Meet Client Tommy – Ready For Change

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I talked to Tommy on a very special day for him: he was about to move out of the woods and into an apartment. He credits Wear Gloves for changing his circumstances…and his life.

“I’m on a litter crew Monday through Thursday, and then Friday I work at the warehouse. I inspect parts or deliver parts to everybody. I started off in a litter crew and I guess it’s been almost a year now. They had come to me earlier and wanted me to come and join them, but I wasn’t ready. I was still caught up in all the soup kitchen and the Salvation Army. I was caught in that vicious circle.”

When he was asked, “What made the difference? How did you walk through the doors, ready?” he said:  “It happened one day at the Church in the Garden when they had it over at the soup kitchen. Sandy come up to me and said, ‘you ought to come over and check out our program.’ I said ok. So, I came over Tuesday and got an interview, and the next day I started working.”

He didn’t know Sandy (who does the intake interviewing at Wear Gloves) before that day, but he had seen her around. He had known Ken and Wendy for 10-12 years when Sandy approached him. Regarding Ken and Wendy, Tommy said, “They’re real good people and they help out a lot. Ken and Wendy had asked me before but I wasn’t ready.” It was the personal invitation at the exact right time from Sandy made the difference for Tommy.

Tommy received a back injury at age seventeen and has struggled to find and keep jobs since. “It has been a struggle because nobody would hire me because of the steel rods in my back. The minute I say I had back surgery and steel rods in my back, they say: ‘we’ll call you.’ After doing that for a while, I got frustrated. I was down-and-out, trying to get disability, kept on getting turned down.” He still has not been approved for disability.

But things are looking up for Tommy: “Ken and Wendy will be helping me pay for the rent now. Before, it was just my cell phone and a little money for batteries…and all the things you need to live out there in the woods…food…”

When asked what others should know about Wear Gloves, Tommy said: “Come and give it a shot. If it’s not for them, it’s not for them. But they helped me get off the streets. I would tell anybody that’s on the streets to come give it a try. But…you have to be ready. You have to want to change your life. I guess I got to a point where I was tired of living in the woods and hanging out with all the riff-raff. I just couldn’t see myself doing that no more.”

When Tommy started working at Wear Gloves, his goal was to get out of the woods. Now it’s time to pick a new goal. He’s not a big planner and takes things day by day. He does, however, know that he plans to keep working for Wear Gloves. “They’re great people. If you give them a chance, they will help you out. The offer is out there…all they have to do is take it. I know what they done for me. They helped me a lot. They’re super people.”

Erika JironMeet Client Tommy – Ready For Change
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Meet Client Sabrina – A Story of Hope

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Client Name: Sabrina

Position:  Litter Crew Supervisor

Written by:  Lori Cotton

Every morning, Sabrina can be found around Ocala with her work crew in the Wear Gloves truck wearing her fluorescent yellow Wear Gloves vest. She radiates energy and kindness. Her job is cleaning up, but she also sees herself as an ambassador for Wear Gloves, and she takes that role very seriously. It’s hard to say which part is more important…picking up trash or being a light for everyone around her. Sabrina works at Wear Gloves 20 hours a week and uses the income to pay her child support and make payments on her court fines, enabling her to have a driver’s license.

“I couldn’t find jobs. People in Marion County don’t necessarily hire felons. They say they hire felons but when you go, they don’t. My mom started working for Mr. Ken and she told me about it. And so I came. I honestly didn’t like it at first, because I’m not one person that can just sit there and do the piece work. Somebody stopped working so he asked me to do like the outside stuff. And he was like, ‘ohh you can WORK.’ I like to move around. So he had me working in the warehouse. And like when the pandemic happened, we had to stop. And then when they started up the 2nd crew, they had me do that, and then I became a driver and I love it. I drive the work truck. We go to Salvation Army, Tuscawilla and Jervey Gant every day. And then we have like three other little parks we go to every day.”

“I have been homeless  – a long time ago – 2010 – my kids were little. We had been on the street – I was on drugs bad then. I got arrested in 2010 for my trafficking charge, so yeah, it was around that time. We would have people pay for our rooms at the Friendship. We slept in empty apartments. My son…we would still make him look like presentable so like nobody would know that he was sleeping anywhere.” 

