Nick – My Story is My Strength

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Not all broken roads come from rocky starts.  Nick comes from a beautiful family and experienced a childhood lacking very little.  He recalls quite fondly the love and security he felt as a child.  It wasn’t until his teen years that he began looking to bad influences for a mold to build his identity around.  As involved as his parents were in trying to redirect and encourage him to make better choices, Nick found himself  choosing life with his buddies. A life laying on the streets over the comforts of his own bed in a loving environment.  A life with role models living up to a Scarface persona in an era where having a street hustle was a measurement of manhood. Nick found himself fitting in well on the streets and making friends easily.  Though maybe not with the right connections, his likeable personality made  it easy to find jobs.  He did however find it was difficult to keep legitimate employment due to his drug use.  It was in his teen years that he first began playing around with marijuana.  “It started out as a joke”, he sighed, recalling how quickly it led to so many other very serious addictions and realities.
Nick very soberly admits, “the choices I made were mine, nobody else chose for me.”  He recalled, “I thought that I had to act a certain way to be the person I thought I wanted to be….I didn’t know what truth was”.
When he was 26 he decided to take his chances with a brick wall going 105 mph, assuming he would lose the battle.  Something or someone must have known “his story would be his strength” all these years later.  Though it took him to his mid 40s, as he states, “to be sick and tired of being sick and tired”, Nick has turned the years of bad choices and repeated broken cycles into a true testament of what can happen when you grasp hold of the true identity you have in Christ.
At 51 when he was diagnosed with throat cancer, he didn’t realize everything that was still in store for him.  Losing the ability to speak was never where he would have imagined himself. 
But, it wasn’t until just a couple years ago, when a simple request from one of his physicians changed everything.  His doctor asked if he’d like to pray with him and though nothing about Nick’s outer circumstances changed something inside him has forever been changed.  “It woke me up to everything and how blessed I really was”, he said.  A short six months after he was presented with an opportunity to undergo a special procedure that could give him a chance to speak again.  As he jokingly shared, “and I haven’t shut up since.”
Today, Nick works in the parts warehouse at the Dignity Center.  He recalls that since the day he came in and Mrs. Sandy prayed with him, “My day starts and ends with a prayer.”  Coming up on 2 years of sobriety, he remains grateful for, “being given lots of chances” and the ability to learn things along the way.  “It’s not easy, but I’m blessed.  I get to share life with my mother”, he said with gratitude in his voice.  “Walking in these doors was a miracle”, he recalled.  There is support around him and opportunity to work and help support others in his life.  He boasts about being able to have a bank account and having the ability to help his mother.  Recently he lost his brother, but even through that loss he found comfort in being able to be there for his mom like she always was for him.  He planted a tree in her front yard as a memory to his brother.
 “I can’t complain, I have my own place, vehicle, best friends and this community,” he stated humbly but with confidence, “I just can’t believe where I am today.”  When asked why he stays at Wear Gloves, “This place is amazing…they’ll give you a chance.  I haven’t had a single limitation based on my medical condition.  Not everyone was willing to give me a chance you know, like I’ve been around a while and don’t know any places like this.”  Thoughtfully he stated, “The church services are just icing on the cake.  They broke the mold with Mr. Ken too.” 

If you ever visit Wear Gloves and have the opportunity, go meet Nick.  His story truly is his strength, and meeting him will revive your hope in second chances and God’s ability to meet you where you are.
However, just remember that if its lunchtime, you’ll find him at the table not the warehouse.  Nick is quick to admit he’s at his best when he’s fed.  If only all of us would come to the table with as much honesty and openness as Nick, we may all find ourselves a little closer to our best.

Tiffany TuckerNick – My Story is My Strength
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Diana – Redemption and Hope

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“Let me start with the exciting part.”  These were the first words Diana spoke on the day we met when asked about her journey and how it intersected with Wear Gloves.  She was so eager to tell me about how God brought her to the Dignity Center. She radiated with joy when speaking about the family she has found here on campus. Confidently, she gives all glory to God for the freedom and restoration she’s obtained over the past year.

Diana’s story did not begin with freedom though; rather with brokenness and bondage.  The abuse and trauma she experienced at a young age led her to search for ways to forget all she endured. Raised without her parents and in unstable conditions, her path through most of her younger years was not one paved in the confidence and hope that she now lives in every day. For most of her life she used substances to mask the hurt and emptiness she had inside.

