Davey Anderson dropped out of Kelso High School when he was 17 and spent time in juvenile detention for assaults and alcohol offenses.
Gina McConnell-Otten, 45, of Kalama, spent 11 years in prison for drug, forgery and theft convictions.
Makayla McDowell got bullied at R.A. Long High School and was at risk of not getting a diploma.
By participating in GED and retraining programs, all three left behind their troubled pasts. On Friday, they spread bark dust and bricks and planted shrubs to beautify the Love Overwhelming homeless shelter, which they said is in need of help just like they were.
“(This is) so people realize we do care about what this building looks like and what goes on in here,” said McConnell-Otten, an instructor at Goodwill who also is a housing specialist at the Kelso shelter.
“People haven’t been as supportive of Love Overwhelming as they need to be,” she said, referring to the controversies about police calls and drug arrests at the shelter. “We have families that need to be helped. It’s not about drugs and alcohol being sold here. It’s about loving people right where they’re at.”
Working at Love Overwhelming was her first experience with community service for Makayla McDowell, 19, of Longview.
Goodwill’s GED program gave her a chance to earn a diploma, and she wants to help others have a second chance, she said.
“I’ve always wanted to (do community service),” she said. “Growing up I was closed off from drugs and homeless shelters. It’s nice to be able to help and know more.”
Davey Anderson, now 18, said his rough start in life gave him another reason to be at Love Overwhelming.
He came from a family plagued by his mother’s drug abuse, he said, Now, he’s just a few months away from graduating with his GED through a Southwest Washington Workforce Development Council program.
At Love Overwhelming, he’s seen young people and adults who ran with his mom’s crowd. He hopes he’s a role model, that his presence shows them they, too, can move past their mistakes.
Davey said he doesn’t regret his past and now wants to pursue a career as a youth counselor.
“I wouldn’t change it for anything,” he said. “I’ve learned too many life lessons.”
Contact Daily News reporter Lauren Kronebusch at 360-577-2532 or email@example.com.