There wasn’t a single day I dreaded going to work…

“I try to be positive about life. I’m a work in progress. I feel like I encounter a lot of negative people. That’s been my life in an office lately. But every day, I get out and take a walk with Ruby, take it all in, try to feel grateful for the moment I’m in and where I am. It helps me be appreciative of what I have. My ultimate goal is to help people. I used to work with kids—worked at a daycare center—and I loved it. That’s definitely my passion. If I could make what I do now working at an office working with kids, I would absolutely do that. I work in behavioral health for a health insurance company, so I am kind of helping people; but I’d eventually like to get back to more hands-on with kids. There wasn’t a single day I dreaded going to work when I did that. I’m trying to get back to grad school, even if it’s just part time. I know I’ll get back there someday. It’s what I love.”

Support Troy Stories

We recently published our 100th story. To celebrate, I’ve created a beautiful 18″ x 24″ poster made up entirely of portraits that have appeared on Troy Stories.

I created these posters to help keep the project alive. But I don’t just want to keep on sharing people’s stories, I also want to help meet people’s needs. So I’ve teamed up with Unity House, a human service agency based in Troy that helps meet the needs of people in our community who are hurting and struggling. A portion of the sale of each poster goes directly to Unity House.

You can pre-order a poster for $20. Pre-ordered posters will be available for pickup at the first outdoor Troy farmer’s market this year (May 6). Posters will also be available for sale at the farmer’s market for $25. We’ll have a booth set up, and the mayor himself will actually be there for a time signing copies of the poster. If you’re not able to pick yours up that day, we’ll have additional times where you can pick yours up at the Troy Innovation Garage on 4th Street.

Oh, and don’t wait too long to order! The first 50 posters sold will be autographed by the Mayor Patrick Madden (who I spoke with for the 100th story).

Thanks so much for your support!

The 18” x 24” poster is a beautiful, museum-quality print: 4-color staccato screening on 80# silk coated paper. Printing by Snyder Printing on River Street in Troy.

Questions? Send them to troystories@plasticmind.com.

Church of Miracles

“I worked in the governor’s office for years, but that wasn’t my passion. My passion is kids. I love education and teaching. I get energy from it. My husband and I opened a new child care facility in an old church in Watervliet. We call it the Church of Miracles, and we’ve got 100 kids there. I just started the program in November, and things are really starting to pick up.

The last 5 years have been very challenging for me because I’ve been dealing with children with autism. I hadn’t dealt with that as much in the past, but they are such wonderful, intelligent kids. You can’t just say: I don’t want to deal with these kids in my city. You have to accept them, and then we have to start working with them. There are so many families in need. I see parents get frustrated. No one wants to help them, so they get frustrated and their solution is to throw them in a home. No. I go and visit these kids in facilities, in these long-term programs. They don’t come home. They’re separated from their parents. It’s saddening to me.

I worked with my girlfriend’s son for 6 years. I told her, have him checked out; but she said she didn’t want to go through all of that. I ran into her a few months ago, and she broke down crying. ‘You were so right. I went 3 years without getting him help, and now I can’t do anything. I had to leave my job. His father left. What do I do?’ I worked with her to help her get into an advocation program to get some equipment that will help her son, and it really changed things for them. Now he’s sleeping at night. But it came at a cost: she had to lose her job.

It’s hard getting funding and everything, but my goal is to open a center for kids with autism. God’s gonna bless me with that this year. Those kids are really so special, but you’ve really got to get to know them to get that uniqueness out of them.”

“I’m too young for settling…”

“I’m from Puerto Rico… moved here about 7 months ago. I like it here. I miss my country, though. I used to go to the rooster fights. Y’know, cock fighting? I loved that. I left behind 42 roosters and 3 horses there. I used to have a big farm, too. I miss it.

I got married a few weeks ago, but it was only for business… to get to the States. I mean, we’re friends. But at the wedding, I felt like… I don’t know. It felt like nothing. She wanted me to love her, but… I just like her. I guess I’m just waiting for my real love some day. Wait for that right time, the right woman to come along, when I’ve got everything ready for her… then I’ll get divorced. I’m too young for settling down right now. When I get old, get some money, get a big house, then I’ll start thinking about that.

My dream? To become a model. You’re going to see me one day in a magazine and say, ‘Oh, it’s that guy I took a picture of!’”

“There’s a reason why we do this…”

“I like helping people — mentally, emotionally, physically, socially. I think I’m approachable. Even when I’m not out trying to help people, people come up to me and ask me for help. I work at a homeless shelter. I’ve worked there for 20 years. My role there is to speak out for our guests by going to visit people and encourage them to volunteer or donate. I help put a face to and share the stories of people who are going through a difficult time in their life. All my life I’ve been finding a well of causes and then talking about them.

