About 150 people a day come through our doors 365 days a year, men and women of all races, all ages and even parents with young children. They come from many walks of life, some working their way back from personal setbacks, some struggling with disabilities and addictions and newcomers signing up for the first time.
Some are on disability or retirement benefits and trying to manager their limited finances. Many are veterans, wearing caps or shirts indicating their past service in the armed forces. A few come leaning on aluminum walkers for assistance and even occasionally in a wheelchair.
Often middle-aged or older, many of our clients are working at improving their lives. Some take classes at nearby St. Petersburg College’s Clearwater campus and at other schools. Several work intermittently at construction jobs, some do house painting and others do janitorial or maintenance work.
Glen Morton, 63, of Clearwater, originally from Schenectady, NY
One client story is Glen Morton, an alcoholic and a drug abuser, who was injured in two car wrecks where alcohol was a factor and arrested for stealing alcohol-based mouthwash.
“When you combine alcohol and apathy, the results aren’t very good,” Morton said. “I cannot exaggerate how bad I was. I hit many rock bottoms.”
He had attended college for a time, but started drinking, Morton said. He worked as a machine operator at General Electric’s huge manufacturing facility which Thomas Edison had established in Schenectady beginning in the 1880s. But Morton was critically injured in a fatal car collision which occurred while he was passed out in the back seat. He was out of work on disability after the accident.
Then as jobs were being cut at GE, Morton moved to Dallas where he was a bartender for a time. Eventually, he relocated to Clearwater to help his father, a retired Schenectady police officer, who was dying at age 54 from cirrhosis of the liver. “But I outlived him, because I changed my ways,” Morton said.
However, the change was a long time coming. Morton had gone to rehab in upper New York State while living there. He spent time in a county jail. He lived at a half-way house. He worked doing maintenance at church buildings. He attended meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous.
There were periods when he was sober, followed by many relapses. But the times between relapses were shorter and shorter, he said. In Clearwater, he was not working and still drinking heavily.
“I had painted myself into a pretty bad corner,” Morton added. “I said to myself,’ How long are you going to keep doing this?’ ”
I decided to try and put together a plan that would enable me to change my life around. I saw an opportunity right here [at St. Vincent de Paul].”
Morton talked to the executive director at the time about occupying a small apartment on the St. Vincent de Paul property and working at the facility. He got the opportunity and has not turned back. He joined a gym, started to save money in the bank and says he hasn’t had a drink in 10 years.
“They gave me chance here, and I was not going to let them down,” Morton said.
Community Kitchen and Resource Center begin in Pinellas Country in 1982. The SVdP Soup Kitchen has been at the Park St., Clearwater location since 2011. Focused on client self-sufficiency, serving breakfast to the poor and hungry.