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Michelle Blog

Finding Safe Harbor in a Storm

How you kept a Navy veteran and her family from sinking.

Michelle and her family were still getting settled in their new place when the unexpected happened. She and her husband both suddenly lost their jobs.

“We just moved to a new apartment based on that income,” Michelle remembers thinking in a panic. “So, things went pretty downhill. We were scrambling to get other jobs ... ."

The Navy veteran and mother of five tried everything to keep her family afloat. She immediately applied for assistance, only to see that small sliver of hope disappear, too. “I got approved at two agencies,” she says. “And then all of a sudden, ‘Oh, this just came down from corporate that we’re no longer taking assistance.’ I fought it. I did everything I could to hold it off, but it eventually turned into an eviction.”

Where could a family like Michelle’s turn with the waters rising all around them?

Thankfully, with the help of Sulzbacher — whose veteran’s services program partners with the VA to help meet the unique needs of vets — Michelle was able to find safe harbor during her storm.

“I finally got approved and got a case manager,” she beams. “I was like, ‘Tell me what I need to do, and I’m going to do it.’” Michelle’s case manager put her in touch with a private landlord to work around the eviction on her record. “Almost the very next day, I met with him to view a house. And he was like, ‘Y’all can move in tomorrow if you want.’”

Michelle remains grateful for people like you who make these life-changing programs possible. “If it weren’t for them, I don’t know where we would be right now. Literally, I don’t know,” she says.

Thank you for offering your neighbors a lifeline when they need it most!

Howard Blog

“A Bad Chain of Events”

Howard had been working as an environmentalist in the marine division. He labored long, hard hours on the boats that respond to oil spills.

But it was “a bad chain of events” that got him in the most trouble. While he was between contract jobs, Howard suffered a heart attack that required a quadruple bypass. During his recovery from the procedure, Howard was staying in Florida on a friend’s boat when his situation got even worse ... .

“I blew my left knee out. Tore the meniscus,” he recalls. And because his friend was planning to move his boat up north, Howard had nowhere to go. “I basically ended up homeless.”

Howard was stuck with nowhere to turn. “I didn’t have insurance. I couldn’t get my knee fixed. No one will touch me because of the quadruple bypass for a year,” he says.

Right at his lowest point, Sulzbacher was there to pick Howard up and help him feel steady again. Beyond just a place to stay, they’re also helping him get the medical care he needs!

“They’re helping me get my life back,” he says. “What more can a man ask for? What I do with it is up to me.”

Thank you for helping more of your neighbors get their lives back, too!

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The Rebel Comes Around

Clayton went the wrong way for decades. Now he’s a new man.

This Thanksgiving season, Clayton knows exactly what he’s thankful for: friends like you who helped pave the way for him to land on his feet.

Clayton has seen — and been through — a lot in his 55 years. And he’ll be the first to tell you that many of his problems have been a result of his own choices. He grew up in a loving family, but before he was a teenager, Clayton decided he was going to play the role of The Rebellious Child ... .

“It started out with skipping school,” he says. “Then doing other things I shouldn’t have been doing, like smoking weed and drinking.”

By his 20s, Clayton had transitioned from user to dealer. He was living in a nice home and had a lot of nice things — things that seemed attractive to rival dealers.

One night, there was a home invasion, and Clayton was shot twice. He was only hit in the legs, so he survived and recovered. He says God protected him from more serious injury, or worse: “I’m blessed to be alive.”

But it wasn’t enough of a wake-up call to leave that lifestyle. He kept it up for decades, spending time in and out of jail and prison.

After a 2014 release, Clayton has been free ever since. He never went back to drug dealing — “That’s the old me,” he says. Instead, he took on honest work as a landscaper and was doing well until early 2022, when a layoff eventually led to homelessness.

A friend pointed him to Sulzbacher, where he’s landed on his feet. He’s now working part time and saving money for a new place.

“The Good Lord steered me this way,” he says. “They gave me a bed and meals, and they’re helping me find new housing. I’m grateful.”

