By Genine Hopkins
Just about a year ago, Bernie Chance Dorin’s life was completely different than it was today. He was serving a short sentence in an Indiana county jail and had previously been making all the wrong choices for him and his family. He was hanging around the wrong people who also had no direction. Gangs were trying to recruit him and he was going nowhere fast. Then he was sentenced to jail, and the time spent there gave him time to re-evaluate his life.
Life seemed hopeless and Dorin knew his life had to change or he would end up in a place he didn’t want to be. So he called his father in Farwell, asking to come to Michigan with his family to start fresh.
Now many people in Michigan might not see Clare County’s positive side. Some might feel that moving to one of the poorest counties in Michigan, with high unemployment and its share of problems, was not the wisest move. But they wouldn’t see how many great people live and work here, reaching out and helping others – like Bernie – begin anew. That was what made Dorin’s move so remarkable and transformative, but today he is on a natural high, looking forward to making his own way to success for his young family.
Dorin’s perseverance is what allowed the personnel at Michigan Works to assist the young man in his goals. What really changed his life was participating in the Michigan Works Community Garden program, but it wasn’t all easy.
“When they first took a poll in our Job Club class of those who wanted to participate, I said ‘no way!’” Dorin stated, “But once Bill (Mathews) arrived with the wood and dirt, I felt compelled to help.”
That is just what Dorin did.
He was one of the clients who helped construct the raised beds, fill them with dirt, fertilize them with natural methods and plant the vegetables that are growing exponentially in front of the Michigan Works Harrison office. That act of connecting to the Earth was the final piece to the puzzle that would change his life for the better. Now the man who said, “no way!” to gardening has not only continued his time at the community garden, but also has begun to garden around his house, planting snap peas, green beans and chives. He is also looking ahead to next year’s garden, starting to compost and plan for a bigger and better foods.
There is still a long way to go. A certified lineman for street and housing electrical work in Indiana, Dorin has to face a few hurdles before being able to certify in Michigan. Continuing to work on his GED and planning on potentially attending Mid Michigan Community College in the near future, Dorin is also developing his farming muscle further, volunteering at Harmony Youth Ranch.
“I am a completely changed person,” he said, “My outlook is a million times better and I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished. Chris (Hamilton) even said she thinks she can get me riding one of their beautiful l horses by the end of the summer, which is incredible because I had a fear of horses before going out there.”
Dorin believes that the path he took to arrive at where he is today, with his wife and two young children seeing all he has accomplished, was necessary.
“God put me there (in jail) for a reason,” he said, “It put me on a new path and I am grateful for having the opportunity to turn everything around and become a better person, a better father, a better husband. I haven’t made a bad decision since moving here.”