PORTLAND, Ore. — The first thing that strikes you about Chad Seelye is how transparent he is about his present and his past, even the parts he’s not proud of.
“I’ve been homeless, I’ve struggled with addiction,” he told KGW.
Marijuana, heroin, meth, 31-year-old Seelye has done it all. He’s overdosed twice. He’s lived out of his car, stolen other peoples’ cars and has been in and out of jail.
After nearly two decades of suffering through family trauma and coping in ways that led him to a deeper and darker place, he said, the boy from Hermiston who once felt entirely isolated and alone, finally found a path forward.
“There’s a reason I went through all the stuff I went through, you know,” Seelye said. “The reason is to be able to share the hope I have now with other people.”
Seelye is two months into his first full-time job while in recovery.
As the pandemic rolled in like a wave, with the guidance of a jail counselor, he chose to swim to the surface.
He actively sought out, then found in-patient treatment. That eventually led to both a stable place to live and another to work.
His official title is Program Services Assistant with Blanchet House, the Portland-based nonprofit that provides 18 meals a week to those in need, and for some, transitional housing.
Seelye doesn’t live at Blanchet, though in many ways, he told KGW, it feels like he’s come home.
One of his many duties: driving the white panel van to pick up food donations from local grocery stores and supermarkets.
Crates of frozen chicken, fresh vegetables, and cartons of eggs and milk—nearly 600,000 pounds a year— that would otherwise go to waste.
“A lot of people think the answer to addiction is recovery,” he says. “But the answer to addiction is relationships.”
And in a few short weeks, he’s made many.
From the grocers who stack the boxes high, to the volunteers at Blanchet who help turn those donations into plated hot meals.
“I have a whole community of people behind me now that support me, encourage me, pray for me, walk through life together with me,” he said.
Some days can still be a struggle, Seelye admits.
He’s taken up long-distance running, has learned to budget, owns his own car, and talks a lot about staying mindful and living in the moment.
“Having hope is something I choose every day,” he said.
More than anything, he said his new role has given him a sense of purpose, belonging, and a sense of being something greater than himself.
“Being that light to somebody who’s still walking in darkness is a big part of what I strive to do every day,” he says.
And Seelye is one link in a long chain that in 2021, served over 317,000 meals a year.
Everyone is welcome, no questions asked.
Without the surplus food and donations from the public, Blanchet House wouldn’t exist.
“I get to see firsthand what generosity looks like,” Seelye said while scooping potato salad, pointing out that every donation, whether it’s a dollar or a loaf of bread, counts.
And having both lived out in the cold and serving those who do, he is, perhaps, uniquely positioned to provide both perspectives.
“Everybody has a story. Everybody has a name,” Seelye said.
“I would say take heart, because a lot of these people want to be heard and want to be seen.”