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Right Place at the Right Time

by Robbie Arrington, Career & Recovery Resources

Alfonso lives in Houston, Texas. In March 1985 he hurt his lower back while at work. Since he was only 33 when it happened, Alfonso believed he would fully recover a couple months after his surgery. But he was wrong. Two years later, he injured his back again while on the job. This meant Alfonso had to undergo two more back surgeries within one year. He was out of the workforce for a year and a half. The second and third surgeries left metal rods and screws in his lower back. Alfonso was unable to walk, sit or stand for long periods of time. He was taking medication to handle the extreme pain.

"The road to recovery was not easy. While recovering I was going through a divorce, was homeless, was without my three children, and had no means of supporting myself. It was a low point in my life," said Alfonso. He added, "I was forced to live with family and friends while doctors tried to wean me off the pain medicine I had become dependent on. With a lot of faith in God, and my church, I was able to overcome these hardships and finish recovering."

After recovery, Alfonso began searching for employment. He went to the Houston Center for Independent Living, the Department of Veterans Affairs, and Career and Recovery Resources (CRR) for guidance.

"They say you have to be at the right place at the right time, well, I was. The staff at CRR steered me toward a clerical position, knowing I would not be able to do manual labor due to mobility limitations. After three months of administrative training, searching through stacks of job descriptions and faxing my resume to potential employers, I got a job. The application cut off date for the volunteer coordinator position I wanted had past a few days before I saw the listing. CRR staff people encouraged me to fax my resume anyway, and it worked. Three days later I was in the Interfaith Ministries for Greater Houston (IMGH) offices for an interview. A week after that I was hired."

Since Alfonso started work with IMGH, he was deemed Volunteer of the Year by Thomas Jefferson Elementary, Star Client of the Year by Career and Recovery, Inc. (PWI) and received a Proclamation from the City of Houston Mayor's Office. Alfonso also served as President of the Houston Chapter of the National Hispanic Council on Aging.