ray kinder hope for the future

 

Love and acceptance helps Florida man reconnect with hope

Just a few months ago, Ray Kinder could not imagine being clean, being out of jail, being hopeful. When you look at him today, you could not, for one minute, imagine him being anything but.

Ray grew up in a church-going family, but all was not right. His father was a career criminal, coming and going from prison. When his father was not in jail, he was abusing his mother and modeling the alcoholic lifestyle. He eventually ended up with a life sentence for armed robbery. People would speak over Ray that he would be just like his dad. It had its effects.

Ray was in juvenile detention 12 times. He got addicted to drugs in middle school and continued to make bad choices for the next two and a half decades. Kinder was in jail, some maximum-security ones, 23 times. Each jail time was just a pause from his crack addiction, and the pause button would be reset when he got out.

“My reality was too hard to take,” he said. “I knew how much pain I was causing my mom, my family. It just pushed me deeper into addiction. It was the loneliest, most isolating, tumultuous nightmare. I was just a zombie that didn’t care about anything. I stepped off the cliff into hopelessness.”

Last year, while out on bond, Ray went to visit his aunt. He was totally out of his mind, high and incoherent. His aunt called the police, who took him to a local addiction recovery program. While there, he learned of The Salvation Army. He was sick and tired of being sick and tired, and he was willing to give The Salvation Army a try.

When Ryan from The Salvation Army, came to pick him up a few days later, Kinder’s brain told him not to get on the bus. He said something, maybe God, pushed him to get on the bus.

Ryan told him everything was going to be OK, this was a new beginning for him, and he was going to find his purpose and a plan. Ryan was his first exposure to the love and acceptance that he was about to receive.

During December, Ray volunteered to help pick up Angel Tree gifts and said he “overdosed on the love” that was shown to him at each location. He also realized that at The Salvation Army, he was surrounded by people who truly understood him and his addiction. He was also among other people who were just like him. He “was not as unique as (he) thought. They showed me there was a way out I could never see before. There is a reason they call this the Center of Hope; I do have hope now.”

Kinder is taking things one day at a time. He remarked that “The Salvation Army gave me my hope back; it saved my life. If God can do this for someone like me, he can do this for anyone.” Kinder is protective of the “precious and valuable gift he has been given and is not going to give it up.”

The biggest challenge for Ray now is employment. He will commence soon and is praying someone will give him a chance.

His advice in the meantime for others like him: “If you think for one second that your life is gone and you’ve tried everything else in life, but it never worked for you, there is a place, and the name of this place is The Salvation Army. If you are truly ready to live, give this place a try.”

When Hurricane Matthew made landfall in 2016, The Salvation Army of Daytona Beach, Florida, sustained damage to its Center of Hope, specifically in the form of roof issues and broken windows. With that said, the structure managed to escape without catastrophic impairment. The arrival of Hurricane Irma in September 2017, however, did cause significant problems.

Though Daytona Beach was not struck directly by the storm in a way that neighboring areas were affected, storm surge flooded the Center of Hope’s first floor after a full evacuation had taken place in the area. As a result, The Salvation Army was unable to return to the building, and programming – including social services, dormitories and a computer lab – was displaced.

After more than a year of obstacles and a gradual period of re-acclimation, however, the Center of Hope reopened in January 2019 and a rededication of sorts took place in late March. The newly-minted building includes space for a renovated social services office, veterans programming, Pathway of Hope, residential services, job training and a food pantry.

“With the resources that we had, we kind of gave the building a facelift,” said Major Caleb Prieto, corps officer. “The comments we received at the open house were very encouraging. I think it looks amazing and that was backed up by the feedback. Not only were we able to restore what we had previously, but I think we’re in the best place we’ve been.”

The arrival of Irma and the damage sustained forced The Salvation Army’s social services efforts into a time of transition and flexibility. A partnership was struck with a local hotel to house residents displaced by the building closure and, while service delivery had to operate at less than full capacity, both the corps building and additional space at the hotel were turned into offices equipped with the tools to perform case management and other essential activities.

The period of displacement wasn’t navigated without hiccups, including a partnership in concert with the Department of Corrections that was placed on hold due to the structural challenges. Still, the community rallied around the work of The Salvation Army during a trying time, and the future is bright as a result.