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A New Way of Life: Charlie’s Story 

January 22, 2024

Charlie’s journey at St. Anthony’s, where he has been a Maintenance Technician for nearly two years, is a story of remarkable transformation. Despite an extensive history of non-violent offenses and a lengthy background check, St. Anthony’s saw beyond his past and recognized his genuine desire for change. Charlie’s personality, drive, and charisma made it clear that he would be a valuable member of our team. His hiring and employment at St. Anthony’s, a decision that many organizations would not have made, highlights the power of faith and hope in the potential of every individual. The following story is a testament to how belief in someone’s ability to transform leads to profound change— as well as impeccably well-maintained facilities.

Charlie grew up in an environment that was deeply entwined with addiction and crime. “It was just normal to me… I thought that was how everyone lived,” he recalled. His family dynamics were complex and impacted by issues of addiction and incarceration. His mother grappled with her own substance abuse problems and experiences in the criminal justice system, and his father was mostly absent, frequently in and out of prison. “My mom and dad had their own demons to fight,” he said. His brother also struggled with similar issues, further intensifying the challenging family environment.

Charlie began committing crimes at a young age. “It started small, just petty stuff… but it quickly grew into more serious things,” he said. This led to a repetitive cycle of criminal behavior and incarceration. The grip of addiction exacerbated his choices, and continually drew him back to criminal activity.

It was at San Bruno Jail while awaiting trial that Charlie encountered the Choices program. The program is unique to San Mateo County and teaches select inmates who show motivation how to operate in healthy, life-sustaining ways. The people who ran the program have lived experience and served as mentors and profound sources of inspiration. On their recommendation, Charlie was one of the few who were given the opportunity by a judge to enter the Father Alfred Center recovery program at St. Anthony’s as an alternative to incarceration. After more than 18 years in the criminal justice system, people began to see something in him, and he was given another chance at life.

For the first time, Charlie engaged deeply with the recovery process at St. Anthony’s. He gained the awareness to look at himself and face the challenges of overcoming addiction and a criminal lifestyle. He started to rebuild his life, reconnect with his family, and lay the foundation for a stable, hopeful future. He has been sober for a few years now and is a responsible community member. He will be managing legal issues for some time but is moving in the right direction. After successfully graduating from Father Alfred Center, he is employed by St. Anthony’s (so far his longest term of employment) and participates in the Companionship Program. His Companion jokes that she is more of a tax consultant to Charlie than anything else— just another one of the critical services our Companions provide! He is recently engaged to the mother of his son, who is also in recovery and, for the first time, supports his family in a healthy and stable environment. He and his fiancé are saving to buy a home.

One of the most interesting things about Charlie is his enthusiasm for life and refreshing perspective on things. He never lets his past hold him back and never speaks negatively of anything. He is infectiously optimistic and has an acute perception of the good that surrounds him and generously shares his gratitude for it all with the people in his life. He is an inspiration and role model. “[St. Anthony’s] saw the person I could become, not just the person I was,” he said.

We are proud to have Charlie as a long-term member of our team. Our community is built on the principles of acceptance, unconditional love, and support. We seek to understand the human condition without judgment. Our approach, based on Franciscan values, allows us to engage in mutual healing as we learn and grow with the people we serve. In a world often clouded by hopelessness and a desperate search for quick fixes to society’s ills, our consistent and evolving services and programs ensure that everyone has the opportunity to flourish in life.

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