Wilbert Adams Jr.
The Center for Poverty Solutions’ initial study showed education decreases poverty, but there are still many people in poverty who have been to college. In fact, 44% of Chicago’s impoverished population has at least some higher education experience. South Side native Wilbert Adams was one of them.
“I went to Lane Technical, which at the time was one of the premiere high schools in the state. I had aptitude in a lot of subjects and was gifted in chemistry. It was easy for me to get a job.”
“I got a two-year general studies degree and that led to a job doing quality control for pharmaceuticals.”
“But in college I had developed some bad habits. At first, I was smoking marijuana. Then one of the guys I was smoking with introduced me to crack cocaine. That is strong bondage. It makes you desire it more and more until all you want to do is get more crack.”
“I was affecting me on my job. I got to where I would smoke for hours and then go into work. Then sometimes you smoke and you don’t go to work. And as soon as you get paid, you go and you smoke more crack.”
“I walked off the job to go get high. There was a time I smoked more than $2,000 worth in one night. And after, I felt so empty, like my purpose and meaning was gone.”
“I became homeless. I was down to 130 pounds and just felt so helpless. I felt like I wanted to die. But the problem was deeper than that, I was suffering from a sin problem. I was raised in church and I said ‘Jesus,’ just like that. ‘Jesus, can you please take this away?’ And I felt him take away my addiction.”
“My sister said she knew a place I could go. She took me to Pacific Garden Mission and I went through the program.”
“When I graduated the mission, I started volunteering with ministry. I ran Bible studies and ministered in the jails. I also got a job in engineering and maintenance.”
“I started out in some buildings in a rough area, doing janitorial work, cleaning the buildings. But then they noticed that I could do maintenance work, like putting in toilets, putting in floors, doing drywall.”
“I got to where I was making a certain amount of money and got offered a better job as a building engineer. I had three low-rise and a high-rise building I was taking care of. Then I worked for 15 years with Sears Holdings. I would go sometimes 400 miles a week doing engineering, rooftop units, supply, for Sears and Kmart.”
“After that, I was an engineer at Macy’s, but I quit that job to be the facilities manager at Pacific Garden Mission. I never stopped doing ministry.”
“I remember back when I was in that first building, I was changing a light up on a ladder at this building in a real rough area. This young man came in looking at me, and he said, ‘I remember you.’”
“He said he heard me tell my story when he was in jail and when he got out he stopped gangbanging. Started going to church and got married, got a job, and they lived in that apartment. So that was God affirming my labor was not in vain.”
“When I was doing quality control, everybody had to take this color-matching test. After I took the test, my manager came to me and said I had one of the highest scores out of anybody in the country. So I had a good future in that field, but God had another plan and he changed my life. The addiction caused me to draw close to God, and God drew close to me and put me in his service.”
Wilbert Adams Jr.
Facilities manager, Pacific Garden Mission
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