Driven to Change
Unlike most people, Doug Hughes actually considers being stopped by the police a kind of blessing.
A year ago in Canton, Ohio, an officer pulled Hughes over and charged him with driving with a suspended license. The judge sentenced him to community service at The Salvation Army, where he has since gained a full–time job and a community of people who care about him.
“I do consider that a blessing,” said Hughes, a single father of a four–year–old boy. “Had that not happened the way it did, who knows where I’d be?”
While serving his community service, Hughes impressed everyone at the corps with his strong work ethic and maintenance skills, which he learned from his days while working in construction.
Theresa Farello, the director of social services at the corps, thought Hughes would also be perfect for the Pathway of Hope (POH) program and enrolled him.
A new life
“I approached Doug and asked if he would be open to telling me his story,” Farello said. “I was blown away at the experiences he had lived through and his determination and willingness to surrender his old ways and make permanent change. He had already started before we met him.”
POH helps emergency assistance applicants move beyond crisis and overcome the barriers keeping them in poverty. Clients work with a caseworker to find help with job training, health services, childcare, education, housing options, and legal services.
Hughes so impressed the retiring maintenance supervisor at the corps that he recommended Hughes take his place. On Jan. 3 of this year, Hughes started work at the corps.
Holding the job has helped change Hughes’ life in so many ways. He now has health insurance for himself and for his son. His POH caseworkers are helping him improve his credit score so he can buy a house.
The 28–year–old Hughes has always been a hard worker, mostly out of necessity. His parents never married. By the time he was a teen, he was staying with friends.
“I had to provide for myself a lot of times,” he said. “But, I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I gained a lot of wisdom and experience. I’m a better person for it.”
A brick layer, Hughes worked in construction most of his life, but also had stints as a cook and bartender. However, cars were his real love.
“I’ve always been infatuated with cars,” he says. “I like the older cars. I have a hard time staying away from driving.”
Hughes said a lapse in his auto insurance led to eight license suspensions. But even that couldn’t keep him from driving to work.
Working for God
“I had to get to work to pay my bills,” he said. “I’ve always had several cars, sometimes two and three at a time. I had to get to work, so I would get in one of them and drive.”
Hughes now has a clean driver’s license.
“I did most of that on my own, but the folks here at The Salvation Army made sure I followed through,” he said.
For the first time in his life, Hughes drives to work each day to a Christian environment. He calls the Canton Corps “a very united establishment.”
“Everyone here works well together,” he said. “The environment here is a positive one. It’s a pleasurable work environment.
“It’s comforting to know that you’re going to come in here and everybody’s going to be happy.”
The Christian influence has begun to subtly rub off on Hughes, who initially expressed to caseworkers that he didn’t believe in God. He now attends morning prayer meetings.
Chris Brown, a POH caseworker in Canton, said Hughes often expresses how he got the job at the corps by the “grace of God.”
Hughes said the POH program is “wonderful” and has helped him reprioritize his life.
“What they do is fantastic,” he said. “There are people who might not be in my exact position, but similar. I believe they need that extra push.
“I have a hard time accepting handouts. I don’t like to walk around with my hand out. I would rather obtain [what I need] myself. I feel better when I do it myself.”
Helping the willing
Hughes said he has been told to think of POH as a “scholarship.”
“Pathway of Hope is something for people who want to help themselves,” he said. “This is for people who want to work—people who want to do for themselves and want a better situation.
“It’s not for the person who is going to roll over and die. It’s for those people who struggle and overcome. It’s for those people who are self–driven and want better for their children.”
Brown said the Canton Corps has seven POH clients.
“We’ve retained them all by getting to know them and developing relationships,” he said. “We’ve helped people stabilize their lives. We’ve helped people get jobs or at least get to interviews they might not have been able to get on their own.”
Making an impression
Brown calls Hughes “super intelligent,” a dedicated father, and a Pathway of Hope success story.
“We don’t see a lot of single fathers,” Brown said. “He’s one of our best clients. He’s a hard worker. Doug is just a special guy. I feel like he would have bettered himself whether he was working with us or not. He’s determined.”
Farello said watching Hughes and his progress has inspired everyone at the corps.
“You have to do the hard work. Doug has been and continues to stay steady with his progress and remain open to coaching in all categories,” she said. “When I challenge him, he responds.”
Farello said Hughes continues to build income stability and create a better life for his son.
“I admire his hard work, protectiveness, and loyalty to his family,” she said. “Pathway of Hope was designed to walk alongside a man like Doug until, one day, he walks beside another.”
by Robert Mitchell
For more information about POH, contact your local Salvation Army.