John Cooper had no idea a broken leg would put his life on a new path.
My journey began in 2011 when I broke my leg.
Being in a wheelchair for eight months meant I couldn’t work as an automotive technician. With no income, I was evicted for being in arrears and found myself homeless. I wheeled myself down to the police station and they contacted The Salvation Army Crisis Care Services, which provided a motel room for me.
Soon after this I was given accommodation at the Salvos’ EastCare transitional housing program in Melbourne’s eastern suburbs. A chaplain introduced himself and asked if I needed anything. I was so grateful for the roof over my head that I replied, “No”. Despite my answer, the chaplain, the nurse and the case worker made sure I was given transport to Centrelink, outpatient appointments and court appearances.
As someone who likes to be active, I found myself cooking meals for the other residents at EastCare. For the first time in my life I was helping people and actually enjoying it. Giving to people enabled me to look forward to the next day, which was a new experience for me.
For the first time in my life I was helping people and actually enjoying it.
I was later offered permanent housing at Doveton, a south-eastern suburb. The EastCare chaplain and officer (minister) at the local Salvation Army corps (church) visited and asked if I would like to volunteer at Doveton Doorways, which is part of Project Hope at Dandenong Salvation Army.
“Yes!” was my reply. Fast forward six years and I am still here. My roles include warehouse coordination, emergency relief and transport. I liaise with many other agencies, especially at Christmas time, when I coordinate the pick-ups from the 17 Kmart wishing trees and then distribute toys to families who may otherwise receive no gifts.
All this is accomplished through the terrific team of volunteers. The project manager once said to me, “The Salvos help people and hope that they go on to help others.” I am one of those people, and I love it. Volunteering has a snowball effect and I see that here.
One Sunday, after a few weeks of preparation, I gave the sermon at our corps (church) meeting. A few weeks after that, while the band was playing a song called ‘He Knows My Name’, I had a ‘God moment’. If I had not broken my leg I would still be living pay cheque to pay cheque, drinking myself to sleep every night and not caring about anyone or anything. I think God opened up a path for me and I continue on this journey.