“I’m an addict. Most people stereotype addicts and think addiction is a choice, but it wasn’t a choice for me,” explained Charlene, one of the speakers at the Soup Bowl Supper, a fundraiser for Catholic Charities of Central Florida’s Pathways to Care assisted living center in Casselberry held at St. Mary Magdalen Parish in Altamonte Springs. Charlene is a current resident and shared her story so that others could have a better understanding of the plight of the homeless.

“I trained to be a dental assistant when I was a junior in high school,” she continued. “It wasn’t until I went to have my first child that I almost died. To save me and help my recovery, I was put on all sorts of drugs. I didn’t think about it at the time,” she recalled. “It wasn’t until my son was about 2 years old and I was on my second marriage that I realized I had a problem, and so did my husband.” The couple was addicted to pain medication. Soon after, Charlene’s husband died of an overdose. Charlene describes herself as a “functioning addict.” “That is, until I black out and lose my job,” she admitted. “I am grateful to Pathways to Care for what they have done for me. I never felt stereotyped or judged there. I just felt loved.” She will soon be back on her feet and has hope for her future.

The event exceeded its fund raising goal for the 40-bed facility dedicated to providing quality healthcare, housing and hope to Central Florida’s vulnerable homeless population of men, women and veterans in need of a safe place to heal from serious illness or injury.

Monsignor John Bluett, the force behind the founding of the facility and pastor of St. Stephen Parish in Winter Springs, pointed to the words of Pope Francis when he likened the Church to a field hospital, “…charged with joyfully bringing God’s mercy wherever suffering, division, and injustice exist.” He added, “You certainly don’t have to be Catholic to understand exactly what Francis is getting at. All it takes is our shared humanity.” It is a shared interfaith effort that contributes to Pathways success.

Former pastor of Northland, a Church United, Dr. Joel Hunter, spoke of an Indian tale, sharing how the strong tribesmen carried the weak, children and elderly, forging their way against the river’s current, leading their entire tribe to safety. The message: “The strong were saved by the weight of the weak,” he said. “It is we who have access that need to give, for through giving we are saved.”

The event is in its sixth year. Soup donated from area restaurants was served by several leaders in the community, including Bishop John Noonan. Souvenir hand thrown pottery bowls were made for guests from numerous area schools.

By Glenda Meekins of the Florida Catholic – October 29, 2018