Once On Receiving End, Willie Now Helps Others
Twenty-eight years ago, Willie never imagined that the gratitude he felt after receiving a meal when he was hungry would result in a career of making sure others don’t go hungry, either.
Willie arrived in Central Florida in 1981 with his uncle and the two men started working in construction. An injury on the job left him with a pinched nerve in his back. His landlord allowed Willie to stay in his apartment without paying rent for a few months while he recovered, but it became evident the injury would require a prolonged recovery.
A disagreement with his family left Willie without a home and with nowhere to turn. He was sleeping in a church parking lot when the pastor approached him and told him about the Orlando Union Rescue Mission. He initially didn’t want to consider it but the hunger was so bad that he figured he would at least go get a meal – but leave as soon as possible.
“Not only was I injured but I was living a wild life. Drinking, flings with women, inconsiderate of others – that was me. I didn’t want to give that up,” Willie said. “I got there and didn’t want anything to do with the place. But after they offered me a meal and a chance to shower, I started feeling a little better.”
Willie realized that the Mission was offering a fresh start, and after receiving a meal and getting cleaned up, he realized it was time for him to start over.
After six months of living there, Willie signed up to help pick up food donations from the community. He was so faithful at his position – and he enjoyed it so much – that he was hired as a staff member. You can still find Willie driving a Mission van around town, picking up much of food that is served to people coming in for a meal – just as he did 28 years ago.
“When I see young men coming in like I did, I see a part of myself. In that mindset, you want to reject everything around you. But if you relax, get some food, and listen to God’s Word, you’ll see that there’s more to life than living in the fast lane,” Willie said. “I pray that those young men aren’t in a rush to say this program won’t work because, if they slow down a bit, they’ll see that Jesus makes more sense than anything else in the world.”
Willie considers it an honor to play a key role in helping the Mission with one of its fundamental functions: serving food to the hungry with the hope of sparking hope for the future.
“Anything and everything given to the Mission does wonders. I get to see firsthand what a meal does to a man. It gives him strength go out and get the work he needs to turn his life around,” Willie said. “I’m so grateful that I get to be a part of that. I don’t think I would rewrite my life even if I could.”
Willie found God and a new purpose in life through the Discipleship program. The O.U.R. Men’s Center has about 40 disciples who receive intensive Christian instruction and mentorship, along with work therapy designed to develop self-discipline, work ethic and accountability. Your gift of $26.82 provides a day of life-changing care for a man in the Discipleship program.