During the day, you can find 61-year-old Dale White helping others at Tallahassee’s The Living Harvest, where others like him – a former inmate -- are working on the road to recovery.
He founded The Living Harvest five years ago to create a faith-based safe haven for those suffering substance abuse and trauma. The Christian-based program seeks to get people the resources they need to become productive citizens.
White knows just how difficult that can be. He finally got the upper hand in his battle with drinking through a similar faith-based recovery program.
“A little over five years ago, I got into Celebrate Recovery,” White said. “And there’s where God and I got together and I decided to let him drive the boat instead of me.”
Where he is today is a long way from where he was 17 years ago.
At that time he was only Inmate No. 779452.
Because of his experiences in both prison and with alcohol, he said he believes he’s been called to help others deal with the same problems.
“God put on my heart that when [just-released offenders] hit the gate and they got no resources and a felony record and no way to get a job or anything that’s where he wanted me to help them,” White said.
His own acquaintance with alcohol began when he was just 14 after his picture-perfect family fell apart with the divorce of his parents. For him, the sudden breakup led to drinking to ease his pain.
After the divorce, White was sent off to military school before coming back to graduate from his local high school in Tallahassee.
But by the age of 18, he’d already accumulated a pair of DUIs.
At the age of 42, White landed behind bars for his fourth DUI after a bad breakup with his girlfriend that led him on binge. He was only three days short of being taken off probation for his third DUI.
White was sentenced to 6 1/2 years in January 1997 to Everglades Correctional Institution in Miami.
White’s first night ended in solitary confinement after he knocked out his cellmate when the two had an argument over lighting a cigarette. It was his first, and last, disciplinary action there.
While at ECI, White worked as a custodian within the prison dorms and later at Publix while on work release.
“I got really involved with the chaplain,” White remembered, “and doing my own corresponding courses that my family supplied me with and that’s how I did most of my time.”
White started his road to recovery five years ago after he discovered Celebrate Recovery. During his time in the program, he moved up to be a state representative and team lead for Florida.
Throughout his years in prison, White never lost touch with his mother, Marie Currier of Tallahassee. Today the 80-year-old woman volunteers side by side with him for two days a week at the Living Harvest’s thrift stores.
He sees his life experiences as the foundation that have given him the knowledge and strength to reach out to those who need help getting back on their feet.
“I couldn’t do the work that I do today unless I slept in their shoes,” White said. “I mean walked in their shoes and slept in their bed.”
White said he has learned first-hand how his actions can affect a person’s career and family life. Now, he looks to spread positive messages to those he interacts with that they can work to better themselves as well.
“The work I do now is to make a difference in these people’s lives,” he said.