D'Angelo, Age 42

Growing up in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, D’Angelo worked hard in school and dreamed of becoming a professional boxer. But when he was a young teen, three factors converged to change his life. His mom hit hard financial times. The crack epidemic hit Milwaukee. And he watched his brother die in a gun fight. D’Angelo turned to drugs to self-medicate, then quickly progressed to cooking crack cocaine and ultimately selling drugs on the streets.

D’Angelo nurtured his drug habit almost continuously for the next 30 years, clouding his entire life. Important moments in the lives of his four children, the passing of his grandfather, and special memories with his mother were all a blur.

Drugs also landed D’Angelo behind bars. In all, he’s spent seven and a half years in prison for various charges. “I watched my kids grow up through photographs. I remember thinking that I never want to do this again. But without support, it’s not that easy. So I messed up again.”

Recently released from prison, D’Angelo was still burning $200 each day on drugs and was facing homelessness. He checked into a drug rehab center, which at a certain point in his recovery, sent him to HOPE.

At first, D’Angelo was skeptical of HOPE. But staff believed in his ability to achieve a new dream, and D’Angelo flourished. For the first time in his life, he wrote a resume and learned to use Microsoft Office. He also learned to meditate, a practice he maintains today. Perhaps most importantly, he learned that his love of animals could be a career.

“I love pit bulls,” he says. “They have a bad reputation, but they deserve a second chance. Just like me. I’m working hard for my second chance.”

HOPE connected D’Angelo with an internship at a leading doggie daycare. They looked beyond D’Angelo’s past to see just how much he loved each and every dog in their care. D’Angelo is reluctant to admit it, but when they offered him a full-time job with benefits, he sobbed.

D’Angelo has new dreams for himself. He looks forward to working with HOPE’s retention and advancement team to take the next steps in animal care and ultimately pursue a career as a veterinarian technician.


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