Some sad stories have happy endings. But six months ago, single father of four Butch Lawrence would never have guessed that his story would be one of them.
I was upset at the world and couldnt get out of the hole no matter what I did, Lawrence said recently.
It turns out, a little time and a communitys embrace can change everything.
Lawrence and his children, all younger than 6, understand homelessness far too well. They have lived in the woods and in a car. And on the January day The Durango Herald featured the familys story as part of a five-day series about local poverty, the ailing economy had just cost Lawrence another job. The family was living in a dilapidated home with no stove and without enough food or firewood to carry them through another day.
The day marked another moment of many in the Lawrences lives when their world was turned on end. Only this time, the wheel of fortune turned their way.
As Lawrence struggled with mixed emotions and embarrassment about the Heralds coverage and his situation, concerned community members spent that day and many after it filling the familys cabinets with food, their garage with firewood and their lives with new blessings.
Lawrence still struggles to put into words the generosity shown him.
I dont know how to describe it. I dont know how to say it, except they changed my life completely, Lawrence said.
A changed life
In just months, the community rescued the family from the depths of financial despair and helped them find stability and hope.
For the first time, Im walking around smiling and feeling happy, Lawrence said. I feel like Im on top of the world.
The food, firewood, stove and other community donations, such as emergency dental work and furniture, met the Lawrences immediate needs. Lawrence even was able to share the extras with other families through several local charities, including Manna Soup Kitchen and the Durango Family Center.
But the giving didnt stop there.
Some local residents, including Bill Newmyer, offered gifts that could last a lifetime.
Newmyer wanted to make a difference for a troubled child and was considering becoming a foster parent. Then he read Lawrences story.
There he was, this young man who had lived a hard-knock life and was trying to find his way and be a good parent, Newmyer said. It seemed like an interesting way to foster someone and make a difference.
A seemingly divine message hit Newmyer like a lightning bolt. Lawrence had experience working in the glass industry and no job. Newmyer had a mobile auto-glass repair business and no one to take over when he retired.
Before long, Newmyer put Lawrence on the Glass Masters payroll and began grooming him to take over the business.
Hes a very hard worker whos not afraid of working long and hard to achieve his dreams, which I think is really cool, Newmyer said. I like his work and his attitude.
Lawrence is now at Glass Masters helm, and Newmyer is living elsewhere, coaching Lawrence through the nuts and bolts of small-business ownership via phone and the occasional visit.
Its been really neat watching this young man step into his dreams, Newmyer said.
Lawrence is overjoyed and speaks highly of Newmyer, the business and their growing relationship. He also has big dreams for Glass Masters future and has begun working to build the business and its client list.
The kids are with their mom this summer, so I plan to be a workaholic, Lawrence said. Im getting a shot here, and I cant waste it.
The developments of the last several months allowed the Lawrences to walk away from nearly all the government assistance programs that once were critical to their survival. The only public assistance the family still receives is health insurance for the children, something Lawrence eventually hopes to obtain through the business.
And his role as charitable recipient has reversed. Lawrence said hes proud to be reciprocating through kind acts, in-kind services and donations. He even donated his sport utility vehicle to another needy local family after he had saved enough money this spring to buy a more fuel-efficient car. And hes mentoring a teen whose parents died a few years ago from drug overdoses.
Im learning a lot about work and other stuff, but maybe more about life, the teen said.
The lives of Lawrences four children also have changed. Their once-bare rooms now are filled with toys, clothing and furniture. Their once-lonely days are spent with neighborhood friends they met after their story was published. And for the first time, Lawrence said they will be able to participate in youth sports and extra-curricular activities this fall.
Im so excited for that, Lawrence said. I got so used to telling them no, and they got so used to hearing it, that after a while, they knew not to even ask.
There are a litany of thanks and messages Lawrence said he would like to extend to those that saved his family from despair. But more than anything, he wants everyone to know one thing: Before, I couldnt even envision a future, but now I see a future of hope, he said.
I love Durango.