Life was feeling pretty good in the summer of 2016 for Ryan Clarke and his fiance, Kristi Agnew. Clarke, 30, an Army veteran who served a year in Afghanistan, had a job as a well inspector in the Louisiana oil fields.
The couple had four kids between them and were planning a wedding. Her two boys and their son lived with Clarke and Agnew. Clarke's daughter lived with her mom and spent alternate weekends with her dad.
Then they were hit by a series of hard knocks that drove them to Florida and eventually to Metropolitan Ministries.
First came a flood that hit southern Louisiana after days of torrential rain in August of 2016, forcing the family to be evacuated by airboat in the middle of the night. Rising waters destroyed their belongings.
They did not have renters' insurance, so living was bare bones when they relocated to an apartment made more expensive by a housing shortage 'It was just getting to the point that we could breathe again,' Clarke said. Then came another setback.
One morning while was getting their boys ready for school, Agnew called out that she couldn't see.
After many doctor visits, neurologists discovered that spinal fluid was putting pressure on Kristie's brain, she said. Clarke took six months of unpaid leave to take care of his fiance. He lost his job, and eventually the family was evicted.
Agnew was cleared to go back to work in January 2019, but her $9-an-hour salary wasn't enough.
'Everyone in my family lost everything in the flood,' said Kristie. 'There was no where we could go.' Then they found Metropolitan Ministries.
After touring a living facility in Holiday, and following an intake process that outlined goals and a path moving forward, Clarke and Agnew were approved for the program.
'I saw it as an opportunity to get back where we were,' Clarke said.
'I can't tell you how hard it was, watching my kid get off the plane with a backpack and a baby and watching them move in here,' Johnson said. 'But Metropolitan Ministries was able to get them the resources faster than we could, to get them on their feet.' Following advice from counselors, Clarke completed an apprenticeship program at Marchman Technical College.
'I was thinking about a job, but they told me I should think about a career,' he said. 'I had the skills, but that (schooling) made my resume even better.' 'When he first arrived, there were a lot of hurdles with his career and moving forward,' said Mary J. Vasquez, Clarke's case manager. 'He is very motivated and determined to succeed and be successful for himself, but also for his family. He has so much potential to take his story of where he came from and make progress in a different way.' That already has happened.
Clarke joined the AmSkills adult Pre-Apprenticeship Program learning new skills and exploring different manufacturing career paths. Upon completion of the program, AmSkills arranged an interview for Clarke at Pall Aerospace where he has landed an entry-level position as a sheet metal mechanic. Pall currently does not have an apprenticeship program, however plans are to implement an AmSkills Apprenticeship program sometime in 2020.
BY MICHELE MILLER
Times Staff Writer