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Donald Beard lived on the streets of Jacksonville from 1992 through 2002. His first encounter with the Sulzbacher Center took place during a conversation with Case Manager Susan Sulzbacher. As Susan sat in her car waiting for a client at Shands Hospital Pharmacy, Donald found the courage to finally ask for help. Donald had this to say about their first encounter, “I had the chance to observe Susan over the years helping people, taking them to and from meetings. The most interesting thing about Susan at that time was the fact that she was undergoing chemotherapy and was completely bald. She did not wear a wig and I had to give her praise for what a courageous woman she was. Seeing her like that gave me the strength to walk over there and tell her that I needed some help.” During that conversation Susan agreed to help Donald if he would enter a detox program and kick his alcohol addiction. Within hours of that meeting, Donald signed himself up for alcohol rehab and began his journey to sobriety. He called Susan a week later and told her that he had completed detox, and was enrolling in a Step-Up program. They have been a big part of each others lives ever since.
Once Donald completed treatment he was able to enter the Sulzbacher Center’s Homeward Bound program. Homeward Bound is a program that provides people struggling with addiction and disabilities case management and addiction services while living in a subsidized apartment. During that time he enrolled in classes at FSCJ and began working as a dish washer to pay his bills. He confesses that he could not have done it alone; he would still be out there if it were not for people like Susan and the Sulzbacher Center.
In 2010 a position opened at the Center as a Supportive Living Coach in the Housing Department. Donald was the Center’s first choice and he now has the opportunity to work in the very program that helped him stay clean and get his life in order over ten years ago. Now a Supportive Counselor, every day Donald provides encouragement, hope, guidance and understanding to people in need. He also works along side the person that was so instrumental in helping save his life, Susan Sulzbacher. Donald said this about his job at the Center, “For some reason I can remember everything I ever did wrong. I think it was a higher power that wanted me to do this, and I can see the impact on the people I help just by telling them what I have been through. I try to teach people to take responsibility for your life and actions. Use the time you spend with the Sulzbacher Center as a phase of humility and then go on with your life and be successful.”
Donald has a full life now. He is remarried, owns a house and has three children. When asked about his future Donald said he wants to live a simple but full life, continuing to giveback through his job, to be a good father to his children and a good husband to his wife.