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Father facing cancer and piles of debt finds salvation through ACTS

HENRICO COUNTY, Va. -- Garth Callaghan’s darkest chapter arrived five and a half years ago when he received the first of four cancer diagnoses.

“[The Doctor] said ‘this is a tumor it is likely cancer and it most likely spread,’” Garth remembered. “Kidney cancer is diagnosed most likely in men in their 60’s. I was 42.”

It was a moment he was not prepared for emotionally or financially. Garth’s health plummeted while his family started drowning in debt.

He fell into a bind with his mortgage company.

Garth Callaghan’s darkest chapter arrived five and a half years ago.

“It is really scary to hear those words: do you plan to keep living in your home,” says Garth. “I had to make decisions do I pay my doctors or do I buy groceries.”

Facing homelessness, the IT expert from Glen Allen was at the end of his rope.

“It was the biggest ego blow you could ever imagine. And it was happening to me,” says Garth. “Asking for help is really tough.”

Garth’s church referred him to ACTS (Area Congregations Together in Service). The nonprofit is made up of 60 faith-based groups that take a proactive approach to homelessness by covering costs in the short term.

“Garth, like most of our clients was in very dire straits,” says ACTS Executive Director, Billy Poarch. “What ACTS can do is give them hope and keep them stably housed.”

Garth Callaghan and daughter several years ago.

In 10 years ACTS has helped more than 5,700 people with financial help and hundreds of others with legal aid, food and clothing.

“Their dignity is lost when they come into the office. We are trying to give them their dignity back.”

As Director of Outreach at St. Stephen’s Church in Richmond, Deb Lawrence sees firsthand how ACTS follows the bible impacting strangers in need.

“The folks that come in touch your heart,” says Deb. “There are folks in a million years never imagined they would be in a situation they would need to ask for help.”

With only two full-time employees and two part-time employees, Deb says she is always amazed how such a small agency can make such an enormous impact on our community.

“They are not a big corporation or a big machine but they get the job done,” says Deb.

Back in Glen Allen

Garth looking at memories and being thankful they kept their home, thanks to ACTS.

, Garth is thankful for his safety net when he needed it the most. All he had to do was ask.

“When it comes to the relief I have working with ACTS I am speechless,” Garth says. “I am incredibly grateful that ACTS exists. Without them I do not know where I would be today.”

As for Garth’s health, he is managing his cancer by taking daily chemo treatments.

If you would like to learn more about ACTS.

If you know of someone I should feature in my “Heroes Among Us” segment email me here.