Florida born and raised, Charleen lived in several towns, moving with her mother’s job of picking and packing sugar cane and mangoes. With her mom’s marriage, they settled in Mt. Dora, where Charleen graduated high school. She also started hanging around with the wrong crowd, became addicted to drugs, and got in trouble with the law.
The judge thought she’d do better in another locale, with a different crowd of people, and she moved to Apopka to live with her uncle. All was good until she resumed her drug habit. For the very first time, however, Charleen “started thinking about how the drugs were affecting others.”
Perhaps, she thought, because her upbringing was beginning to have an effect. “My grandfather was a pastor and my mother was a ‘prayer warrior,’” she explains. “I had a personal relationship with God, but I strayed.”
Two promises helped her get serious about living a clean and sober life. Her mother, who was raising one of Charleen’s two daughters, got very sick. Just before she died, “I made a promise to her that I’d change my life,” Charleen says. She succeeded for a year, but went back to her addictions after her dad and only sister passed away within a month of each other.
When her older daughter got pregnant, Charleen made the second pledge, one that has since been tested yet guides her sobriety to this day. “I wanted a granddaughter named Serenity,” she remembers. “I made a promise to her that if she’d name the baby Serenity, I would stop drinking and drugging. Serenity will be six years old in January and I’ve been clean and sober for six years!”
Charleen’s housing situation wasn’t as positive. Living in fear with an abusive partner, in a place with no electricity, she landed beaten-up in the hospital with no safe place to call home. Through a fortunate merging of her knowledge of the Pathlight HOME Safe Haven Program at Maxwell Garden, a caring doctor, a police report, Maxwell Garden staff and an available unit, Charleen moved in and finally felt safe. She also worked hard on her sobriety.
Relationship issues resulted in Charleen leaving the program after a year. “It was a challenge, but I stayed clean, sober and prayed-up,” she says of the resulting disappointment. She stayed with a friend and then her ex-boyfriend’s family, yet was not comfortable doing so. As one who always worked, primarily in food service and labor pool jobs, Charleen landed a job in a plant nursery and persuaded them to hire her daughter as well. When the housing situation came down to the two adults and Serenity living in a truck, they visited Maxwell Garden, to see if units were available. Thankfully, a unit was available for her daughter and Serenity; one for Carleen followed shortly.
With the foliage season over, Charleen was laid off. Her next year-long job as a hotel housekeeper was near home, but business got slow. Through a job fair, she landed a cook position quite far from Maxwell Garden. After months of taking long rides on public transportation at odd hours, and at times spending precious money for a ride service, she asked for a transfer. The only available position was even further away in Kissimmee. She prayed for an opportunity nearer to her Maxwell Garden home and was finally hired at a nearby McDonald’s, but then, “They cut me to one day! How do you live?”
“I was a damsel in distress,” she laments, yet knew, “God hasn’t failed me yet!” That’s when there was a part-time opening at Sobik’s Subs (at Maxwell Garden) for someone experienced in food and customer service, with a solid work ethic, who would be there on time. Since she lives at the property, gets along with people and knew Sobik’s Manager, Barbara, Charleen prayed this one of Pathlight HOME’s Social Enterprise Programs could be her answer. She asked Barbara if she’d, “Try me for 90 days.”
It’s now going on three months and Charleen is thrilled to be preparing and serving delicious Sobik’s Subs food to customers, alongside of Barbara. “I truly consider myself blessed. I’m happier and more content (than ever.) If I was to fail…it will be because of me – not the rain or because I missed the bus.”
…I came from nothing and Pathlight HOME gave me an opportunity to become the independent person I want to be. I look at it as being disciplined…With my transition, I had to discipline myself to stay on the straight and narrow. This is me and my Higher Power…not the drugs!”