When I was young, I worked with a lot of special needs kids, so I’ve always been involved with that community. I wasn’t from a religious family, but I ended up getting involved with a church and serving there. So it’s really just been a part of who I am and what I do. I think I’m fairly empathic.

You do have to step back from it at times, though. You need that break, because some of these people… well, for instance, we’ve seen a big problem lately with heroin. You’ve got these young lives that you help and they seem to be doing better, and then, tragically, they relapse. It’s heartbreaking. And certainly the deaths are as well. We had a staff meeting last month, and someone had OD’ed that morning. We just threw out the whole agenda, and asked everyone to talk about how they got into this work and why they do it. It was good to be reminded that there’s a reason why we do this, even on the difficult days.”

150,000 Percent

“Everything I do revolves around my daughter. Every step I take is for her. She’s a little insane, though. She definitely gets that from me. She’s got my ADHD. And all her attitude is from me. Yeah, she’s definitely me—150,000%.”

“I still see it as it was…”

“Don’t take anything for granted. You can lose it all in an instant. People you’ve loved. Friends you’ve known. When you get to a certain age, everybody’s gone, y’know? It all changes so quickly. It’s kind of like… Troy has changed, but I still see it as it was, as I saw it growing up. My brother met somebody when he just started Troy High, and he’s been with her his whole life. One girl. Him and her. That’s it. My wife just makes me the happiest guy in the world. I only wish I would have found that companionship years ago.”

“Inspired to become an engineer…”

“I believe in outreach, giving back to the community. I want to find a place down the road that lets me make a difference in the world using engineering. That’s what motivates me to go through this process of college. I’m part of an organization that helps teach kids in middle school and high school about engineering, about the different type of engineers. A lot of kids don’t understand engineering, so we try to help get them motivated and inspired to become an engineer. I love doing that kind of stuff.”

“I’m a really privileged human being…”

“As I reflect back on my youth, it’s interesting how profound an influence the way my parents lived influenced the way I live today. And it wasn’t that they sat me down on the couch and said you will do this and this and this. I saw what they were engaged in, what gave them joy, and that became what gives me joy. It is self-interest. I’m not an altruistic person. I’m not sure I believe in altruism.  I believe everybody is driven by things that give them what they value. What I value is a good feeling for being a part of the community, making a contribution to the community, trying to raise others as well.

I recognize the benefits that I’ve been given not by virtue of hard work, but by virtue of luck: to be born in this country, to be born in a middle class family, to have an intact family with two parents. We weren’t well-off financially, but we never were hungry. I was in a community where my neighbors were as concerned about my well-being as my family was. So I was given all of these things. And it’s not to say I didn’t work, but I was supported in my efforts. I was nurtured in my efforts. I’m a really privileged human being in the grand scheme of things. I recognize that, and something inside me tells me that doesn’t come without a cost. I feel a responsibility to help others realize their potential the way I’ve been allowed to realize mine.

I guess the greatest struggle in my life has to be trying to find the balance between this job and my family. I feel as though I’ve neglected my family and friends since I started the campaign. I feel horrible that I’ve not been more of a family member. It’s a huge sacrifice. I’m not sure how many people fully understand that.  That’s my challenge: finding that balance. The city needs me to do a whole bunch of things. But my family also needs me, and I need to make sure I nurture those relationships.”

Marine Biology

“I want to make the ocean a better place. That’s what’s driven me since 5th grade. No matter what I’m going through now, I’ve always thought, ‘I have to become a marine biologist.’ We haven’t taken responsibility for all the bad stuff we’ve been doing to the ocean, so I want to. I’ve never actually been to the ocean. There’s not a whole lot you can do without going away, and I just don’t have money for that. I went to Sea World once and got to experience the ocean as much as you can from an amusement park. Then, I went on a whale watching trip in the Long Island Sound and spoke with a marine biologist who told me about all the stuff she did to become what she was. She said she went to the University of Florida, and I wanted to go there so bad, but senior year came and I realized I just couldn’t afford it.

Right now, I’m putting myself through Hudson Valley. I was supposed to go to the University of New Haven, but a lot of financial stuff started to happen. There’s no marine biology major at Hudson Valley, which is why I wanted to go to New Haven. If I’d gone to New Haven, I’d already be taking marine biology classes, but I’m taking bio and environmental science classes, which are close. I couldn’t go my first semester because I hadn’t been able to take out any loans. My mom has been supportive. She really wants me to do this. But she had bad credit, so she really couldn’t put me through college. She cried when I finally got to go to Hudson Valley for the second semester. She never got to graduate high school, so she really wants me to succeed.

I think a lot about what the future could be, because right now is not really good. My whole family is homeless right now. I guess you can’t focus on the bad. You have to just keep moving forward. One day, I’ll be able to tell my kids, ‘You can get through anything. I went through all this stuff, and look where I am now.’”