Developing skills for tomorrow

Updated: Feb. 8, 2022 at 10:45 PM EST
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MID-MICHIGAN (WNEM) - On a dreary winter day, a construction crew was hard at work transforming a barn in Isabella County.

“Most companies would give anything to have the work ethic my guys have,” said Greg “Buddy” Yancer, co-owner of Skills for Tomorrow Remodeling.

With each project, even each screw, they’re also transforming themselves.

“That’s what gives this power,” Yancer said. “Every single person here knows what it’s like. They know what it’s like to not just be at the bottom, but be below the bottom and start from a hole that most people can’t even fathom.”

Yancer knows that feeling all too well. Childhood trauma drove him into addiction at just 12-years-old. In 2014, he hit his bottom.

“Getting high, with a pistol on the table wishing I could just get out of my kids’ way because, ya know, there was one door, there was one door in between me and my family,” Yancer said as he became emotional. “There’s nothing more that I wanted than to walk through it, but I couldn’t.”

He ended up in jail where he attended his first recovery meeting. That meeting saved his life.

“All the sudden drug court was on the table, through a little bit of work and writing some letters and we started,” he said.

He climbed his way to becoming a recovery coach, but his mentees kept coming to him with the same problem.

“Because paper says they made a mistake at one point or another in their past, they’re disqualified for certain jobs,” Yancer said. “Well, we can do better.”

And he did this by teaming up with one of his very own mentees to piece together Skills for Tomorrow Remodeling.

“For Buddy and I to do this, it means a lot to be able to help others out,” said Nicholas Hale, co-owner.

In its more than three years, they’ve hired 60 people in recovery.

“Anybody that we can get our hands on to help them and be that next step in their journey, ya know, make them feel part of something, it’s what we do,” Yancer said.

He isn’t just teaching them how to use a drill or how to put on a roof, he’s also using the tools in his own recovery tool belt to help them build skills for tomorrow.

“It doesn’t matter whether it’s roofing or if it’s sitting with me, if people wanna show up in the morning and go over how paperwork happens, then we do that,” Yancer said.

When Skills for Tomorrow was founded, they couldn’t have imagined what a lifeline this program would become.

“It’s a much more complicated world than it was two years ago and people are struggling in a variety of different ways,” Bay County Health Director Joel Strasz said.

Strasz said, last month, his county saw a spike in overdoses likely due to an increased supply of the synthetic opioid fentanyl.

Fentanyl is blamed for the nation’s record-breaking number of overdoses between April 2020 and April 2021 with Michigan seeing a 19 percent jump, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Strasz said the pandemic created the perfect storm: cutting people off from not only their loved ones but also treatment services.

Despite most of those services coming back, Strasz said, for many, that feeling hasn’t gone away.

“That sense of alienation, of being alone, has kind of stayed through since the beginning of the pandemic,” Strasz said.

That’s why Skills for Tomorrow has become so critical.

“It’s not even really a business,” Yancer said. “This is business/program/family.”

It gives people a place to work while they work on themselves.

“Everybody here is a second chance participant, some of us are 10th chance participants and we’re grateful,” Yancer said.

To aid even further in bettering mentees’ lives, Skills for Tomorrow has developed classes for parenting, finances, and anger management.