Skills for Tomorrow transforms lives through renovation projects


A graduate of the Midland County Drug Court, Greg “Buddy” Yancer has struggled with addiction most of his life.

He understands the process of transformation and appreciates the opportunity a second chance can give people like him.

Three years ago, Yancer and Nick Hale launched Skills for Tomorrow Remodeling. It is a program that provides home improvement services in Midland and neighboring counties as well as second chances.

Yancer has spent most of his life in commerce. He saw construction site bosses yelling at and degrading workers, some of whom were struggling with drug addiction. He envisioned running a company that embraced the opposite – a company that supported people trying to build a new foundation to start a new life.

“A good work environment is key to getting life back on track,” Yancer said.

A trained recovery coach, Yancer is certified by the State of Michigan as a Peer Support Specialist with J&A Counseling and Evaluation in Midland. He has been sober for almost nine years after using methamphetamine for 23 years. He knows the impact of drug addiction on families.

“What we’ve done will never be OK,” Yancer said. “That doesn’t mean we can’t be OK.”

The father of five has watched the struggles his children have gone through and he feels he played a part. In 2014, Yancer, a single father, lost custody of his children. He currently has a good relationship with all of them, including the one who works for him.

The company primarily recruits workers from the Midland County Drug Court and MiHope. They also employ family members and friends of drug addicts and others who come to the business.

Yancer visits prisons and looks to see who might be a good candidate – someone who is willing to turn their life around.

It is a construction site where shouting, fights and drugs are not welcome.

Today, the company employs 13 people; since its creation, it has employed 64 people.

When he was released from rehab four months ago, Danny Oswald heard about the program through Midland Community Corrections. Oswald served time in prison for home invasions and when he was granted parole in 2009, he turned to alcohol to cope with the issues he was facing. He said alcohol gave him the ability to feel better about himself, sleep, and not feel like an outcast.

Eventually, his drinking created more problems for Oswald.

He has been sober since September and with Skills for Tomorrow Remodeling for four months. Oswald said he wanted to get rid of alcohol addiction but didn’t know how. The organization continued to help train him to think differently, including seeing the justice system in a more positive light.

“It’s like a second chance at life,” Oswald said. “That’s a big part of recovery, being open to change and living a different life.”

Employees are encouraged to pursue personal growth and are offered tools to achieve their goals, Yancer said. The company offers a financial program for people leaving an institution such as prison or rehab. They also offer anger management and parenting classes aimed at men.

The work team is encouraged to participate in recovery groups. Yancer said their raises were tied to their class attendance.

Yancer’s son, Diego Lopez, 24, has been with the company since the beginning. Lopez also struggled with alcoholism.

“It helped me find a better mindset,” Lopez said. “People here want to do better for themselves.”

Lopez said work helps keep her mind occupied.

“We have great conversations with each other and we’re all going through the same struggles,” Lopez said. “It keeps me grounded and yes, it really is like family.”

Oswald said it’s a drug-free, no-complaints, no-squabble job site. He agrees that it’s a family atmosphere, which he appreciates. He doesn’t have a lot of family support, but he has a group of people who fully support him.

“We all support each other and know that we are fighting for the same cause,” Oswald said.

Yancer and Lopez agree that at the end of the workday, people are too tired to think about doing anything but sleep.

Yancer’s brother, Paul, also works for the company. He has been sober for five and a half years and follows his brother in convalescence. Paul said he would get some clean time and come back, saying his addiction was hit and miss. Now 41 and a father of eight, he said he started using drugs when he was 14 or 15, mostly cocaine and methamphetamine.

Paul jokes that he’s a bit competitive with his brother. He watches it grow and tries to grow more.

Paul said job boards are unique and not without their problems at times.

“When tensions rise, we talk about it as a family,” Paul said. “It’s good, we look at each other and we grow. We take care of each other and we care about each other.”

Although Paul is doing well in life, he admits that recovery isn’t always easy. He said about two to three times a year he had days where drugs weighed on his mind. However, he is not a victim of it.

“I mainly see newcomers and it reminds me where I don’t want to go back,” he said.

No one needs to come into Skills for Tomorrow with expertise in roofing, suspended siding, or working on windows, decks, or other team jobs. Oswald said the more experienced crew members help teach newcomers how to use measuring tools and other skills.

“Some come with a lot of skills and teach others,” Yancer said. “We have a wide variety of employees.”

Yancer said the company hopes to expand its offering by bringing in new hires with different skill sets.

Skills for Tomorrow is meeting its five- and ten-year goals in year three, including being on the verge of having its first million-dollar year. The company is also negotiating its expansion with nonprofits including Habitat for Humanity, United Way and others, changing the name to Community Construction Skills for Tomorrow.

“That was supposed to be our goal for year eight,” Yancer said.

To learn more about Skills for Tomorrow, visit https://www.facebook.com/Skills-For-Tomorrow-Remodeling-311403946193422/

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