Closing One Door, and Opening Another

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Jason Birch ThumbnailLYNDON- Walking by him on the street, Jason Birch may look like an ordinary person. But if you heard his story, you wouldn't believe the transformation he's gone through.

Three years ago, Birch was in Burlington, on the streets, in what he described as one of the worst times of his life.


"My fiancee and I are recovering alcoholics and addicts," said Birch. "We came up to this area to get away from people, places, and things, and HOPE was one of the places on this list that we received for resources."

Birch found hope in the HOPE store in Lyndon, which supplied him with every day essentials while he was trying to stand up on his own two feet.

"When we first got here, we were homeless. We we're living our car, so we used the food, clothing, we didn't have very much clothing." said Birch.

"Part of our mission is to help people fill their basic needs," said Dan Haycook, General Manager of HOPE. "We know that when you're not stressing about where you're getting your next meal, or where you're getting your winter jacket, or how you're going to stay warm through the night. Whether it's finding permanent housing, being able to make sure your kids are doing the best they can in school to be the best they can be. Filling the basic needs reduces some of that stress, and allows them people to really take steps forward into thriving in life."

Birch is now 10 months sober, living in his own apartment, giving back to the organization that once helped him and changing a stigma that, according Haycook, can come when some people take advantage of human service agencies.

"That's just not what we experience here," said Haycook. "A lot of times we have folks that come in for help and folks that come in for services,and they end up giving back when they get stable and they get on their feet. They're feeling better about things. (Birch) is a prime example of that. He came in and he needed help. And a few months later, he's here three days a week helping us fill food bags, fill shelves, helping us do what we need to do to help other people."

"If this place wasn't available for me, I'm not sure how easily it would have been to get out of the situation that I was in. And just knowing that there were people out there that cared. And it was the support system when we didn't really have much support." added Birch.

And now, Birch has become part of the support system that helped him turn his life around.