Charles Heard lost his day job hanging drywall after the company he worked for moved out of state. He lost his night job as a Georgia Dome security guard when a background check revealed past felony convictions. A back injury he suffered while doing street repairs caused him constant pain. Drugs were ruining his life.
Then, in September 2003, Heard entered the Samaritan House's life stabilization program, which offers drug and alcohol counseling and one meal a day to men and women who cannot work because of mental or physical illness.
Heard ate his meals at Cafe 458, which during the week operates as a restaurant where homeless men and women order off a menu and are served by volunteer waitstaff. On weekends it serves breakfast and lunch to the public.
"They asked me to take the drug program, and once I got enrolled they asked me to set three goals," Heard says. "Once you accomplish your goals, you graduate. My goals were to get my driver's license back, find a place to stay and to start collecting disability."
Nine months after he enrolled, Heard graduated from the life stabilization program and has been drug-free for more than a year. He says that the staff at Cafe 458 gave him his life back, so now he's repaying that debt. He volunteers five days a week, from 8 a.m.-2 p.m., as the kitchen manager at Cafe 458.
"I love it," Heard says. "It's just something that I'm very proud of. To me, it shows me that they trust me -- that they can depend on me to give me my own set of keys and come open up when [the manager] is not there."
Beating drugs is not the only thing Heard has to celebrate. On July 15 he is getting married to Pamela Pierce, a pastor at a Pentecostal church in Stone Mountain. He says that all of the staff at Cafe 458 is invited to the wedding.
In conjunction with CL's Give & Get holiday program, Kroger has donated to Heard a complete dinner for five -- a turkey with all the trimmings.