“For a long time, there was so much bad in my life and I was the bad in others’ lives.

I remember while living in my sister’s basement, my mom and dad came for what seemed an innocent visit. We sat at the kitchen table. My mom put several thousand dollars on the table and asked if that would buy enough drugs for me to kill myself.

They had seen all the promise, purpose, and usefulness I showed as a youth and young adult disappear. I graduated from high school at age 16, graduated from an Ivy League college at 19, and had a meteoric rise in a multinational corporation by age 25. Before I was 30, I had been a vice president at banks in both Florida and here in Columbus.

Somewhere along the line, I got involved with drugs and lost everything, including my will to live. I was in and out of jails and institutions and was virtually unemployable.

“She said they couldn’t stand watching me do it so slowly. So, they told me to take the money and buy enough drugs to kill myself and get it over with.”

I didn’t take the money from my mom that day. But I didn’t stop drinking and using drugs, either. Some years later, after my mom kicked me out for the last time, I ended up in the Volunteers of America Men’s Shelter. That was 13 years ago. When I called my mom to tell her where I was and that I was safe. She said, “Well, have a nice life.” I told her I would come by and see her.

I stayed in the men’s shelter for 8 months, attended all the treatment classes and groups, and followed all the directions and rules. I had been in treatment programs before – four of them in 17 years. They were expensive programs in state-of-the-art facilities.

But, this was different.

She said, “No! Stay away from here. As a matter of fact, don’t even call here anymore.” That’s when I knew something had to change. I had to change. I asked for help.

Some of the counselors had done what I had done and lived like I had lived and they didn’t anymore. They showed me their fears and their feelings and they looked like mine. I got realistic, practical answers to life’s questions.

I want to thank all of you who helped make all of this possible.” They gave me the time, tools, and resources – a foundation – to start over. Without Volunteers of America, I would have, undoubtedly, been in jail or dead. I remember on Mother’s Day of that year, my family took Mom to brunch. After we ate she asked me, “Are you coming over this week? Or do I have to wait until Saturday to see you?”

Volunteers of America didn’t just give me back my life. They gave me back my mom.

A lot has changed since sharing that part of my story 8 years ago. My mom had a stroke and spent the last 8 months of her life in a hospital. I was there when she had the stroke – cooking dinner for the two of us. I spent almost every day at the hospital. I was present – in the mornings when she awoke and the evenings before she fell asleep. I was present when she came out of the fog of the stroke and asked for a pen to write, “What happened?” I was present when they took out the trach tube and heard her say, “Hi Lawrence.” I was present for her last breath. I was present for her because Volunteers of America was present for me.

Hear Lawrence’s Story In His Own Words:

I came to work for Volunteers of America while I was still living in their shelter 13 years ago and I’ve been here ever since. From baling clothing in the warehouse at minimum wage to managing the logistics of acquiring, storing, and distributing the nearly 30 million lbs. of donated merchandise annually.

Volunteers of America helped me rebuild the foundation of my life. They helped me build a new platform for my growth, and ultimately my stability.I didn’t just get my life and my mom back. I’ve gotten so much more…

Prosperity, financial security, emotional stability, decency, dignity, opportunities and a passion to help others, with an overwhelming sense of well-being. Wow. What a life.

Thank you Volunteers of America.

With your support, we can help men, like Lawrence, continue their journey.

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