Today, when you ask about getting something done at St. Francis House, you’re often told, “Ask Garry. He’s my go-to man.” But it wasn’t always that way.
Garry Clemmons joined the Marines in 1971 to “care for my family”. He spent four years in infantry including a stint in Viet Nam. When he returned home, he had learned a lot including how to drink and drug. And he had seen a lot that no one but another vet really understood. He divorced and eventually lost contact with his children.
He went to the VA six times before his first referral to St. Francis House. He went through the program, but he struggled. “I wasn’t ready for sobriety. When I left I had a job, a place to live and money…and I relapsed. After three months I was evicted.”
Garry went to live with his sister, still in that downward spiral. One evening there was a house fire, and everything was lost. Garry was homeless. “Everyone had a place but me.”
He went back to the VA and requested to go back to St. Francis House. “All I had was a duffel bag of smoked out clothes,” Garry remembered. But this time the structure, the groups, and knowing he had a place changed his thinking. He completed the program in 2003 and began volunteering at the front desk as well as acting as the veterans’ representative.
Later Garry started a part-time job on the weekends at St. Francis House, and then in 2004, a job as a mental health technician opened up. He knew the Vets, he knew the program, and he knew he wanted to give others a place to stay. Garry has worked at St. Francis House ever since.
Garry has reestablished relationships with his children and other family. He’s happily married and recently purchased a house. He now facilitates Veterans groups and is not shy about relating the things he’s learned. “God had His arms around me the whole time; I just didn’t know it. He put me at St. Francis House, and it is one of the most positive places I’ve ever been to. They’re always about giving and helping and never turn anybody down. I think of myself as thirteen years old because that’s when I had my new beginning”.
Thank you, Garry. We’re glad you’re such a major part of the St. Francis House family. And of course, you’ll always have a place.