Jim Walsh grew up in Paterson, NJ, with loving parents who worked hard to provide him every opportunity. After graduating from St. Francis College in Maine with a Bachelors Degree in Sociology and a Minor in Elementary Education, Jim worked for the Division of Youth and Family Services (DYFS), as well as several other several social services agencies supporting children, teens and veterans.
Jim also struggled with an addiction to drugs and alcohol which continued until he was nearly 50. Spiraling out of control, Jim’s addiction took everything away from him: his family; his job; and his sense of self-worth. Jim became homeless, jobless and penniless. He wondered why he had nothing to show for himself. Where was his life going?
In 2001, Jim found himself living in St. Paul’s CDC - Emergency Men’s Shelter. Founded in 1983 as the outreach mission of St. Paul's Episcopal Church, today St. Paul's CDC is a separate, secular non-profit organization. In addition to receiving support through donations from dozens of churches in the diocese, SPCDC was awarded an Alleluia Fund for Outreach grant in 2013.
It was at St. Paul’s that Jim met a man that would forever change his life, Anthony Della Sala, affectionately known as “Sal.” Sal told Jim, “if you want your life to get better, you must follow the rules at the Shelter.” Jim hoped Sal was right and began attending yet another out-patient program in Paterson, his 7th program in 17 years.
This time proved to be different. Jim listened to his counselors, followed instructions and attended daily meetings. Throughout this difficult time, Sal was very supportive of Jim, encouraging him to continue his out-patient program, stay at the Shelter, and attend meetings each night. Sal was teaching Jim how to get up, show up and be responsible. Every time Jim wanted to leave the Shelter, Sal would say “You came to St. Paul’s not because you made good decisions; you are right where you are supposed to be.”
When Jim’s out-patient sessions were switched to evenings, he decided he was ready to begin working again. However, having had a 5-year lapse of employment, Sal and Jim’s sponsor recommended that he consider volunteering instead. It was then that Jim found Oasis: A Haven for Women and Children in Paterson. His work as a dedicated volunteer led to a permanent part-time position in Oasis’ Maintenance department. Ten months later, when Jim was preparing to leave the St. Paul’s Shelter, Sal encouraged him to continue following the same rules in life; “Be responsible, get up, show up, change playmates, playgrounds and play things.” Jim knew exactly what he needed to do.
While working at Oasis, Sal offered Jim a night job at the St. Paul’s Shelter, working the 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. shift, which Jim immediately accepted. Continuing to live the advice of his counselors and Sal, Jim worked days at Oasis and nights at St. Paul’s for the next 3 years.
On December 15, 2013, Jim celebrated 13 years of continuous sobriety and 12 years of employment at Oasis, where he currently serves as the Chief Operating Officer & Director of Youth Development Programs.
Correction: The original article misstated the year in which St. Paul's CDC - Emergency Men's Shelter was founded. It was founded in 1983, not 1990.