COAST CITIES — Eric Smith battled an addiction that in three years cost him his self-respect and a loving wife. However, he was a tough study and never gave up.
Today, Smith is the owner of The Caring Painters, a full-service residential and commercial painting company which supports The Loving Care Center, a nonprofit organization he founded 13 years ago.
But at age 33, Smith was a former church kid who had survived the Jim Crow South and a speech impediment that always made him fear uttering even a sentence in public.
He never could ignore feelings that like David, the greatest king in the Old Testament, he was still “a man after God’s own heart,” despite how badly he was living.
“I just knew that God had another purpose for me,” Smith said.
Ever since then, he has provided emotional and spiritual support for the young and old in nursing homes, in lockups and on the streets of San Diego.
There is no way to accurately tally, Smith said, how many people he and a solid core of six volunteers have reached since starting in 1998, with programs including poetry reading sessions, Bible study, singing and worship services.
But he continues to get positive feedback in calls and letters like one received from ManorCare Health, a facility in Encinitas that said: “Your volunteers and gift of giving have not gone unnoticed, and your center is a great asset to our ever growing community.” He was also featured in an article in The Union Tribune on July 18.
Smith’s story starts at age 20, when after working odd jobs in real estate and at the Chattanooga Golf and Country Club, he decided to get out of his hometown.
He joined the Navy, where he would eventually get introduced to a heavy drug culture. He left 10 years later as a disabled veteran. While in the Navy, he had a huge attraction to the wild side of life. His experiences are chronicled in a book self-published by Authorhouse. The 88-page opus is titled “From Crack to Clergy: Provoking Thoughts.”
But even on his worst days he says he never forgot the two characteristics that most impressed him about his parents. His mother had an extremely big heart and would always go out of her way to provide for people in need.
And although neither she nor her husband could read or write, they never let it prevent them from doing what they wanted to do.
This influenced Smith to earn a bachelors degree in a Bible-based human development course and to do his first work as a minister at Faith Chapel Church of God and Christ.
“I’m (now) doing something I should be doing,” Smith said.
“We all should be looking out for each other. We have a duty and an obligation to do that.”
The Loving Care Center is funded by gifts and donations, which are tax deductible.
Mail to: 5506 Encina Drive, San Diego, CA 92114.
The Loving Care Center is also certified through United Way of San Diego to receive funds from Federal Workers/Military through the Combined Federal Campaign of Local Organizations. Their CFC No. is 92669.
For more information about The Caring Painters, call (619) 465-4786 or visit www.thecaringpainters.com.
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