Christmas is the season for giving but one Sarasota man gives back all year long

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SARASOTA, FLORIDA - Patrick Odell is a volunteer case manager with the Salvation Army. He works with men in the recovery program and helps them form a plan to reenter society.

“I try to figure out what their strengths are, what they believe their weaknesses are. I’m not determining any of this, they determine it,” said Odell.


He understands the struggles and challenges recovering addicts face because he has walked in their shoes. He says he had his first drink of alcohol when he was only 14 years old.

“I knew from the first time I drank that I liked it and would probably do it again and as regularly as possible.

After a back surgery in 2003, Odell started abusing prescription pain medicine.

“There are a lot of years of destructive behavior, drinking, drugging, eventually I-V drug use. I created a lot of wreckage out there using drugs. I hurt relationships within my family, within my friends, people that even partied [with me] would distance themselves with me because I had gotten that bad”

It was almost three years ago and he was on the verge of homelessness when a friend brought him to the Salvation Army where he entered their drug and alcohol recovery program.

“I was hopeless. I lost decision making skills, I couldn’t even tell you how I made it from one day to the next.”

He went through the five-month program in February 2011. Odell stayed on in the aftercare program at the Salvation Army until November 2011.

“I tried and fail miserably a lot until I got here and I haven’t failed since.”

After his successful graduation he became a weekly volunteer and eventually became a case manager so he could help others.

Odell has been clean and sober for almost three years. He credits the Salvation Army’s recovery program and a personal relationship with God for turning his life around.

“If there is one thing I pray about every day it is to bring one person hope. To be a blessing to someone else’s life, to glorify the God that has changed my life.”

In July 2011, the former high school drop out enrolled in classes at State College of Florida, Manatee- Sarasota Campus and excelled.

“I finished with a 4.0. I couldn’t believe that, I’m still not sure I believe it.”

Now he is one of six finalists for the SCF Outstanding Graduate Award for his academic achievements, leadership and community service. The award is announced during SCF’s Commencement Ceremony Monday night at the Bradenton Area Convention Center.

He finished his associate’s degree from SCF last summer and immediately enrolled in the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee to pursue a Bachelors of Science in Psychology. He plans to get his master’s in licensed mental health next so he can continue helping others.