A Seminole Chronicle Article By Bel Huston | July 24, 2013
Each day, hundreds of cars traverse Broadway Street in Oviedo, as people make their way to work and school and back home again. And each day, they may pass The Vine thrift store, off of Broadway, completely unaware of the store or what it offers to the community.
At first glance, it looks like any other thrift store, one where you might find that extra chair for your living room or a new treasure to bring home for the kids. For countless people however, The Vine is where they have found something they might have lost otherwise: hope.
This was the case for Eric Akins, who walked from Casselberry to Oviedo one day, unsure of exactly where The Vine was located, but assured that once he got there, he would find the help he needed.
The Vine is run by The Forgotten Ones Inc., a nonprofit organization that was founded by Cindy Shadron initially to help kids who had “aged out” of foster care. Today, it also serves as a resource center, offering programs that help people with everything from obtaining birth certificates, driver’s licenses and IDs, to eyeglasses, transitional housing and job referrals.
Akins, 50, had battled a drug addiction off and on in his life before spending the past four and a half years at Faith Farm Ministries in Boynton Beach, a faith-based addiction recovery program.
“That was Oct. 15, 2008, and I left out of there May 15, 2013. And in that time that I was there, I got a closer, stronger relationship with the Lord,” he said.
Akins had been having a hard time finding work and didn’t have much time before he needed to find a job. He was at his wit?s end when he decided to walk to Oviedo one Tuesday morning. Akins laughed as he recalled his thoughts during his trek to The Vine, remembering his conversation with God on the way to his destination.
“I got up to about Oviedo Mall on Red Bug [Lake] Road, and I was like, OK, I’m going to pull the Moses card. Free me from bondage; now you’re going to kill me in the desert?” Akins said.
All in all, it took him about two hours to walk from Casselberry to Oviedo. He continued up Broadway Street and found himself in front of First Baptist Oviedo. Something, Akins said, urged him to turn his head, and there it was: The Vine.
He didn’t have an appointment, so he stayed and did some volunteer work until Shadron was available. She then spent some time with him to chat about his situation and helped him get the paperwork started that he needed to obtain an ID.
“I said, ‘Don’t worry,’ and I sat down and talked to him and said, ‘You had faith to walk here, so something great must be going to happen to you,'” Shadron said.
Just the day prior, Shadron had received a phone call from a woman who said she knew of a gentleman who was looking to hire someone. The man owned a home repair business, she said, and he needed someone to help him out. Akins, as it turns out, was a construction worker at one point and had all kinds of experience under his belt for such a job. Shadron decided to give the man a call, right then and there.
“I’m going to give the guy a call; we’re going to pray and thank the Lord now that you already have the job,” Shadron said to Akins.
Akins and the potential employer chatted. Shadron gave Akins bus tickets to get home and back the next day to The Vine, where his now new employer picked him up for his first day of work.
Two of the people involved in the story – the employer and the woman who made the call to Shadron at The Vine – are Good Samaritans who chose to remain anonymous. But their actions, helped Akins in his journey to make a new start in life.
Akins said he hopes his story can help others.
“My mindset is, with man it’s impossible; with God, all things are possible. And if I can share my testimony of my life with anybody and that’s going to bring them to the Lord, I’ll do it. I have no problem with it,” Akins said. “And whatever I can do to help somebody out, I’m there for them. There was help for me, and I can do no less.”
And if getting a new lease on life isn’t inspiring enough, Akins’ story also includes a romance. He and his high school sweetheart, Tammy Trzcinski, got in touch with the help of Facebook two years ago, and the two have rekindled their high school romance.
“The instant I saw her I looked into her eyes again; I was so in love, I never fell out of love with her,” Akins said. “I chased different dreams and avenues to fill what I was missing with her, but it was never the same.”
Trzcinski said she is beyond proud of Akins’ journey so far.
“Where he lived, he was [at Faith Farm] for five years, and that was pretty much his life. So getting back to the real world, I guess you can say, has just been a leap of faith for him, and he didn’t give up,” Trzcinski said.
This is just one such tale, Shadron said, of a man who received the help he needed. She added that she sees things like this every day at The Vine.
“There’s good stories still,” Shadron said. “There’s miracles happening.”
Anyone with a desire to help can be a part of these stories as well. Shadron said there are a number of ways one can lend a hand at The Vine. It can be as simple as a financial donation or serving as a sponsor to help mentor young people.
“Sometimes that’s all it takes for somebody at a crossroads, for them to pick which way they’re going to go,” Shadron said. “And that might make all the difference in the world.”