Anthony came to the Mission in 2013. After graduating, he volunteered with us and for the past four years, Anthony has been employed with us as our Operations Manager. He has a BIG heart, he's always out in the community helping others, and he's the kind of person that will drop what he's doing to help you. We are so proud of him and grateful for all that he does for the Mission and our community. Thank you, Anthony, for sharing your story!
Watch the video of Anthony’s testimony here.
“Hello, my name is Anthony Choza, and I’m going to talk a little bit about my life before the Merced Rescue Mission. When I was young, I left my house at the age of 14 and I’ve never been home since. I thought I knew everything. I was locked up in Juvenile Hall for a long time and from there I graduated to Merced County Jail. Again, I was thinking I was ‘the man’ and that just got me into more trouble. I began doing County time and thought that was life itself, that I was put on this earth to be locked up. I didn’t know any different, I continued to be the bad guy. Once I reached prison, I went to a wrong crowd and began going into the gangs, but that didn’t work for me, I just got into more trouble. Then, I continued going in and out of prison.
I heard of Merced Rescue Mission, I heard about it a lot. I even ate there one time, but my pride was telling me, ‘don’t go down there, don’t ask for help’. I was tired of the prison life, but I was a repeat offender, constantly in prison. I lost contact with all my family members and I just kept to myself.
Once I gave-it-a-go at the Merced Rescue Mission, that saved my life. I thought that prison life was life itself, that’s all I knew. I didn’t know about doing good deeds for people and I had given up, but when I went to the Mission, they put me under their wings. At first, I’m going to tell you the truth, at first, I was just going to play the role just to get through it because I had 7 ½ years hanging over my head. I figured, I’m just going to play the part, get off probation, parole and just go my merry way.
Once I got into it, I mean really into it, I hung up everything, I wanted to change my life and Merced Rescue Mission really showed me the way, showed me how my life should be. I was nervous about it, but once I took down the walls and really got into it, I told myself for the first time that this is what I want, I want this – to help people, talk to kids, and help other people that are having the problems that I had in my past.
At first it was rocky, but as the years went by it was going smoothly, and through the Rescue Mission I changed my life and I am so happy that I am where I am now. I thank God for doing that, because I couldn’t have done it for myself and I thank God for that.
Now I love what I do, I love helping the homeless, I love helping people that are coming into the program. I can relate to them because they’re young and they listen to me. At first, I didn’t know that I was a role model, but I guess I am. When I talk to people that are coming into the program, I talk to them openly and let them know if they have any type of problems to come talk to me – because I know the game, I know what’s happening, and they really listen to me.
I talk to my mom now, I see all my grandkids and pretty soon I’ll be getting married to a good woman. My life is perfect now, I would never change this for the world. If anyone wants to come in and change their life, we will all be there for that person, working right beside him [or her]. God bless everybody, Merced Rescue Mission is where it’s at.”
-Anthony Choza, MCRM Graduate