Thanks to your help, many more of your neighbors have reason to be grateful!

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Quality Care

Pediatric clinic is “a dream come true” for many parents.

When Jeff and Molly retired — he as a respiratory therapist, she as a nurse — they decided to pursue medical foster care.

It’s quite a commitment to care for children with medical and/or other special needs, but Jeff and Molly went for it … in a big way. They adopted eight children in the spring of 2022, including seven on the same day. ... !

That’s more than a handful, but one thing Jeff and Molly didn’t have to worry about was finding excellent medical care — for regular checkups and visits if any of them got sick. All of it is available at Sulzbacher’s Pediatric Health Center.

Four-year-old twins Harper and Kinsley don’t have any medical issues, but their brother has diabetes and some behavioral challenges. The twins seemed to actually enjoy a recent regular checkup at Sulzbacher — including immunization shots!

“Sulzbacher is a dream come true for us,” Jeff says, “because we can do all the children’s services here. We’re very happy with the quality and consistency of care.”

The support of friends like you makes high-quality healthcare available to kids in need!

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“My Long and Winding Road”

For much of his adult life, Mark was a nursing assistant, caring for others in need. Now the shoe is on the other foot … in more ways than one.

Late last year, doctors had to amputate about half of Mark’s left foot due to complications from diabetes. He ended up being fitted with a special shoe to help him get around ... .

At first, he couldn’t get around very well at all because he was in a wheelchair. At the time, he was staying in a shelter in St. Augustine. But when that shelter was flooded in a storm, many of the residents had to move upstairs … and Mark wasn’t yet able to negotiate steps.

A couple calls later, he ended up at Sulzbacher, where our medical team — particularly Dr. Julie McKay — has helped with Mark’s continued recovery. “I love Dr. McKay to death,” says Mark, 60. “She took time with me, went through everything, helped me with my medicines.”

Our clinic has also provided Mark with dressings for his ongoing wound care — expensive supplies that Mark couldn’t afford. His prior medical experience equipped him to dress his own wounds.

Receiving care, after all those years of giving it, has been humbling, Mark says. But he’s grateful for the stellar care he gets at Sulzbacher. He’s looking forward to the day — hopefully soon — when he’s able to live independently again. He jokes that the first thing he’ll do is treat himself to a good steak dinner!

Then he gets quietly serious. “Without Sulzbacher, I don’t know where I’d be,” he says. “Most likely on the streets. My journey has been a long and winding road!”

Thank you for helping people take the first step in their journey!

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“Horrible, Just Horrible”

When his life fell apart, you helped pick up the pieces.

Xavier is telling his story, but he’s understating the realities of his past life.

He was homeless, living on the streets. Rats scurried past as he slept. He struggled to scrounge up enough money to feed himself — and his drug habit ... .

“It was horrible,” says Xavier, “just horrible.” Legal issues landed him in jail. Upon his release, he came to Sulzbacher, hopeful for a fresh start.

So far, so good. Xavier, 56, has been in our housing program since 2019. He’s grateful for the practical help he’s received, like meals and bus passes. But he mostly appreciates the kindness: “They treat you with respect.”

Today, he says he’s living a “good life.” He leads his church choir, and he even preached recently. “The gospel of Jesus,” he says.

Xavier says without Sulzbacher, he’d be on the streets. “And I wouldn’t be where I am today as far as stability, morals and values.”

He also wouldn’t be where he is today without your support! Thank you!

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“Now Everything’s Good”

How you’re helping neighbors who struggle with mental illness.

Richard fit the stereotype of a homeless man — sleeping under a cardboard box, seeking housing under a bridge.

“I don’t ever want to go through that again,” he says today ... .

He won’t have to, thanks to a statewide program called SOAR, which stands for SSI/SSDI Outreach, Access and Recovery. (SSI and SSDI are Social Security programs.) Sulzbacher partners with SOAR to help people like Richard — homeless folks with mental illness in need of housing, disability benefits and medication management.

