Perseverance is everything
In 2007, at the age of 53, Manny thought his troubles were behind him. A Vietnam veteran, he had been clean and sober ever since his son Chris was born some 16 years earlier. His wife, Gail, had health problems, but Manny was able to care for her at home. Then, as happens all too often, Manny relapsed. As a result of his drinking, he was arrested and sentenced to seven months in jail. Chris went to stay with family and Gail was forced to move to a nursing home.
When he was released, Manny had few options. That's when he turned to St. Vincent de Paul Village. He got clean and began the road to reclaiming his life. Not long after Manny moved into the Village, two spots opened up at Toussaint Academy San Diego. "Twenty kids applied," says Manny, "and Chris was one of the two that got in." It seemed fortune was beginning to smile on them once again.
Manny worked hard to advance through the programs at the Village. After graduating from the intensive 8 month Culinary Arts Program, he got an internship at a local Italian restaurant. Chris was attending high school and working as well. Unfortunately, the week Chris was to graduate, his mother succumbed to her illness. He and his father attended his graduation one day and buried Gail the next. It was the type of setback that could easily have derailed the progress the two had made. But they were determined not to let that happen.
After completing his internship, Manny was hired on as a full-time chef at the Taste of Italy restaurant in Rancho San Deigo. Unfortunately, with the downtown in the economy he was laid off but with the help of one of Chris' counselors, he applied for disability assistance from the Veterans Administration. "Six months later I was awarded a non-service-connected pension with a 60 percent disability rating, and a $5,000 retroactive check, which I immediately put in a savings account," Manny says. "My last day at the Village was April 1, 2010, and I got my keys to my apartment that same day."
Following graduation, Chris took a job at Vons bagging groceries. After only two years he worked his way up to Store Baker, the top position in the bakery department. He now has his own apartment just two blocks away from his dad's. "I am very proud of him and he's proud of me," says Manny.
If there is one thing Manny has come to realize it's that perseverance is everything. "I learned that it's not how many times a person falls that matters," he says. "It's how many times that person is willing to pick themselves up that counts."
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