Road to Redemption Started With a Meal
D’Angelo and Victoria came to Orlando from Maryland in 2010 with their three pre-teen daughters to find a fresh start. But the job hunt was quickly coming up short and money was going out faster than it was coming in.
D’Angelo had a background in driving commercial trucks but was having trouble transferring his commercial drivers’ license to the state of Florida. As their financial foundation unraveled, the parents realized that they didn’t even have enough cash to pay for a hotel room. The heartbreak of that moment can still be seen on Victoria’s face.
“Our daughters asked us where we were going that night,” she said. “It was the hardest thing to tell them that we were spending the night in our car.”
But the family’s desperate situation didn’t end with a lack of shelter: they hadn’t eaten that day – and all there was for this family of five was an orange and a gallon of water.
Distraught, the parents started looking everywhere for help. Every single place was full or would split the family apart. After multiple failed attempts to find a safe haven, Victoria called the Orlando Union Rescue Mission. They drove over with a quarter tank of gas in the car, each family member feeling the growl of their empty stomachs. After filling out the application, a case manager asked if they would like to eat while they waited for an interview. The family could hardly contain themselves.
“We were all so hungry – that meal was the best-tasting food I have ever had!” said D’Angelo.
That meal was just the beginning of this family finding their way back to self-sufficiency. With food in their stomachs and a roof over their heads, life didn’t feel like it was unraveling anymore. When Victoria and D’Angelo were fighting just to provide the basic needs to survive, it made it next to impossible to look past the day at hand – let alone muster up enough hope for the future.
It was Bible classes that introduced them to hope that went beyond their circumstances. “Iknew about God when I got here, but I learned what it meant know God and His character,” said Victoria. D’Angelo agrees. “It wasn’t an accident that we came through the doors of the Mission. This is a place of God … a place to learn how to trust Him,” he said.
Their three daughters were in fourth, fifth, and eighth grade when the family moved into the Mission, and Victoria and D’Angelo were worried about how they would handle the situation.
“They were old enough to know what was happening, that their family was homeless,” remembered Victoria. All three girls spent time at the Family Life Center (FLC) after school and on the weekends, befriending other kids their age in the same situation.
“The FLC made our situation easier for them,” Victoria said. “Best of all, they were able to do things with their friends that we could not have afforded on our own.”
Thanks to the generous volunteers and hard-working staff, their daughters had after-school tutoring, companionship with others their age, and trips that ranged from the movies to nearby beaches.
With basic needs taken care of and their daughters thriving, the parents started looking for jobs that would get them back to independence. Victoria enrolled in Jobs Partnership to better herself as a potential employee. This program led her to take a job as an administrative assistant. D’Angelo worked with iDignity, a program that assists individuals in obtaining identification and licenses, to get his CDL transferred from Maryland to Florida. Soon after obtaining his new license, he was hired to work as a driver for a waste management company. Those jobs allowed the family to save enough money to move into a home of their own in Orlando.
The impact of the Mission touched the hearts of this family. Upon moving out, they created a collage of pictures they collected during their time as residents. They had it framed and it hangs on a wall right by the dinner table. It serves as a reminder of what they have overcome as a family and of God’s faithfulness in their time of need.
“Because of the Mission, I appreciate everyday blessings now,” Victoria said. “It feels so nice to have a home of our own and we don’t take that for granted.”
D’Angelo and Victoria’s photo collage remind them of the support they received at the Mission, which was made possible by the generous support of friends like you. Your gift of $26.82 provides a day of life-changing care for a homeless man, woman or child in Central Florida!