Prior to coming to the Dignity Center, 13 months ago, she was in Jacksonville.  Her addiction paired with a sense of isolation had led her to feel hopeless and in her attempt to permanently end the feeling of loss and pain; there is where she ultimately found her new life and redemption.  At her lowest point and feeling completely alone, it was a phone call from an old friend that sparked a glimmer of hope. The phone call led her to Ocala and the Unity house and very shortly after Wear Gloves.

Over the past year, Diana has found that focus and faith are the key to maintaining her hope.  She doesn’t hold on to her past any longer. She has found freedom in her surrender to the path God has set for her. With full confidence and excitement, she said, “The calling is here.” The feeling of finding family was immediate.  “God brought me here.  How do I know? Mrs. Wendy knows sign language.  I am 90% deaf and I have always had a desire to learn sign language and be an interpreter.”  Diana has been hearing impaired since childhood when repetitive ear infections caused damage that could not be reversed. If that alone was not enough to know this is where God wanted her, when asked, “Why do you stay?”, she replied, “Being a part of a family, I’ve never had that before.” She never knew the feeling of belonging. Belonging with others who love and care for you until she walked on campus here.  
She went on to say that she doesn’t believe God gives a gift without a struggle, but He will take your struggle and align it and use it for repurposing and replenishing to fulfill the calling He has for you.

Her life has not been heartbreak free since coming here, losing her brother to his addiction this past October and having other relationships unreconciled.  Diana’s faith in the process and how God is restoring her gives her hope despite the ups or downs life may throw her way. She knows regardless God is there to catch the lows, “He’ll use all things for good and His glory.”
Her most recent highlights include; her fiancé, her involvement in the ministry of Church in the Garden, having 4 wheels to transport her and starting school in January. She’ll be obtaining her official sign language interpreter certification and eventually, she hopes to work at the courthouse interpreting for the hearing impaired.  She has some experience as a special education teacher and wonders if God will align her path back to education.  For now, she is giving thanks back to God for everything he has blessed her with and for sending her here. Reflectively she said, “Mr. Ken and this company giving me hope….”, as she paused you could feel her gratitude. “Now I just try to give back whenever I can”, she stated with a firm belief that when she does that the Lord takes care of the rest.

Though her trauma and pain almost cut her story short, God’s redeeming grace was far from closing the book on what lies ahead for Dianna. The true character of her heart has too much hope and faith to lay idle.  God has big plans and Dianna intends to follow wherever He leads her next.

Tiffany TuckerDiana – Redemption and Hope
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Meet Carol – Support Through the Grind

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Carol has been working at Wear Gloves for 4 years.  Since the days of coming and working 2 1/2 hours a week for a Publix gift card, Carol has seen growth not just in herself but throughout the facility that she’s grown to call home.  Carol has worked at just about every opportunity here at the Dignity Center throughout the years.  Even making pallet signs, which she recalls was something she would have never expected to do.  Currently, Carol is a grinder at Dignity Roasters.  She can be found there 3 days a week grinding and bagging subscription orders.  When the coffee shop is slower, she assembles parts for the warehouse.
Carol had just celebrated 4 years of sobriety a few days before the day I met her.  She recalled the days and life before she made her decision to interview at Wear Gloves.  The days of being homeless, living in her car.  “The reason I was homeless, I was an alcoholic,” said Carol. She attended Church in the Garden long before she made the step of coming to the Dignity Center.  She remembers the day she finally came for an interview and started working, “It was like a totally different world.  Out on the streets you have your drugs and alcohol.  I was never in the drug scene.  It was scary out there…but coming here…I could feel that…”, as Carol briefly paused to place the correct word, “aura.” She continued with, “It was safe, the outside world was out there.”

When Carol entered recovery and found housing at the Unity House, a local recovery house here in town, she never thought about how she would pay her rent.  Ken and Wendy, seeing the need, increased her hours in order to allow her enough work to pay her rent and phone bill.  “I didn’t know what I wanted to do for work, but I wanted something different.”
With everything Carol has done around the campus, meeting new and safe people stands out the most to her.  When Dignity Roasters opened, she was trained to grind coffee and had the opportunity to earn her restaurant certification.  We continued discussing the nature and environment found at the Dignity Center.  She credits the support and safety she feels here for her success in her recovery, and the ability to continue striving. In a thoughtful manner Carol said, “They are just so kind and I was never really surrounded by someone who believed in me.”  She spoke multiple times about the environment and encouragement she gets every day she shows up for work.  “When your boss introduces you and says, ‘here’s the superstar’, that is just everything.”