She expressed that her experiences help her relate to those who are living on the streets now. “Someone needs to show them some love. Someone showed me some love when I was in the streets, so you need to show other people love. So I’ll tell them, like I’ve been homeless, I’ve been on drugs, I’ve been in jail, I done been to prison, and they’ll look at me like, not you. You look like you’ve got it all together. I’m like, I don’t. I try to let them know if I can change, then y’all can change too. Like they just need someone to push them in the right direction.” Sabrina chose the word “push” carefully when she said this.

What pushed Sabrina? “Going to prison. I was arrested like 10 times…12 times…a lot. But when I went to prison and they told us that we were not allowed to talk for a whole week…like we were in a drug program, so they were harder on us. I chose to go to it because I knew I had a drug problem and I promised my kids that I would not come home the same way that I went in. Like, I promised them.” 

Sabrina has been working to start up a trucking business with her boyfriend. Why does she continue to work at Wear Gloves? Part of the reason is to make sure that she maintains independence from her boyfriend. Also, “this is because I love them. Like Mr. Ken has never said no to me, like…even during the pandemic, he made sure my child support was paid. He’s never said no, so like I don’t want to say no to them, and I really like this job. And I tell the homeless people sometimes that I feel like they help me more than I help them. Because, to see some of them, when they see you they light up. Or like one lady, she would be out there crying sometimes, and she would be like, just you coming smiling at us, showing us compassion, she’s like, that means a lot. I’m nice to them because I know they need someone to be good to them.”

The Wear Gloves work crew Sabrina is on has people from varied backgrounds, but they have formed a bond among themselves and support each other. “One lives in Unity House, and one lives in Hope house, they’re recovery houses. The other lady on my crew, she just needs a job. Sometimes it’s a little stressful, but they’re good people. One lady, she always has this tough demeanor, but today she was in there crying to us because she’s stressed out at the house she’s living at. She was like,  ‘I need to vent to y’all so I don’t go home and flip out on them.’ So I was like I don’t want to see you cry. She was saying she needs to set boundaries. So I was telling her they made me read ‘Boundaries’ when I was in prison. I told her maybe I need to get you that book for Christmas.” 

What does Sabrina want people in Ocala to know about Wear Gloves? “They’ll give anybody a chance and let you show them that you are….able to do this job. They don’t tell you no, like, no you can’t do this…no, you can’t get a job because you have this problem. They open their arms to anybody, like hey you can come work and we will give you a chance.”

Sabrina has recruited others to Wear Gloves. “One of the homeless men…they said they had been trying for like 10 years to get him here…and he finally came and got a job, and he worked for a couple of weeks and then he stopped. They were like, how’d you get him to come? When the man would come to work, I would bring him lunch. It’s the showing God work through me to get to him, you know?”

Sabrina’s experiences at Wear Gloves have changed the way she interacts with her community. “I was always a nice person, but to the extent that I am now, no. When we have on our work shirts or our vest and it has Wear Gloves on the back, we’re representing Mr. Ken and Ms. Wendy. Like, you don’t…you never know who someone is. I always tell the people who work with me, ‘what if God put this person in your midst to see what you would do? What if God’s just gonna see if you’ll give somebody some water cause they’re thirsty? What would you do?’ So, you can’t tell someone no, because we’re representing them.”

Sabrina plans to continue working at Wear Gloves. “I tell my work crew, Mr. Ken and Ms. Wendy can’t get rid of me. I really do love my job. It’s the people that you meet is what makes it good. Like us being at Wawa every day. So many people are so used to seeing us and they speak to us. People see us every day. They will say hey, or they’ll ask us about a job, so we keep the little flyers there. I always tell people, Tuesdays and Thursdays, 9-1, get an interview. Some people – they have came. There’s some people, you just keep telling them, and then eventually they’re gonna be like, hey, I’m gonna go see what these people are about, because y’all are nice.”

Erika JironMeet Client Sabrina – A Story of Hope
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