Renard Smith was a gifted athlete in high school and earned a college scholarship, graduating with a BA degree in business. His dreams were realized with a good job and a plan to marry his sweetheart.

“Unthinkable tragedy and traumatic life experiences changed my dreams. I lived through very dark times and great loss. I was suddenly alone and filled with self-doubt, insecurity and lack of trust in others. I knew I couldn’t be who I really am until someone was there to give me just a sliver of hope again.”

Renard believes he found that hope when the doors were opened for him at CCS, first as a recipient of shelter and supportive services and subsequently as a participant in the ASSET program – Aspiring Social Services Employee Training.

Kerry Cooley Stroum, ASSET program manager, describes with enthusiasm the mission of ASSET to build on CCS/CHS’s history of hiring current and former program clients into agency entry level positions. “The entire agency is committed to our ASSET participants’ success. CCS/CHS staff managers refer qualified clients to the program, serve as staff mentors, teach ASSET training classes and host participants in their programs for job shadowing and volunteer internships.” ASSET graduates have gone on to be employed in a variety of CCS/CHS programs or with other social service agencies.

­­Renard’s work experience was matched with the need for an “Engagement Coordinator” at the New Bethlehem Day Center in Kirkland. Job tasks include floor monitoring, helping with basic guest services and acting as a liaison between volunteers and staff. “I never planned to get into the social services field – it was the furthest thing from my mind,” Renard says with a smile.

Renard reflects on his struggle to “crawl and fight my way through terrible times and still hold on to this deep spiritual thing that kept me from destroying myself. I knew if I found that sliver of hope that I would find the answers.”

CCS staff at the New Bethlehem Day Center praise Renard’s commitment to his job that goes far beyond the tasks outlined in the job description and far beyond the expected hours. “He is a joy to have on our team and a real support to the homeless families we are serving. Renard is a great listener and can relate to the struggles of our guests.”

“I’ve got to give CCS a lot of credit for restoring my hope. I never doubted for a minute that they didn’t believe in me. When CCS opened their doors to me, it was fateful. I found my purpose and maybe even an understanding as to why I had to experience so much tragedy and loss. Maybe it was to listen to the problems and pains of others and bring them hope and joy.”

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