I’m from a Christian household in Orlando, Florida. Growing up, my dad was handy. He built our house and was always teaching me things. I even had summer gigs in construction. My parents always taught me right from wrong and in my teenage years, I knew I was on the wrong path.
I got into trouble with the law, but really, I was in trouble with not knowing who I was anymore. I was at a dead end.
Finally, I came to a place where my parents and family felt like they could voice their concerns with me. It turns out a childhood friend of mine was working for Youth-Reach Gulf Coast (YRGC) and living on the property. I was walking a lonely, curvy, nasty road for a long time, but God put someone in my life that I’d known all along who was involved in Youth-Reach.
I took the time to talk to the Director, David Williams, and some of the other guys working at YRGC. I knew if I didn’t go, I’d eventually be in jail or dead. It was an ultimatum not just for me, but for my family and future family.
I knew there was no way to have any kind of real future if I kept living the way I was living.
READY TO STICK IT OUT
In April 2014, I arrived at YRGC. I was 21 and I’d never left home before. Being away from home was a big move for me.
I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life, I just knew I needed to get it straight.
From the jump, I told myself I wasn’t gonna leave. I was gonna stick it out. The first week or so, I was quiet and stuck to myself. I wanted to take it seriously. I’ve always been a social butterfly but I was thrown off by living in this different dynamic of people I didn’t know. At the same time, I was comfortable. They use a Bible-based curriculum, and I was familiar with their values.
Everyone there was 100% for me. The guys out there, especially David, really took me under their wings. David never got frustrated if I messed up. He was patient with me. I needed the accountability coming off drugs and alcohol, living how I wanted to live… and then changing my ways to living sober.
THINGS ARE DIFFERENT
I believe I was in the actual program for about 10 months and completed it ahead of schedule. I started out slow, but by the end, I picked up steam and really enjoyed the time the staff spent investing in me.
I wanted to show them that things were different, not just tell them. After graduating, I came on staff as an intern for about 6-7 months.
Starting in 2016, I worked in the area several years for Scott Raley, a YRGC board member. He offered me a job at Raley Builders, and that’s how I started my career path. YRGC enabled me to explore my passions and work on different projects. I enjoy building with my hands, getting a healthy pride and gratification from seeing projects through all the way.
Putting in the time and effort it takes to learn to do things properly and efficiently… I owe all that to YRGC and Scott Raley.
Now I’m working for a general contractor in Huntsville, doing estimating and project management for big commercial properties: churches, schools, and buildings for NASA. I’ve been growing in the office, getting acclimated to a new side — the business side — of construction. I can’t see myself doing anything else.
If you’re thinking about going to YRGC, your preparedness level needs to be very high. Throw away your pride, don’t be embarrassed. Don’t go in halfway. If you’re gonna go, make sure you’re ready to go and complete it.
The people who are out at YRGC working have really given their lives to this ministry. They’ve given so much time, effort, and emotional connection. And to see what they’ve done by fully committing… it’s a rarity. It’s interesting to watch their families, living out there with them as they live the Christian lifestyle and still have fun. Joining the YRGC family as a resident is a great opportunity for people who feel like they’re done and there’s no other way to move forward. I’m still in contact with some of the guys who were there with me and the fruit of YRGC is still doing things in our lives personally.
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I don’t know why there’s not more places like YRGC. They don’t charge a dime, but do it out of the goodness of their heart. It’s super important to support them.
We regularly have the privilege to hear stories of life transformation like Austin’s. Because of the generosity of our supporters, we can provide 24/7, Christ-centered, residential support to other broken young men.
Would you consider partnering with us to help provide more young men like Austin with the life-changing opportunity to join the YRGC family? Thank you for your prayerful consideration and taking the time to read Austin’s story!