Richard, who became homeless in 2011 because of his mental illness, worked with Sulzbacher and Traci Fuglestad, SOAR’s Jacksonville rep, to find housing and stability.

“I used to go to jail all the time,” Richard says. “Now everything’s good.”

So good, in fact, that Richard is essentially Traci’s right-hand man, even doing speaking engagements on behalf of SOAR. “Richard is a huge success story,” Traci says. “It makes me feel good to see how successful he’s become. Now he wants others to have the same accomplishments.

Tradarian is on the same path. Diagnosed with schizophrenia in 2013, he ended up on the streets and often in trouble with the law.

But once in the SOAR program, he began to turn things around … with an assist from Richard and Traci. Traci helped Tradarian obtain stable housing, and Richard helped him move in — and keeps tabs on his progress.

Tradarian is grateful.

“Richard is an awesome person,” he says. “When you’ve been through a lot and then become stable, you become appreciative of things you’ve been through … and of the people that helped you accomplish those things.”

Richard and Tradarian are both thankful for Sulzbacher, SOAR and you for their new lives. “I love it,” Richard says. “I thank God every day for it.”

Thank you for caring about your neighbors struggling with mental illness!

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“They Helped Me Get Clean”

Victoria was living on the streets when she had her baby girl. Not good.

So when she had a chance to come to Sulzbacher, she jumped on it. Very good.

“It was just so great,” Victoria says. “I had been on drugs, and they helped me get clean. At Sulzbacher, you can get any kind of help you need.” ...

What she really needed was independent living. Her room at Sulzbacher was just too small for her growing family. Victoria’s case manager helped her apply for and eventually receive funding for public housing

When Victoria and her little girl moved into their new — and bigger — place, they were thrilled.

Now Victoria is launching a home-based business, selling her handmade crafts — wreaths, plaques and other decorations.

“I love crafting, and I’ve wanted to do this my whole life,” she says. “Thank you for making it possible!”

Your compassion helps single moms like Victoria find hope!

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A Sobering Moment

You’re helping fathers like Eric pick up the pieces and make a brand-new start.

Some people need a wake-up call to start turning their lives around. Eric’s wake-up call just happened to be literal.

He had struggled with drinking and drugs for almost 20 years when it happened. He got drunk one night and blacked out. Police found him out cold the next morning, alone in a field, and woke him up ... .

Eric couldn’t believe he’d fallen so far. “It was the last time I had a drink,” he says.

He had recently split with his wife, and there was a custody battle over their infant son. Eric entered a drug court program, promising to stay sober. While living in various halfway houses, his son lived with Eric’s mother.

Eric stayed clean, and his case manager recommended Sulzbacher Village, where his son could live with Eric. “I thought Sulzbacher was just a homeless shelter,” Eric says. “I was not aware of all their services.”

Eric and his boy stayed in the Village for about a year. Eric completed his drug court program, and got custody of his son. Eric says it wouldn’t have been possible without Sulzbacher’s help — particularly the daily structure that kept him focused and on track.

Earlier this year, Eric and his son moved into their own apartment. He’s got a good job and is saving up to buy a house.

“If it weren’t for Sulzbacher, I don’t know what would’ve happened,” he says. “They’ve definitely helped a lot.”

Thanks to your help, men like Eric land on their feet!

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“They Took Care of Me”

Thanks to you, Sarah endured her struggles and got the care she needed.

Sarah struggled with medical problems for a long time.

A botched surgery in her teen years left her with permanent drop foot. She has bipolar disorder. She has fallen multiple times and has had numerous surgeries ... .

That’s just part of it. Sarah’s boyfriend died of COVID last year, and her young adult daughter has autism and may never live independently. Her financial problems are overwhelming.

“It’s like, how much more can you take?” she wonders aloud.

For almost a decade, Sulzbacher has helped Sarah with many of her struggles. Our clinics have treated her for medical and dental conditions. And for the more specialized services we couldn’t provide, we helped her enroll in Medicaid and get financial assistance.

