SEATTLE -- Seattle’s Union Gospel Mission has been, "serving the hurting and the homeless in our community for more than 79 years,” according to their website.
Scott Sowles was hurting so badly he wanted jump off Seattle’s Magnolia Bridge a year and a half ago. Fortunately he didn’t have the strength to get up from his bed -- just a wet piece of cardboard that he slept on under the bridge.
“When I got here I was thinking, "Wow, I’m way at the bottom’,” said Sowles.
Now Scott feels like he’s climbing to the top, thanks to Seattle’s Union Gospel Mission. When he got there and started in the recovery program, he described it as if “a helium balloon carried the weight right off me.” Now Scott, at 51, is climbing out of his addiction.
“Alcohol was my biggest drug of choice. I used a lot of other drugs," he said. "Anything from acid to heroin, to pot, to crack cocaine, you name it.”
Scott has plenty of company at the Mission. Marcus Jackson, Daniel Eiffert, Frank Garcia, Jason Laws, Rolls "Royce" Martin, and Ellis Banks are also recovering addicts. The seven men who now call the Union Gospel Mission home, have one more thing in common.
“I can feel my lungs burning a little bit you know,” said Marcus Jackson as he was working out recently.
These seven men are training to climb a mountain. But not just any mountain.
“Mt. Rainier!” exclaimed Daniel Eiffert.
“It’s a dream of mine,” said Sowles.
He hopes that dream will become a reality when they attempt the climb in mid-August.
“I want these guys to be able to accomplish the thing that most people will never accomplish, so they can say, 'If I can do this, I can do anything,’” said Mike Johnson, special projects director at Seattle’s Union Gospel Mission.
Johnson will climb with them. And so will we. Photojournalist Doug Burgess and I are training too. This will be our first time. We’ll be with the guys every step of the way chronicling their climb to the top. And when they get there?
“Celebration buddy!” said Sowles.
And they’ll be able to say they climbed higher than anybody, because after all, their bottom lower than anybody.
“If you can stay committed to this here and go through the training, yeah, there’s a lot of giants in your life that you can conquer,” said Marcus Jackson. “It’s important to me because I’ve never been committed to anything. I’m going to stand on something for once, because I’ve never done that before.”