CLINTON, Iowa -
The sign reads: Victory Center.
It's where Jeremiah Machuca is quietly emerging from defeat.
"I just came to the conclusion that nobody cared about me," he recalled. "I really stopped caring about myself."
After a childhood where he says he couldn't catch a break, Jeremiah simply dropped out.
"I just kind of gave up," he said. "I felt comfort and relief in drug use."
Eight years in federal prison, and opportunities lost.
"I wanted to change," he said. "I hated who I became."
And, eventually, opportunities found.
"Like most of the guys that come in here, his head was down," recalled April Diss, Victory Center. "He was broken."
A chance internet search brought him to the Victory Center two years ago.
"I came though those doors and felt love," he said.
"The transformation of lives is what we're all about," said Pastor Ray Gimenez, who founded the Victory Center in 1986.
The faith-based shelter offers hope by helping others.
They wouldn't quit on Jeremiah, so he didn't give up on himself.
"I'm just so thankful," Jeremiah said.
Finding a good job, though, was another huge obstacle.
As a convicted felon, homeless and unable to drive, he had three strikes against employment.
"I'm happy for him," said Dwane Harris, Jacobs Field Services. "In fact, I'm proud of him."
The crew at Jacobs broke down those barriers by offering a job.
"He enjoys working," Harris continued. "He'll do anything you ask him, and he's happy to do it."
As part of a team, he impressed co-workers, rediscovered life and recently earned a 2016 Iowa Job Honor Award for overcoming obstacles.
"I just felt victory," he said. "I just felt so awesome. I even put my hands up."
Back for a visit at the Victory Center, those smiles say a lot.
"He calls me 'funny,'" Gimenez said. "I feel like a spiritual father to him."
After growing up without a dad, at age 38, he's finally got a family and career.
Jeremiah continues to lead a youth group at the Victory Center and recently got married.
"Being trustworthy, honest, building relationships, having integrity, I'm very blessed to work for a great company," Jeremiah concluded.
What a victory, indeed, for Jeremiah Machuca.
For more information about the Iowa Job Honor Awards: http://www.jobhonor.org