A local man has dedicated decades of his life to helping others who are struggling. He says no one understands their situation better than him, because he was once in their shoes.
Nearly 40 years later, he is now the Rockford Rescue Mission’s longest working employee. His service to our community is what makes him “Stateline Strong.”
“I can help a lot of people who come through our doors,” stated 65-year-old John Stuckmann. He said he made it his goal to help people at the Rockford Rescue Mission after he turned to its services for help when he was struggling at age 27.
“I was making bad choices and doing what I was [not] supposed to do and I ended up on the streets, ended up not having anywhere to go. I was able to find the Mission and able to use its services,” recalled Stuckmann, saying it was his personal transformation at the Rockford Rescue Mission that convinced him to stick around.
Fast-forward 38 years, Stuckmann is still working at the Rockford Rescue Mission as a men’s crisis center coordinator.
” I can actually tell them, ‘Hey, I was there too at one time,’ and ‘You can get out of that position, too!'” he said.
Stuckmann helped John Hazlewood through his tough times.
“My addiction had taken me from job to job to job. I approached the men’s crisis center on a Sunday afternoon and that’s where I met John,” Hazlewood stated, claiming Stuckmann served not only as a friend and role model, but as a beacon of hope. “He had what I wanted — and that was years of soriety and years of service.”
Over the years, Stuckmann says he has helped thousands of men at the men’s crisis center.
“We help them with basic needs of life. We try to help them with food. We serve three meals a day. We help them with a bed for the night to get rest. We try to give them the tools [they need.] We have case managers here that work with them,” he explained.
Stuckmann said the biggest change throughout the years has been the age of the guests seeking help.
“It’s a younger clientele,” he observed. “We had 40, 50, 60 year old men that were here for alcohol. Over the years, the age has been younger. As the time has gone on, alcohol continues to be a problem, but also drugs, mainly crack and heroin.”
Stuckmann loves when those he’s helped stay in touch, claiming, “I’ve got a guy that I helped when I first got here back in 1980-81. He calls me twice a week to let me know how he’s doing. It’s real gratifying.”
He told Eyewitness News his greatest accomplishment has been, “seeing these men that come through the doors change their lives, knowing I had a part in that.”
At the end of the day, Stuckmann said he believes serving at the Rockford Rescue Mission was a calling.
“The Lord called me here. I wanted to serve. It’s been a good time.”
Stuckmann said he plans to retire at the end of May, but will still serve as a volunteer.