"I've had it. I can't do this anymore"
Those were Earl Meeks’s words to his daughter the night he decided to quit drinking.
For years, Earl had been a functional alcoholic. He would work during the day and drink at night. Then came two great traumas that would plunge him deeper into his alcoholism – the loss of his brother-in-law and his beloved wife.
“Those [events] put me in a very dark place,” he says. “And drinking only made it worse.”
Originally from a small town in Tennessee, Earl had lived for 29 years in Bluffton, where he was a factory worker. Then, when he hit bottom in 2014, he checked himself in at Fort Wayne’s Rescue Mission, where he was determined to beat his addiction. There he took refuge in Christ and the companionship of fellow recovering alcoholics.
Removing himself completely from his home and a circle of friends was a godsend. The structure and support of the Rescue Mission took his life in a new direction. Earl’s emersion in the Bible seven days a week, along with the company and encouragement of fellow Christians, set him on the course to sobriety.
After making considerable progress, his case manager at the Rescue Mission decided he would be the perfect candidate for the Catholic Charities program SCSEP (Senior Community Service Employment Program).
SCSEP is the nation's longest-running program to help low-income, unemployed individuals, aged 55 and over, to find work. Participants receive instruction on healthy aging and job training opportunities that provide no-cost staff assistance to local nonprofit, government, and faith-based agencies. The ultimate goal of SCSEP is for participants to find employment.
“We often receive referrals from agencies such as the Rescue Mission,” says SCSEP Program Manager Jennifer Zamaites. “SCSEP is perfect for people like Earl who are transforming their lives. Employment often plays a major part in their success.”
Jennifer first assessed Earl’s situation and then, based on his personal needs and employment interests, helped him in creating an Individual Employment Plan so he could achieve his goals. The SCSEP team searched their list of host agencies and then last July placed him at Treasure House, a second-hand store run by the Rescue Mission. Earl works in the warehouse, assisting the staff with newly donated items. And thanks to SCSEP, Earl is also living in his own apartment arranged through the Fort Wayne Housing Authority.
“I have witnessed an amazing change in Earl,” says Jennifer. “He has become more self-confident and can view the road ahead with hope. He displays an unwavering commitment to living a fulfilling and healthy life.”
SCSEP has and will continue to offer ongoing support for Earl through resource and referral services, job coaching, job clubs and job readiness activities such as resume updating, mock interviews, and job search assistance.
Earl’s future is looking up. When he is not working, he volunteers at the Rescue Mission, helping others like himself. He also attends church regularly and hopes to graduate from his GED program this spring.
“I can never repay what I owe these people,” says Earl, reflecting on the assistance he has received from Rescue Mission and SCSEP. “They have been such a tremendous blessing to me.”