Member Story: Mike

photo by: Jonathan Kasbe

We met Mike in the men’s shelter in early 2010 through Talking Sidewalks, and today he’s in housing and on staff with CEF teaching the weekly Opportunity Class held in the Campus Y on Saturdays.

Mike has an incredible history. He used to run his own small business, Woody’s BBQ, has been a professional chef, a restaurant manager, a banker, and more. He was a successful business man, with a special gift for marketing, or as he puts it, ―getting butts in the seats. Mike says that back in those days, “by all appearances anyone would have thought I was doing real good in life, but they couldn’t have been more wrong.” Unfortunately his financial success began a cycle of addiction to drugs and alcohol that eventually led to his downfall, loss of his business, foreclosure on his family home, and landed him in prison.

In prison, he developed a love for teaching–sharing his knowledge as a former employer to train fellow inmates in interview and job readiness skills. Since leaving prison, Mike has been in recovery from his addiction, saved with CEF, and gotten back on his feet during his stay at the IFC. By all appearances anyone would’ve seen me on the bench over there at the IFC, and thought I was down on my luck, but they couldn’t be more wrong either,” says Mike. “It was the first time I was doing anything worth doing.”

After he moved out and was well on his way in his job hunt, he was hit by a speeding vehicle, breaking both of his legs and seriously handicapping his search for employment. He has physically recovered the use of his legs since then, reunited with his family, and now dreams of becoming certified as a substance abuse counselor.

Mike’s presence at CEF has been invaluable. As the teacher for CEF’s Opportunity Class, he can justifiably say, ―been there, done that and empower current shelter residents to learn how to overcome challenging financial and social circumstances. He’s been absolutely critical to the success of the class and continues to inspire CEF members to keep working and fighting for their goals.

Mike has also learned a lot as a teacher; He says, “it’s helped me more than it’s helped the rest of them, being of service is the most helpful thing.”

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CEF: Community Empowerment Fund

Chapel Hill: 919-200-0233 Durham: 919-797-9233