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For Nathan Persons, God and family are everything.

“That’s what gets me through every day,” he says.

The reason for the importance he places on God and family? For years, he lived without either.

On His Own
At 13 years old, Nathan found himself alone—and homeless. Both of his parents struggled with substance abuse, and neither were able to be the parents they were supposed to be. Living in Muncie, Indiana, sometimes Nathan stayed with his older sister, but, for the most part, he didn’t have any place permanent to call home in his teenage years.

“I slept on the streets. I even slept in the local junkyard,” he recalls. “I’d find a car with an insulated trunk to stay in for the night and keep warm.”

Finding food in his early teens was a struggle. He had to find job after job—starting at 13—to get by. He started with detasseling corn. At 14, he was baling hay. Nathan strived to meet his needs, but it was a heavy burden for a boy.

He tried going to high school but, not surprisingly, staying up on classes proved difficult. By the time he was supposed to graduate, he only had half of the credits he needed.

With such a rough childhood—and adult responsibilities forced on him years before he was even an adult—Nathan felt resentful toward God.

“I spent years blaming God for all the bad things in my life,” he shares.

Redefining Himself
Nathan did not allow that start in life to define him. He was determined to follow a different path than his parents. So, he eventually got his GED through Ball State University and went on to Ivy Tech Community College for a computer science degree.

His career is wide and varied—and all valuable to the work he’s doing now with SVdP Indy. Over the years, Nathan has worked as a truck driver, as a construction worker operating practically every type of heavy equipment, as a dispatcher, and as an operations manager for companies in the hazardous waste, recycling and environmental industries.

Through his career growth, it wasn’t just his financial stability that changed. As he found a life, he also discovered his heart toward God.

As a coach for Perry Township Youth Football, he met another coach who began talking to him about the importance of God in his life. And in 2009, Nathan was baptized at Glenns Valley United Methodist Church on the southwest side of Indianapolis.

“After many years of blaming God, I realized the bad things in my life were the result of bad decisions—either mine or others who were supposed to care for me,” he says. “Now I don’t blame God, I rely on Him.”

Another difference from his childhood: his family life. Today, Nathan and his wife, Erica, have eight children between them. They are a close-knit group who value their time together.

Missions: The Call of His Heart
SVdP Indy is a departure from the other industries where Nathan has spent his career. But serving as the director of operations for the 30th Street Food Pantry is the job he’s been seeking for a while.

“Missions is in my soul—it is what I was designed to do,” Nathan says. “This position is ideal. I can bring my skills in warehousing, operations, and facility management and serve others at the same time.”

And SVdP Indy leadership is happy to have Nathan on board, too.

“We feel fortunate to have Nathan lead the food pantry,” says Peter Zubler, executive director. “He brings such a high level of strategic and operational skills with him—skills that are very much needed as we continue to experience growth.”

Since taking on the role, Nathan has worked to standardize many processes at the pantry. He’s also put daily goals and markers in place—all aimed at ensuring consistency across staff and volunteers, improving operations and efficiency, and enhancing safety and security measures.

“I love this role. The people are very, very pleasant,” he says. “And I like developing people and helping them succeed.”