“Sulzbacher took care of me,” Sarah says. “They did an excellent job, and they couldn’t be nicer. I greatly appreciate their service and care. Thank you!”

The support of friends like you makes this kind of help possible. Sarah is grateful … and so are we!

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A Place of Rest

You’re helping men like Samuel find respite … and a new life.

Can you imagine living on the streets in the searing heat of a Jacksonville summer — with no place to go to cool down and get a break from the heat?

Samuel knows what it’s like, because that’s the life he used to live when he struggled with an addiction ... .

On those scorching days, he longed for a place to beat the heat … a place like Sulzbacher’s Urban Rest Stop, an air-conditioned facility where homeless neighbors can find relief from the elements and get connected to the services they need.

Today, Samuel spends a lot of time at the Urban Rest Stop, where he’s on staff as a “storage specialist.” When people come in off the streets, carrying everything they own, Samuel places their belongings in bins while they cool off, take a shower or watch TV.

“They just come in and rest,” says Samuel.

Samuel’s life on the streets came to an end when he ran into legal problems. He ended up in drug court, and was sent to Sulzbacher to get clean and find a fresh start. He thrived on the structure at the shelter, and took on more and more responsibilities.

Today, he’s a Resident Assistant in addition to his gig at the Urban Rest Stop. And now he’s giving back. “They helped me, now I’m helping others,” he says. “It feels nice.”

Samuel encourages others to follow in his footsteps, to break away from drugs and street life. “I try to help them think of the right way instead of the wrong,” he says. “If I can do it, they can do it.”

Thank you for helping people find a fresh start!

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She Got Her Smile Back

Thanks to you, Bailey got the dental work she needed.

Bailey needed some major dental work, but Medicaid wouldn’t fully cover what she needed.

As a single mother of three kids, Bailey had a tight budget and couldn’t afford the work herself. Someone suggested she get it done at Sulzbacher ... .

Bailey’s reaction was understandable: “At the homeless shelter?”

Yes. Sulzbacher’s services to struggling neighbors include complete healthcare — including dental. “I never would’ve thought of it,” says Bailey.

But Bailey took her friend’s suggestion and went. She had some teeth pulled and got a bridge. As a bonus, they repaired a gap in her front teeth she’d had her whole life. “They did an excellent job,” says Bailey. “They were very professional, they paid attention to my needs. I wouldn’t want to go anywhere else now.”

Bailey pauses, and grins. “And they gave me my smile back!”

Your support gives struggling neighbors reason to smile. Thank you for making a difference in their lives!

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“So Grateful”

See how you helped a young single mom start to turn her life around.

Life has been an uphill battle for Channing from the start.

Born premature and with some health issues, she spent her first months in an incubator in neonatal intensive care. She didn’t get out of the hospital till her first birthday, and by then, she’d been abandoned by her parents. She spent most of her childhood bouncing from one foster home to another ... .

Adulthood hasn’t been any easier. A single mother of two young children, Channing, 31, struggles with epilepsy and seizures. Her disability income wasn’t enough to sustain her family, and she kept falling behind on bills.

When she lost her apartment, Channing had nowhere to go. She remembered a TV news report about Sulzbacher Village and said to herself, “I’ve got to go there.”

Within days, her family was in one of the Village’s two-bedroom units. Slowly, she was able to climb out of debt.

More importantly, she felt the love and encouragement of the Sulzbacher staff, and she started growing in confidence, feeling like independence was possible again.

“God has blessed me to put my family here,” she says. “We love the people here, and they’ve helped us so much. I couldn’t ask for any better place than this.”

At Sulzbacher, Channing has also gotten the medical help she needed, including a new medication for her epilepsy. She says her seizures are much rarer now.

“If it weren’t for Sulzbacher, I’d probably be out on the street with nowhere to go,” Channing says. “I’m so grateful that I’m here.”

