SWFL ‘Teen Challenge’ stores employ, empower people struggling with addiction

Teen Challenge SuperThrift stores in Southwest Florida are part of a nationwide program providing jobs, treatment, and other support to people struggling with addiction, bringing light to those who may feel in the dark.

The south Fort Myers location at 15631 San Carlos Blvd is managed by Albert “Bill” Crocker, who had a long, hard road overcoming his addictions that began in his childhood.

“I was heavily abused as a child,” Crocker said, “I started shooting up drugs at 15 and it just went downhill from there. I had 14 felonies at age 15 and I ended up getting 3 more. I was so angry at God that I just didn’t want to be alive. I ended going in and out of mental institutions for suicide.”

Crocker credits the Teen Challenge for helping him turn his life around after his sister recommended him to the program at age 28. As part of the addiction program, Crocker started working in a Teen Challenge store.

“The thrift store allowed me to work on many different skills as it does for the many different Teen Challenge students that are working here today,” Crocker said. “They can work in a controlled environment, a healthy environment.”

Crocker graduated the Teen Challenge program and said he’s been drug free for eight and a half years now. Crocker said the best part of now managing Teen Challenge SuperThrift San Carlos is helping his co-workers take back their lives from drugs, and take on the world beyond these walls.

“The most rewarding part is seeing these guys graduate the program,” Crocker said, “so many doors open for them, the opportunities are endless.”

“They’ve just given me an opportunity to get to know the gifts that I have and how I can contribute to the community on a bigger scale,” said Crocker’s coworker and fellow Teen Challenge graduate, Thalia Grigoropoulos.

“Ever since I came into the program I just knew that the ministry was really helping people in a larger way…so it was just another way for me to give back working at the thrift store,” Grigoropoulos added.

Crocker said there are many employment and other opportunities available now for anyone struggling with addiction.

He recommends individuals interested in employment send their resume to [email protected] and anyone interested in donating items to the thrift store can call at 239-267-5433

Reporter:Melinda Lee
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