Growing up and Getting Started
No Matter What. That is what the bracelet on Earl’s wrist reads. Earl has been sober for 15 months and counting but his memories are fresh from when that was not the case. Earl has been meeting with his Advocate Steven in the Chapel Hill office, pursuing savings and securing employment alongside a 12-step recovery program.
Born in Charleston, South Carolina, Earl grew up in a large family. “My mother and father had 12 kids, my father was a hardworking man… I’ve seen a lot of things in a young stage that’ve helped me become the person I am today…There was a lot of love,” shares Earl, but “I grew up in an unstable home.” Earl recalls how certain things shaped his relationship with finances. “Where I’m from it wasn’t just about savings, it was about trying to survive… my father never had a bank account, never wrote checks so my mother didn’t either.
When Earl first came to CEF in March of 2016, he was skeptical. “You know, I wasn’t sure about what, you know, I could get from CEF. But I found a lot of students from UNC—they really care about the community. They volunteer their work. I know that when people volunteer their work, they’re here for a purpose… I remember my first day at orientation, it started right then and there. There was so much that they offered me to do. They put the guidelines for what I can and can’t do but it was up to me as an individual to follow those guidelines. It was like being in school, if you don’t do the assignment, what’s the good of being in class. “
Finding Work and Financial Stability
At CEF, his consistent Advocate meetings manifested into a successful job search where Earl secured full-time employment at the Carolina Ale House. “The job search it was an experience, most of the jobs I had were daily paid labor. I understood I didn’t want that type of job anymore”. Although the restaurant recently closed, he feels more prepared now for the job search than he did before. “We’re not finished yet. We’re looking for a job. But now I know how to approach it. He’s (Steven’s) already setting the guidelines for me, he’s already helping me prepare for tomorrow… That’s what I learned from CEF. Preparing myself for the future.”
Earl also spends his meetings with Steven working on finances, which includes disputing debts and created payment and budget plans. By making consistent savings deposits, Earl has saved just shy of $4,000. “I came by Tuesday and put $500 in my savings because I know it’s the right thing to do. I love the idea, I really do, of having a savings account.” Earl also opened a bank account at Coastal Federal Credit Union to build even more savings and have access to a checking account! “Now, I go to a bank and they know my name. ‘Hey Earl, how you doing Earl?’ Even when I’m not there to cash a check I still go in there, talk my banker, talk about ball, talk about how my life is going.” Earl told us that his banker even offered to be a reference for prospective employers, “she sees something in me that I didn’t see when I first started to open my bank account.”
It’s About Relationships and Family
Earl is paired with Steven but that does not stop him from building connections with other CEF Advocates. “I gave a couple of advocates some names like ‘Sarah Salad,’ ‘Sarah Hotdog,’ ‘Chocolate Ice Cream’, you know, because that’s the kind of bond I built with them.”
Earl with CEF Advocates at the Financial Independence Day celebration
Earl only has words of praise for Steven. “It’s all about the relationship that I built with Steven has helped me focus on things in life that I know I am able to achieve…he always has great things to share with me. He always gives me that positive motivation.” More than anything, Earl believes the key to success is partnership. “I don’t want a handout. Just give me a hand… Show me, guide me, pull me along the way. Just give me that, “you can do it.” That is the hand I need.”
So what exactly is Earl saving for? Family. “I have 3 sons, 3 grandsons and we have never all been together at one time…We’ve never been together. Every day I get a little older. We’ll get together and play a game of basketball…That’s one of the reasons I’m trying to save some money too. One day man, one father’s day man, there’ll be that love, that unity.”
Earl and his Advocate Steven in the Chapel Hill office