Ken J. has been selling for The Contributor for nearly three years, and his story is quite unique. The 54-year-old lived a stable life until a series of unfortunate events dramatically impacted his life. But, through strength and perseverance, he overcame circumstances that would defeat almost anyone.
Ken grew up in Addison, a suburb of Chicago, where he graduated high school a state champion as a member of the gymnastics team. He also played baseball for 10 years. He earned a bachelor's degree in electronic engineering from DeVry University. Ken went on to hold a job in a printing company for years. “I operated machinery and much more for over 20 years,” he said.
While working at the printing company, Ken met his wife and later became a father of three. “They’re are all very successful and I am very proud of that,” he said.
Then, a horrible accident altered the trajectory of Ken’s life. One day, when he was crossing the street, Ken was struck by a car going 60 mph. The accident put him in a coma for two weeks and broke many bones in his body. He was forced to quit his job due to constant therapy and rehabilitation. During his recovery, he lost his mother and got divorced. “I couldn’t walk but sometimes in life you have no choice, you just have to be strong,” Ken said.
He decided to move to Nashville because he felt as though there was nothing for him in Chicago. “I wanted to leave because the winter storms were terrible, my kids were grown and I had no ties left in Chicago,” he explained.
Within a few weeks of landing in Nashville, Ken was robbed. “My computer, cell phone, money and all forms of identification were gone,” he explained. The robbery left him without money for rent and he was temporarily homeless.
“One day, I got on a bus and I did not know where to turn and the bus rider led me to The Contributor,” Ken said. “I have been working there ever since, and I have been writing poetry for them and I am quite successful at it.”
Ken established a camp on the east side of Nashville and later received help through Open Table Nashville, a homeless outreach organization. “They would help me with basic supplies and eventually they led me to an urban housing solution; through that path it led to permanent housing,” he said.
Through everything he’s endured, he shares this mantra: “I keep striving forward and keep on pushing through.”