Carl is an early riser. Being up before the sun every day is just a normal part of the routine. He washes up, gets his son to daycare and then it’s off for a long day of installing storm doors and porch enclosures in Caledon. He picks up his son, has dinner and then calls a baby sitter so he can get to an AA meeting the next city over.
Carl is recovering from being a self-proclaimed “drinker and drugger”. He is a single father who does not receive child support, and every day is still a struggle. But when asked about his life, he had one simple response, “Life is amazing today.”
Just a few years ago, Carl was in a tough spot. “I just had my son and was granted sole custody. But every problem I faced was paramount, and they just kept piling up,” Carl recalled. “The only way I could deal with the situation was to find a solution – and mine was through drugs and alcohol.” At the time, Carl was living in his mother’s basement, did not pay too much attention to his son, and was only interested in playing video games.
“I felt like a loser.”
One night at the bar, Carl was venting his frustrations to a friend. He was worried about how he was going to afford food, diapers and formula. He was worried about finding stable employment and starting his career. His friend listened to his problems and told him to go to Caledon Community Services where he learned about the Exchange.
The Exchange is a Community Hub in Caledon that focuses on enriching lives through community programming. It houses meeting spaces, counselling support, a kitchen and even a food bank to help clients. While Carl was there, he was able to take advantage of several programs to help him get on his feet. Counsellors helped to asses Carl’s situation and give him peace of mind by connecting him to other services such as Caledon Parent-Child Centre – another United Way funded agency.
Today, Carl and his son have an amazing relationship, and he credits the programs at United Way funded agencies for making him a stronger parent. “Now, I can really feel the energy off of him. He always wants to hang out with me. He’s always happy.”
Much more than a centre of referral, the Exchange is playing a major role in Carl’s life, teaching him many things. “They taught me how to conserve my money, and stop being so wasteful,” Carl smiled,
“I keep looking for ways to give back to this place. So far, it’s been by sharing my story or by telling others to come. But I know there will be other opportunities. And I can’t wait to help The Exchange grow.”
Today, Carl leads an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting at The Exchange. He’s an advocate for the community hub. And he’s a stronger parent who is working his way out of debt.
“It’s a safe place,” Carl said of The Exchange. “It feels like home.”