Salvation Army Truly Brought Salvation To Suburban Business Owner

Bernie Tafoya
December 06, 2019 - 5:30 am
Jim Christensen

Jim Christensen/WBBM NEWSRADIO


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(WBBM NEWSRADIO) -- A southwest suburban pizza shop owner says that if it hadn’t been for the Salvation Army, he likely would not be alive today.
Jim Christensen, 64, is living a happy life now, full of love and promise. The same could not be said for him more than 16 years ago.

"My wife had had enough. She was about ready to leave me. The bank foreclosed on our house,” he tells WBBM Newsradio’s Bernie Tafoya.

Around that same time, Christensen's boss at Beggar's Pizza had told him to take a year off to get his life in order.

Christensen was addicted to drugs and alcohol. He says he had battled addiction most of his adult life. He even had a drug-abuse-related heart attack in 2001, but even that was not enough to get him clean.

He was taken to the Salvation Army's Adult Rehabilitation Center in Waukegan in February 2003, but he did not walk right in. He says he walked past the ARC on that first night, wandered the streets of Waukegan and got drunk.

He went in the next day and spent the next three months there turning around his life, being given a job in a sorting warehouse and then a cafeteria.

After that, he slowly worked his way back into the good graces of his family and his employer.

Christensen says: "When you’re addicted, (drugs) became my priority -- not my children, my wife, my job. The drugs became my priority. Now, I’m free from that."

His boss had so much faith in Christensen, he helped him take ownership of the Beggar's Pizza on 102nd and Central in Oak Lawn. Two of Christensen's children also work with him there.
"One day when my wife sent me to the store and actually gave me the PIN number for our debit card. I knew that she had trust, would trust me again," he says.

Now, Christensen says, he's a big contributor to the Salvation Army:  "The program didn’t cost me anything, but I know that someone paid for it and so, by knowing that if I could help someone, with the same problems today, that’s why we give."

Christensen proudly says he and his wife have now been married 42 years.