July 2, 2012 (From one of our former residents of the shelter, Dewain)
I became homeless on Sept. 30, 2011. I had never been homeless before, and I came to The Salvation Army that day and was admitted to their Athens, GA facility. For the first three or four days, I was in a state of shock; this was a whole new experience for me. My caseworker, Adrienne, helped me in every way possible.
I received a referral from Mrs. Adrienne to receive a donated refurbished bicycle from a local charity called Bike Athens. I needed some form of transportation, as I was walking to find a job. Having a bicycle would help me expand my work search area. A friend I met at the shelter gave me a ride to Bike Athens so I wouldn't have to walk. He had somewhere to be that afternoon so he dropped me off 3 hours early.
It was a hot October day, and I was thirsty. I was looking for an outside faucet when I heard what sounded like construction going on in a nearby warehouse, so I walked into the Five Mile Club and asked for a drink of water. The owner of Five Mile Club, Mr. Callaway, gave me a bottle of water and I drank it quickly and asked for another. He told me to help myself and after the second bottle, I was cooled off. I asked Mr. Callaway if he would let me do something to pay for the water. He said no. After I insisted on doing something to repay him, he reluctantly gave me a menial task which I did in aout 5 minutes. I looked around and being experienced in many forms of construction, gave Mr. Callaway some suggestions as he was in the middle of starting a new business in Athens and had a lot to do. I found out later that he is active in helping with charitable organizations, including The Salvation Army. To make a long story short, I have been employed at Five Mile Club ever since that day.
Without the help I so needed from The Salvation Army, I honestly don't know what might have become of me. Having the opportunities I was given by them made me realize the privilege it is to be a resident at their facility. I see it as just that, a privilege as many people don't have and end up living outside, or worse. Thanks to The Salvation Army of Athens, GA, Mr. Callaway, the Five Mile Club, and the rent save program at The Salvation Army, I am saving to be on my own with a new start in life. I will forever be grateful to The Salvation Army and to my friend Mr. Callaway for what I consider to be a whole new beginning.
Thank you for the privilege you have given me and my new start. Many people don't get the opportunity I was given. I soon will be in my new apartment, and will never forget the help I received. I feel like I will be very successful someday, and I will remember the help and plan to donate to The Salvation Army and be eternally grateful to Mr. Callaway and his generosity.
(Letter from Dewain's Employeer, Mr. Callaway)
Life is a funny thing in that we plan and prepare for what we think we want to do in life meticulously, but most of the biggest things that happen in our lives are total happenstance. I spent my adolescence preparing to be an investment banker. I heard they make a lot of money, and money was something I wanted to have so that I could do and buy things that require it. My plan worked and at 25, I had been at a well known investment banking firm in Atlanta for almost 4 years and was making a great deal of it given my age and experience. I was miserable. My entrepreneurial spirit was draining slowly, and as hard as it was to leave the security of a large corporation, I had to get out. I would never have lived with myself otherwise.
So, I packed my things and headed back to Athens. No job or income, but a head full of ideas and a couple of businesses in their infancy that I wanted to grow. Upon returning to Athens, I shed my suit and tie and began working construction in an old pair of shorts and a t-shirt in the middle of an Athens summer. Our business needed a home and I was too stubborn to let someone else build it--someone that didn't have the same passion as I did for the end product. I started construction on our new office facility around July 4, 2011, and set out to do as mush of it myself as possible because I wanted to have a home for my business that was as unique as me. I wanted everything to have a story. I also needed to do it cheaply as I had no income anymore, and would not have any until the business started.
By chance, by faith, whatever you want to credit it to, Dewain wandered into our shop as he mentioned in a VERY hot day in October. We were busy working away-- doing our best to build things in the shop that we had no idea how to build. I was working with "volunteers" (aka friends) that would be willing to lend a hand for an hour or two when they had the time. However, I did not have steady help, and certainly didn't have help that had any idea how to perform the task at hand. Dewain changed the course of our company in a major way that I don't think he will ever realize. I actually didn't realize it at the time, but there was NO chance we were going to make our deadline of a Dec. 1st Grand Opening without Dewain's help. That is a fact.
Dewain is the only person here who puts his entire self behind his work. He cares as much about Five Mile as I do and wants it to be a success. He and I both work to sheer exhaustion to get things done when necessary. There were times that we worked until 4 AM and times when we crashed at the office only to get up at the crack of dawn and start all over. After all that, I'm proud to say that the shop that he helped build played host to a fantastic Grand Opening. As Dewain mentioned, we are a men's apparel company and are primarily online with one retail store in Athens. A retail store that, with Dewain's help, has become such a unique and special place that we attracted not only press that reaches Athens, Altanta, and the entire Southeast, but we were able to attract the founders of three different clothing lines to our Grand Opening. It was a lovely evening and the culmination of a great deal of work on Dewain's and my part.
I think he was nervous that I might not have a spot for him once the construction was done. I have news for him...there is no chance I would let him go! I will do whatever I can to keep him on staff somewhat because of his work ethic, but mostly because I trust him. He is more than an employee, he is my friend. He watches expenses closer than I do, and everything he does is calculated and meticulously accurate. I cannot wait to get him up to speed on computers so that he can run my shipping and receiving department. I will never forget the impact that Dewain has had on my life and I am humbled to hear that he feels I have been able to help him as well. It is certainly a two way street. I am grateful for The Salvation Army for helping Dewain stay on his feet while we were able to build the business, and I am thrilled that he is now ready to move on and luckily I think our business is ready as well. Dewain will be a salaried member of our team just as soon as I can process the paperwork. I joke with Dewain often that he makes more money than I do because I am not making enough money to pay myself yet. I can tell you this...I would go into debt to keep him on if I had to.
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