With the smell of BBQ ribs, greens, baked beans and freshly baked brownies filling the air, DeWayne sits at the table in the cafeteria of Harbor House and shares his story. “I came from a good home, and a family of means,” DeWayne said. “When I was younger, I was diagnosed with schizophrenia and I felt so ashamed. I struggled, and at that time couldn’t cope.”
DeWayne says he refused to take his medication because of the stigma attached to his mental illness. So he began self-medicating using drugs and alcohol to cope but spiraled further out of control, or as he jokes, “I fell further down the rabbit hole”.
When he came to The Salvation Army Harbor House, Jim Chapman, who was the shelter director at the time, helped DeWayne get enrolled into the program. DeWayne remembers getting moved into the dorm and feeling lost, but he quickly became friends with the Lead Cook at the time. The Lead Cook learned that DeWayne not only enjoyed cooking but was a good cook himself. DeWayne started serving in the kitchen as a resident, and soon after began cooking most days. For him, he’d found a calling and a soothing type of therapy.
“Harbor House gave me the tools I needed to get a job, (at An Affair 2 Remember, where he is still employed today) save money and get a place of my own.” DeWayne reminisced, “Deli was my assigned case manager, but Jim Chapman was in the trenches with me and was really everyone’s case manager. He was good at one on one and worked directly with me and helped me so much. I was impressed because Jim didn’t hesitate to do any job that needed to be done at Harbor House. I felt like he truly cared.”
DeWayne shared that his sister picked him up every weekend and took him home to keep him connected with family and every Sunday they attended Sugar Grove Baptist Church.
Speaking fondly DeWayne said, “Harbor House was a safe place where I found myself. They encouraged me to take my meds and to not feel ashamed.” Harbor House staff connected DeWayne with another agency that could help him address his mental illness. The staff also encouraged him to get clean and sober, regroup and realize his self-worth.
Eight years later, DeWayne is back at Harbor House. Not as a resident, but as the Lead Cook. “Tammy Redden encouraged me to come and work for Harbor House,” DeWayne said. “I put it off and put it off and then finally submitted my application and was hired. So now I work at An Affair 2 Remember and Harbor House doing what I love.”
He said his favorite thing about Harbor House is the camaraderie of people. “There are so many different people that come through the doors and seeing them actually get the help they need… I love being a part of that!”
DeWayne smiled and said, “The Salvation Army saved my life. They lit a fire inside and inspired me.”