By: Christie Burnett

If you ever come to the Opportunity Center on a Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday and need the use of the Computer Lab, you will get to meet Cillo – our Computer Lab Coordinator. Cillo has quite the story to tell if you have a few minutes to listen. Cillo came to us last fall as it was beginning to get cold. He is full blooded Choctaw Indian (he taught my son that Halito means hello) and a former veteran of the U.S. Army who fought in Operation Desert Storm in Kuwait, Serbia and Kosovo. He came to us broken, angry and alone, walking on a cane, recovering from a back injury that had left him completely paralyzed. Coming to Jackson from Mobile, Ala. to file for his state disability, Cillo planned to return when that was done. However when he got here, things happened that changed the course of his life for the better.

He lived the winter and spring in a tent, donated to him by generous friends who come to help the Opportunity Center.
I have never seen a person so thankful for the little things. Always willing to help and bring a new client to the OC, who had nowhere to go, to share what little he has. He started working and volunteering his time at the OC – if for any other reason than because he didn’t want to accept handouts. He has taken the Computer Lab by storm, networking with businesses and going to job fairs to try to help our clients get jobs and fine fresh starts, like he has been able to find. He is now a paid staff member of the OC and a very valued member of the team.

Despite all that he has been through – a life that most would want to forget and separation from his little girl that he
adores – he always chooses to find the silver lining in every grey cloud. And he always chooses to encourage others. He is no longer homeless and living out of that tent (although it is still standing in the exact same place he left it). He is living in his own apartment and living a radically different life than the one he had known. It’s now a life filled with love, grace, compassion and second chances for everyone. He is truly a wonderful person, one that we are very blessed to have as a member of the Opportunity Center team.

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