New program manager “taking the bull by it’s horns”

When Luke looks back at the several jobs he’s had in his 15 years of work experience, he points out one fork in the road that could have changed the trajectory of his career. One that, if he had taken a different path, would have likely never led to his role as the new Program Manager at the Mission.

“I had gone into insurance, which I hated,” he said. “I sold insurance for five years and I did really well.”

Luke was just about to take the next step in his insurance career—buying a book of business—when his wife stepped in. “She looked at me and said, ‘Why are you doing that?’ I said, ‘Because I make a lot of money and we have a family.’ She told me what a terrible reason that was, and that she knew I wasn’t passionate about it. God bless good wives.”

With his wife’s encouragement, Luke went into youth ministry for a few years. But he missed working with the underprivileged, which he had done before his time in insurance sales. He had run an afterschool program at a large nonprofit, and did some food outreach. He worked with Catholic Charities and handled casework. He even ran a program that brought mobile dentistry buses to low-income schools.

“I have all this experience working with underprivileged groups, but I’ve not done work directly with addiction,” Luke said. “That’s the personal part of my story. I come from a family of addicts. Thank God I was spared from it.”

Luke grew up in Cayucos with his mom and two sisters. “My dad wasn’t around,” he said. “I grew up in welfare lines, really poor, in a small little house.”

Luke’s father was a drug addict, so very early in their relationship, his parents split. “I saw him very occasionally from about age 5 on,” he said. “Because of his addictive habits, he wasn’t reliable. I saw him maybe once every six months, but sometimes there were years in between. My two sisters were younger, and the youngest was only 6 months old when he left. So my sister and I took an active role in raising her, since my mom worked so much.

“I think I bring an interesting perspective. I can’t speak to what it feels like to pine after meth or booze, but I was a child on the other side of it who saw it literally kill my dad. I was the one experiencing the fallout. I bring this sort of understanding of it through a different lens.”

Luke has lived in the area most of his life. He met his wife at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo where he majored in history. The couple now has three children.

When Luke stumbled upon the Mission’s program manager job listing last year, things moved quickly. “It happened really fast,” he said. “And when I started, I experienced both shock and excitement. I was used to nonprofit work in a very official, business-like setting. That shock of being in the middle of it, being in the messy parts of it, building relationships—that shock quickly became my joy.

“I told (Mission Director) Chris (Rutledge) recently: I don’t think I’ve ever felt that my gifts have been so naturally utilized at the level they are here, ever. This is the most natural fit I’ve ever had. For me, it’s so fulfilling to go to work feeling like the gifts God gave me are being used in this way. I have the confidence that I can run this program—with God’s help—to its full capacity.”

Luke said he’s focusing on the clients’ mind, body and soul. “It’s important to me to make sure they are well and in full health,” he said. “I also am really big on giving the guys a break. I want them to have some fun. We brought in a gal to do soapstone carving with the guys. We did a coffee workshop. I just took them to the La Purisima Mission. We went to a movie. I want to bring a little more free-loving joy.

“We do a lot of emotional work with God and the Bible. I want to show the guys that we can have incredible, deep one-on-ones, and we can also have a laugh. You can have it all when you follow God. He lavishes in the joy. When you’re obedient, it doesn’t mean there is no fun.”

Luke said he’s excited about the growth the Mission is experiencing, including launching a new women’s program this spring and potentially expanding the men’s program. “I would love to have a facility that would allow me to bring in more men,” he said. “Why not serve more?”