with the support of staff members and other students that he was able to give his burdens to God and stay sober.

A few months after graduating from the program, Gary joined the team part-time in the kitchen. Just like at his past restaurant jobs, he excelled and now is the Hospitality Director.

“Without this place, I don’t know where I’d be right now,” said Gary. “It’s powerful to walk down the hallway and see people praying. This is why we do what we do – that’s what matters. God has placed me in an opportunity to go and make disciples, to be the seasoning.”

This Thanksgiving, Gary will cook hot, nutritious holiday meals for the hungry and homeless thanks to generous donors like you. Thank you for giving him a new holiday experience!


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