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Thanksgiving is time to be thankful, provide help to others at rescue mission in Oklahoma City

Two men at Grace Rescue Mission give thanks at Thanksgiving time, remembering their own dark times while trying to provide help to others who may be experiencing their own hard times.
by Bryan Painter Published: November 21, 2012

Michael Matarese realized his wife wasn't coming back.

He dove into the rum, trying to drink “enough courage to eat a bullet from a 9 mm pistol.”

Then there's Gary, who asked his last name not be used. He sold his transportation, a 1980 Chrysler, for $50 so he could buy some meth.

About 600 people are expected Thursday for Grace Rescue Mission's Thanksgiving meal, which is open to the public from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Exchange Avenue Church, 1300 S Pennsylvania.

Matarese and Gary plan to be there, giving thanks. They think back to the days of suicidal thoughts and meth and are thankful they are alive for Thanksgiving 2012. They're thankful they're sober, and have been for some time. They're thankful they will be serving the homeless and others in need.

Matarese is the head cook at Grace Rescue, 2205 Exchange Ave., and he's been at the mission off and on for about 10 years. And Gary, who is in his mid-30s, is a senior supervisor at the mission and he's been at Grace Rescue since 2010.

Matarese traces his purpose for staying there to Scripture.

“One reason I'm in the kitchen is because while I was in the SAFE (Setting Addicts Free Eternally) program,” Matarese said, “the words from when God was talking to Peter on the shores of Galilee just kind of jumped off the page when He said, ‘Peter do you love me? Feed my sheep.'” he said.

“That's what I do, I feed his sheep.”

Gary, who got clean after arriving at the mission a little more than two years ago, remains there because of fear and faith.

He fears that if he were to leave, and someone were to offer him meth, he'd take them up on it. He has faith that God is at work within the mission.

“This place saved me, and I have no doubt that God is working here,” Gary said. “I'm thankful that I was given a chance here. Whenever I walked through that door, they didn't look at me as the homeless guy, they looked at me as a person.”

Clear eyes

Now Gary looks at life through clear blue eyes. His mind is sharp and the hands resting in his lap aren't shaking.

“Meth is a drug that I was addicted to, but I hated it,” he said. “Every time I did it, I knew I had messed up, but I just couldn't stop. After the high wore off, I went a week every time feeling like I'm next to death.”

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by Bryan Painter
Assistant Local Editor
Bryan Painter, assistant local editor, has 31 years’ experience in journalism, including 22 years with the state's largest newspaper, The Oklahoman. In that time he has covered such events as the April 19, 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah...
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