Thank you so much for supporting our neighbors in their time of need.

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A Mission of Mercy

For 26 years, San José Catholic has been providing a monthly meal at Sulzbacher.

When Sulzbacher opened in 1995, we recruited local churches to commit to provide and serve monthly meals at the shelter.

Ruby Peters, who was then president of the Council of Catholic Women at San José Church, jumped right in. She signed her church up for the fourth Sunday of every month ... .

And now, 26 years and nearly 150,000 meals later, they’re still doing it every fourth Monday … and Ruby is still spearheading the effort.

She says it’s been one of the most fulfilling adventures of her life.

“In Catholicism, we have this whole thing about feeding the hungry, clothing the naked and visiting the sick,” Ruby says. “This fits right into our mission of doing corporal works of mercy.”

Ruby’s team brings the same meal every month — one they simply call “San José Chicken.” It’s baked chicken with garlic and Italian seasonings, plus a couple sides and a dessert.

“We tried mixing up the menu at first,” Ruby says, “but the guests kept requesting the chicken!”

Ruby has never had trouble rounding up volunteers for the monthly gig. In the early days, her four kids sometimes helped; today, her grandkids pitch in.

Various ministries at the church also help — Sunday school classes, the choir, youth groups and so on. Ruby says volunteering is a good bonding experience as well as a “teachable moment,” particularly for young volunteers.

“Catholic social teaching is all about the dignity of human beings,” she says. “We want to treat each individual and serve them dinner like we were serving them in our own home. Because there but for the grace of God go I, as the saying goes.

“It could be any of us on the other side of that serving line.”

Want to volunteer? Click here to get involved and make a difference!

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Open Wide!

Thanks to you, our dental services are wide open to neighbors in need

You already know about Sulzbacher’s services to homeless and hurting people — that we do more than just meet their most urgent and basic needs. We also try to get to the root of their issues, tackling the reasons behind their circumstances.

But there’s another Sulzbacher service that spends every day getting to the root of people’s problems: our dental clinics ... .

Edward, a 72-year-old retired steel mill worker and Vietnam vet, certainly is grateful for these services. His retirement took quite a bite out of his income and benefits, including the loss of dental insurance. When he started having issues beyond the usual check-ups and cavities, he couldn’t afford the more expensive procedures with his private dentist.

So he came to Sulzbacher in 2018 to look into our dental services. He qualified for reduced rates. “And I’ve been coming here ever since,” Edward says.

He figures that over the years, he’s received thousands of dollars’ worth of services, pricey procedures he never could afford elsewhere. “So those things probably wouldn’t have gotten done,” he says.

Edward says the care he receives at Sulzbacher is as good as any he’s ever had. “I’d never be able to find better care,” he says. “And everybody there is real nice. It’s just a great atmosphere there, and I feel comfortable that my dental work is being done well.

“I just can’t say enough good things about it.”

Edward’s dental care is just one of MANY ways your support helps people in our community. Thank you!

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A Better Community

You and Wanda Willis share a vision for serving others.

Wanda Willis is a big believer in transformational change. That’s why she says the Bold City Chapter of The Links, International is a great fit for Sulzbacher, which is all about transformational change.

The Links, founded in 1946, is one of the nation’s oldest and largest volunteer service organizations, with more than 16,000 members. Willis is president of the Bold City Chapter, which has 45 members. The group averages about 625 volunteer hours per month, including many at Sulzbacher ... .

“We focus on volunteering to make our community a better place to live, work and play,” Willis says. “That’s why we do what we do.”

With a focus on women and children, Bold City members frequently volunteer at Sulzbacher Village, where they stocked a library of children’s books. Among other projects, they spearheaded “The Power of the Purse,” donating more than 50 purses — filled with personal care items — for women at the Village.

“Our work really aligns with Sulzbacher,” Willis says. “We’re providing opportunities for creating transformational change.”

Such stories are made possible because of friends like you. Thank you!

To help more neighbors like Wanda, give now.