It wasn’t long ago that David Sprague was on the receiving end of Nelson Salvation Army’s Christmas hamper program.
But this year he was among the Salvation Army staff who helped get more than 300 hampers delivered to families and individuals who needed a little extra help getting food on the table and presents for the children.
“If you’re a single parent or living on a fixed income, it’s hard enough to pay your rent in Nelson, let alone pay for Christmas,” Sprague says.
He knows the difference a little compassion can make. Sprague was living in the Kerr Apartments when the building burned down two years ago, and he says the support he and other residents received following the disaster inspired him get his life on track.
“When I lived in the Kerr, all I cared about was getting wasted,” he recalls. “I’d be drinking as soon as I woke up in the morning until I passed out for the night. That was my daily routine.”
Because he spent most of his money on booze, he relied heavily on local food programs. Often he wouldn’t eat more than the one meal per day he could get for free.
“If I had money come in, I was more interested in going to the liquor store than the grocery store,” he says.
Besides his alcohol addiction, Sprague had health issues that kept him from working a steady job. Before the Kerr fire, he never would have thought of volunteering his time for the benefit of the community.
“It was after the fire, when I saw how generous the community had been to all of us, that I started thinking I should do something to give back,” he said.
He started helping out with the Salvation Army, ANKORS and the Nelson Committee on Homelessness, and met people who helped him on his path to sobriety.
“I couldn’t have done it on my own,” he said. “I needed a lot of support and encouragement to make that change.”
Sprague has been sober since February. Since he quit spending his money on alcohol, he can afford to keep food in his cupboards and doesn’t rely on food programs anymore.
In October, after months of volunteering, he was hired to work part-time at the Salvation Army as the food bank supervisor. He also does outreach through the Salvation Army to help hard-to-house people change their lifestyle to be better tenants. And he’s been out jingling bells next to a Christmas kettle.
“I want people to know what a difference their donations can make in somebody’s life,” he says. “I went from being a drain on society to realizing I had something to contribute. When I was ready to change, the Salvation Army was here for me.”
Sprague is currently a cadet in Salvation Army officer training and looking forward to many more years of service through the organization.