IDAHO FALLS, Idaho (KIDK/KXPI) - There are many challenges right now. For some people, there have always been challenges, even pre-pandemic, things like addiction and recovery. But KIDK Eyewitness News 3 anchor Todd Kunz found a place where they help those who have been incarcerated or struggling to overcome, get back on a better path. It just takes steps… Steps To Joy.
"Tremendous numbers. People coming a lot," said Michael Mercede, the founder and director of Steps To Joy.
It began as a prison ministry effort about four and a half years ago. Then it became a Bible study group from there.
"All of the effort here is a volunteer effort. No one is paid for anything that we do here, including myself. Including people that teach our lessons through the Celebrate Recovery Program," said Mercede.
He now implements a 12-step recovery program into this nonprofit. The board consists of three people. It is really a public charity licensed to provide social services. Mercede said people need support and somewhere to turn because the recovery process is not easy.
"By nature, the odds are strongly stacked against people that are pursuing a life of recovery. There's so many things that are pulling them back into what what the old life would be," said Mercede.
Mercede is clean and sober coming up on 32 years in February.
The program at Steps To Joy is helping many people. Angel Madrid lost his mother just five days after becoming clean. He's been sober more than a month.
"I don't think I would have made it. I don't. It's been rough. I've had everything thrown at me, but because of this organization, it's also opened doors. It's gotten my heart opened up to God and I've been back in contact with my kids. It's just a miracle what they do here," said Madrid.
Or "Jane" who is new to the area.
"But now I have family. I have support. I have people around me that bring me up if I'm having a down time. I know I have people that care," said "Jane."
Johanna Mercede is the treasurer of Steps To Joy and Michael's wife. She, too, has taken the recovery journey herself.
"Don't give up. I was at rock bottom. I here now. Because someone took the time to invest their energy and time in me and help me see there's better out there and that life doesn't have to be what it used to be," said Johanna.
Time to Pay It Forward.
"We have a lot of opportunities to network with that. We serve in a mentoring capacity.," said Mercede.
"Are you Michael?" asked a man, walking into the building.
"I am," said Mercede, seated at a table.
"Hi, I'm Kory (Carling) with Mountain America Credit Union," said the man.
"How are ya?" asked Mercede.
"Good. We've heard about all the awesome stuff you're doing for our community and the much-needed service you're providing and giving hope in this time of need," said Carling.
"Yeah, we are," said Mercede.
"So today, I brought $500 in cash," said Carling, pulling cash out of an envelope.
"Ah man," said Mercede.
"That we'd like to Pay It Forward for all the good stuff that you're doing for our community and we know you can use this and continue to better lives of those around us, so on behalf of Mountain America Credit Union, we'd like to Pay It Forward," said Carling.
"Oh man," said Mercede, beginning to tear up.
"And tell you thanks for all that you're doing," said Carling.
"Thank you. Bless you. Oh my gosh. Oh my gosh. Thank you. Thank you very much," said Mercede.
"You're welcome. You are welcome," said Carling.
"Thank you very much. Whoof," said Mercede, emotionally.
Steps To Joy can be found in downtown Idaho Falls at 830 Park Avenue or by clicking stepstojoy.org.
"Pay It Forward" airs the second Wednesday of every month. If you know of a nonprofit organization or someone who deserves to be recognized for their contributions to the area, click on "News" then "Pay It Forward" under the menu stack at the top left of our homepage. Fill out the submission form, or send an email to KIDK Eyewitness News 3 anchor Todd Kunz at email@example.com.