We’ve Been Waiting For You
Charles Knuckles, Director of CityTeam Ministries
We are all dealt a particular hand in life. Some of us into loving and supportive homes, others more fortunate, and many less. “I was orphaned at 2,” says Charles Knuckles as we sit across a small table in his office at CityTeam Ministries in San Jose, “…with no strong male figures in my life and growing up in a neighborhood where if you were over age 25, you were considered an OG (Original Gangster).” Growing up on the east coast without a father figure or mentor is not easy, and coincidentally Charles grew up in a time where there was a strong young African American figure raising up. Charles followed the Martin Luther King Jr. movement at age 12. He thought Martin Luther King Jr. was the most dynamic and charismatic man he has ever witnessed, so much that he even found a way to attend his I Have a Dream speech in Washington D.C. Charles did not grow up with a father figure, but discovered a leader and was inspired by Martin Luther King Jr. In 1968, news traveled quickly that Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated, when Charles heard the news his soul felt empty and became deeply depressed. He has his first alcoholic drink and in that very instant, he was addicted. Without a figure to lead and model his life after he decided to enroll in the Navy, in those days it was easy to hide one’s alcoholism, but little did Charles know another addiction awaited for him during service.
It was the early 1970’s and heroin was widely used. Charles was again instantly addicted. After leaving the Navy Charles did whatever odd jobs he could find to fuel his addictions. We’ve all hear that alcohol and drugs ruin lives, and often brush it off, but alcohol and drugs did break apart Charle’s life. He eventually became homeless and sunk into an even deeper depression.
His first introduction to CityTeam was a pantry where he would show up to grab a meal from time to time, but he was still drinking and still shooting up heroin. It wasn’t until 1998 where he was shot in a drug deal gone bad. This was really rock bottom. He finally found the cold, miserable floor of his empty black pit and it was enough for Charles to attempt suicide.
He soon met Clark Jones, the CityTeam Director for Pennsylvania. The first thing Clark did was to give Charles a big bearhug and whispered in his ear, “We’ve been waiting for you.” Clark was the first human touch Charles experienced in years, and for the first time in a very long time he once again had hope. “That embrace was life changing,” reflected Charles.
While in the CityTeam recovery program Charles met a gentleman named Russ Kindler. Russ worked a white collar job, lived in an affluent neighborhood and one day Charles asked Russ why he puts his life on pause to spend time with him. Without missing a beat, Russ replied with, “Because you’re here Charles. Because your here is why I come.” Charles saw the world with a fresh perspective and eventually become the strong male figure he searched for all his life.
Charles eventually completed the CityTeam program, sobered up, and with a new grasp on life founded the non-profit TAG. TAG went into the inner city where crime and shootings were rampant. They connected with local church fellowships and went out to street corners to pray. The crime rate on the corners they had fellowship on fell to zero. Not one murder in the 6 years Charles directed TAG. CityTeam took notice and asked if Charles was interested in heading up their California operation. Charles accepted, packed up a trailer and drove a path that he would never forget. Although he faced some challenges while he was out on the streets, he had a good laugh describing some of the motel rooms he stayed at during that trip.
Today Charles is the director of the men’s recovery program at CityTeam Ministries in San Jose. He’s led the position for the past 8 years and has grown meal service from 250 meals per day to over 600. Men from “Yale to Jail” walk through his doors seeking help, and he does not turn away a soul. His rules are strict, but he’s also their biggest fan and in a world where one has none, many just need one person to believe in them. His facility can house up to 74 men at any given time, and his greatest pride is when a graduate of his program goes out and makes something of himself. Charles mentions a guy who walked through his doors. As the world seemingly turned his back toward him and wrote him off as no use, he worked hard through the CityTeam recovery program and eventually worked his way through his education and vocational training. Today he is a CAD engineer working on the new Apple Headquarters project. Charles laughs as he adds, “…and he makes more than I do!” “It’s nothing short of father’s pride,” he mentions, “you want them to go out and become more successful than you.”
Here’s how you can get involved. Charles has grand visions for the CityTeam facility, but he understands the concept of tiny steps. Being in Silicon Valley one of the most critical vocational areas one can grow is basic computer and internet skills. CityTeam has a small space dedicated to such training and interaction, but they do need computers. You can personally drop it off at CityTeam, or drop us a note at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll pick it up and deliver it on your behalf.
*UPDATE 12/29/2015 — The community response to this was much more than we imagined. Thank you for all of your generosity and continued support. Today Charles has a fully functioning ‘computer lab’ where the men in his program are able to learn the basic, but necessary, computer skills necessary in today’s job market.
Written by Wallace Chane, Founder and CEO of METIS Real Estate
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