Carol is still figuring out her next steps, possibly getting her own place here in Ocala or maybe up north if she finds the courage to brave the cold again.  However for now, she is focusing on getting her health back and being able to help others.  She breathes lighter when she is on campus and doing her part to serve.  She enjoys the work she’s blessed to do.  She offers up assistance to others in need when she can, even when she doesn’t feel qualified.  The gentle spirits and guidance she finds here boosts her confidence.  For Carol, knowing there is always someone around that cares about you is key.  She admits it’s unsettling to think where her life may have been without this place. She reminisced about the times she would come solely to be in a welcoming and loving environment. Even if there was no work to do, just coming and being here. She hopes to continue offering that same kindness, feeling of safety and hope to anyone else in need of it.
As we finished up, Carol headed back inside to hit play on her “oldies music” and get to work grinding and bagging those delightful brown Dignity Roasters bags that keep us moving through our days.

Tiffany TuckerMeet Carol – Support Through the Grind
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Meet Melissa – People need to know

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“The wicked flee though no one pursues, but the righteous are as bold as a lion”. – Proverbs 28:1

This is the verse that set Melissa on course to defeating a 15-year battle with addiction.  After years of losing, it was a timely message from her daughter that cleared the fog just long enough for her to realize she had to break the cycle.  This time would be different.  This time “I was doing it for myself”. 

Melissa is one of the team members on liter crew here at Wear Gloves.  Monday through Wednesday, she helps clean up the city parks here in Ocala. On Thursdays, she can also be found picking up a shift in the warehouse working the Closetmaid orders.  As she shared her journey with me and how it led her to the Dignity Center, I couldn’t help but feel the pride of her 6-month sobriety and the gratitude she has for the resources found here.  “They saved my life.  They really did.”, as she continued through teary eyes, “I wish more people knew this was here”.  

Melissa recognized that though she fights her addiction every day, and has a great support system in her family, the structure and support she receives from Wear Gloves is vital for a recovering addict.  “Every addict is just one bad day away from using again”, Melissa said with a sense of realism.

She continued to share, with a humble excitement, all of her successes over the last 6 1/2 months.  She’s been able to get her driver’s license reinstated, begin mending the relationship with her children, see her grandchild and most recently, buy a car.  “They helped me get my life back.  They supported me.  They are helping me maintain what I couldn’t do by myself.”   Melissa openly discussed how her biggest struggle is within herself.  However, she was nothing but optimistic about her future and the new foundation she’s building with the help of her extended family here at Wear Gloves. 

Though we spent the majority of our time reflecting on the highs and lows of the path which led her to the present day, there was an undeniable plea resonating for more people to know about this place.  At one point, we stopped the conversation so I could clarify the “who”.  Who needs to know about this place?  She responded, “people like me”, quickly followed by “anywhere with rehab or places where people are coming out of jail”.  In Melissa’s experience, there aren’t many resources like Wear Gloves out there.  Places that will help NOW.  Places that won’t judge you for your past, but will look you in the eyes and see the you that is here NOW, ready to change, ready to work. 

She told me about the day she came in to fill out her application and the relief there was in not seeing the typical questions about her past.  Meeting with Mrs. Sandy, who does all the intake interviews for the Dignity Center, the dread was lifted when she realized her only requirement was a willingness to work and a goal.  Obviously, the past is still there, but it didn’t disqualify her before she even had an opportunity.  “I was ready, and I needed it, and if more people knew this opportunity was here and that you were able to actually do it without someone handing you cash, that’s what people like me need to know.”  

It is within her to handle the responsibility.  I could tell from our talk she has great strength.  “I have the will to maintain my sobriety, but they are making sure of that by not handing me cash”. She’s confident she’s on her way there, but for now, it’s the support she needs.  

We ended our conversation with all smiles and a walk to see her new car and meet Mrs. Sandy.  Melissa isn’t fleeing any longer. She’s showing up every day.  Working.  Growing.  Getting stronger and becoming bold like a lion.

Tiffany TuckerMeet Melissa – People need to know
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