From Rowdy to Redeemed

We all lose our way now and again. Teens who were model children could become rebellious as soon as they hit high school. Young adults who were honor roll students all through high school may embrace freedom and make poor choices in college. The important thing is that we accept the consequences of our actions and apply the experiences moving forward. Julio Romero, 31, of Forest Park, admittedly lost his way in high school and is now devoted to making sure others steer clear of that path.

Romero grew up in the Lakeview area. It was a nice neighborhood, but it was surrounded by gangs and drug activity. Romero’s older brother was involved in the gangs, but made sure the younger children weren’t. Despite this, there was one particular incident when Romero was a high school freshman that set him on a path to self-destruction.

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The Salvation Army Participates in Anti-Terrorism Workshop

This blog post was provided by Captain Rich Forney, corps officer at The Salvation Army’s Aurora Corps Community Center. He attended a Joint Counterterrorism workshop recently and is sharing his thoughts.

I was blessed to represent the Aurora Salvation Army at the Aurora/Naperville Joint Counterterrorism Awareness Workshop (JCTAWS). It was the 37th workshop since the September 11 terrorist attacks, and welcomed more than 250 participants including mayors, police and fire chiefs, nonprofit organizations, health experts, local sheriffs, EMTs, 911 dispatch staff, city officials, Homeland Security, Counterterrorism, and Department of Justice/FBI. It was a multiple community terrorism response simulation to help identify gaps in services and preparedness.

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Structure and Hard Work Saved Client’s Life

Roy Ballesteros has lived more years than his age would suggest. After nearly 15 years of heavy drug use and criminal activity, proudly announces he has almost four years of sobriety. “This is who I am now. I can’t imagine not being sober,” he said.

But it wasn’t always that way. At 14 years old, Ballesteros started experimenting with marijuana and alcohol. At 16, while still abusing drugs, he was arrested for forgery and sentenced as a juvenile. But while serving probation for that charge, he was arrested for forgery and burglary – crimes he committed to support his growing addiction to methamphetamines and Adderall.

He was first introduced to this drug cocktail while living and partying in Boys Town, Chicago’s neighborhood that draws many members of the LGBTQ community. “The high from those two drugs is unlike anything other – its stays in the system and keeps you higher, longer,” Ballesteros said. “It helped me deal – or not deal – with issues I had growing up.”
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A Traffic Stop and a Second Chance

During the holidays, Steven Martinez worked diligently at The Salvation Army’s Joliet Corps Community Center. He did janitorial duties, worked in the food pantry, and helped with the Angel Tree program. He spent at least 20 hours each week working with Captains Dan and Wendy Faundez, the corps officers. But he didn’t get paid. Not a single cent. Martinez was working off 150 hours of court-mandated community service for a recent conviction of driving without a license.

“He’s a very conscientious worker,” said Capt. Wendy. “He always shows up on time, works really hard and is dedicated to the people we serve. It’s a pleasure spending time with him.”

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With Fatherhood in Action, Inmate Reconnects with His Family

The Salvation Army’s Fatherhood in Action program is helping fathers in Cook County Jail build better relationships with their children and the children’s mothers. The program, which is voluntary, works with fathers to develop skills for responsible parenting and healthy relationships. They also focus on financial education and wellness. The group also deals with issues specifically related to building family relationships while in jail and after their release.

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