William's New Chapter

Aug 10, 2023 | by Rebecca Turnbull

At 56 years young, William has a rolodex of experiences that at first blush might not impress. But, walk a day in his shoes and you’ll understand how his story fuels his tenacious appetite to be better and keep #DoingTheMostGood and be an example for his son and a model of success for shelter colleagues.

An RVA native nicknamed ‘Punkin,’ he got his start in the business world at the tender age of 11 with the Richmond Times-Dispatch. He was entrusted with a three-block radius to deliver evening papers, and then at age 13 added the morning shift to his route. This meant a wake-up call of 5:00 a.m. so he could finish his deliveries and still catch the school bus at 7:15 a.m. He was on a straight path until some curves led him astray but he was determined to course-correct.

Married in 1997, incarcerated from 2000 to 2009, his wife Helen stayed by his side and they welcomed their first child together later that year. Committed to continuing the positive trajectory, he completed rehab in 2015 but then relapsed, only to find himself serving time again. It was during this tough time he also lost his wife of nearly 20 years, a son from a previous relationship and his mother survived a stroke.

When William was released he assessed his journey and said “I’m done.” He got clean, prioritized his health and got a job, only to suffer a stroke that left him with 30% dexterity in his left hand.

On disability and on food stamps, William eventually found himself at a breaking point needing mental health support, and it was while he was in the waiting room at the Daily Planet that he received the call from The Salvation Army Central Virginia’s case manager, informing him there was a spot for him in the men’s shelter. From the get-go William was laser-focused, and in what typically would take a minimum of six months to accomplish, William achieved in less than four months — a place to call home.

Today, he is proud to say he has an apartment for him and his son, a continued commitment to his health at the local YMCA Downtown, and a resolve to facilitate monthly visits to give back to the shelter that gave him the time and space to breathe, recoup and recover.

William recognizes many were instrumental in his journey and gives a lion share of gratitude to The Salvation Army Central Virginia's staff and its resources made available through the support of generous partners, donors and volunteers. We too feel fortunate we could open our doors for William when others closed. You gave William, a neighbor who was once experiencing homelessness, the opportunity to experience a new lease on life.

William credits this new chapter to you, and he plans to write many more.

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