On the corner of 1933 Dr. Martin Luther King Way, there’s a little purple building buzzing with activity. The occasional driver will honk or wave. Volunteers shuffle to prepare food and groceries. Clients arrive looking for counseling.
April Glasco waits with a smile and a watchful eye.
Second Chance Last Opportunity offers emergency food and meal distribution, counseling, clothing, after-school youth programs, and more. Glasco opened the nonprofit in 1995, following two abusive relationships and experiencing homelessness for five years.
She calls herself the first client because it was her second chance at life, and she knew it was her last opportunity.
“I was becoming what I needed to be, but it still was tough,” Glasco said. “It’s a tough, tough journey.”
The Pastor’s Daughter
Glasco, her three brothers, and her parents moved to Florida from New Jersey in 1975 when she was 11 years old.
Her mother, Carrie Lee Jones, had just been diagnosed with cancer and needed to live in a warm climate.
The move was uncomfortable, and the experience was ostracizing. As a pastor’s daughter, she was often called a wallflower because she didn’t drink, smoke or fit in at school. She traveled in a camper and performed with a gospel group called the Voices of Joy while attending school. They would go up and down the East Coast – sometimes with multiple live performances a day.
“I didn’t have any friends,” Glasco said. “My life was more or less traveling, singing, and going to school.”
Being under the shadow of her parents, she got married when she was 18 years old in hopes of getting away from the sheltered life she knew. She married someone in the church – someone she thought she could trust, but her whole life changed when the relationship became abusive.
A mother’s love saves
“My whole life was hell,” Glasco said. “I thought I found love, but I put myself in a situation that I had to pray about how to get out of.”
There were so many red flags, but she didn’t have the tools to identify them. She felt trapped. Her life was threatened on multiple occasions. There were times when she didn’t have food, diapers, or formula for her kids, but her mom always tried to help.
She decided to become a corrections officer at the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office to learn how to defend herself and her four daughters from the abuse.
She decided the relationship was over when her mom, weakened by disease, gathered up all her strength, picked up April, and brought her back to her house.
Her mom passed away in 1999 from breast cancer, ending her more than 20-year fight with the disease.
It took her nine years to get out of the relationship, and at 27 years old, she and her daughters experienced homelessness for five years.
After regaining her footing, she got married again, but it wasn’t to the person she thought it was. While in another relationship that turned abusive, she managed to complete her bachelor’s degree in human development and master’s degree in mental health counseling.
Following her graduation, she was able to get out of the relationship with the support of her counselor and earn a doctorate in relationship counseling.
Passing down knowledge
The same skills she learned to get out of two abusive relationships are taught in classes at SCLO. Tara Lewis was a single mom with two daughters in one of those classes.
Lewis was diagnosed with epilepsy in 2010 brought on by PTSD following an abusive relationship.
“I learned very quickly that stress can really affect you physically and mentally,” Lewis said.
She had to move in with her parents in 2011 with her daughters and grandchildren. Between medical bills and providing food for eight people, Lewis was struggling.
In 2017, she faced the prospect of having no food for Thanksgiving. Through SCLO, she’s been able to have a Thanksgiving meal every year since.
Lewis started taking empowerment classes through SCLO, where she learned budgeting skills by writing out monthly expenses and planning.
Through the classes, she has developed a community of friends who knew the struggle. They would share tips and offer advice to one another.
Growing to supply the need
SCLO has impacted more than 5,275 people in 2022 alone. Glasco credits the growth to the expanding number of volunteers and full-time employees.
Arlene Skversky started volunteering in April 2020, just months into the pandemic. She said that SCLO has grown tremendously with the pandemic leaving gaps in vulnerable communities. People were hungry, and the lines were growing with clients coming from Parrish and North Port.
Even with the increase in demand, Glasco hasn’t watered down her attention to the community’s needs. All clients who visit the facility check-in, and if a client hasn’t visited SCLO in a while, she’ll give them a call.
She knows who’s sick, who’s struggling with addiction, who’s in an abusive relationship, who’s acting out, or who’s hungry.
“It’s wonderful what they do,” Skversky said. “How she does it? It’s magical. I don’t think she sleeps.”
Family friend Frank Bristol, who has known the family for more than 30 years, said it’s through the heart she got from her mother and a strong constitution from her father. Bristol was right beside Glasco painting SCLO’s first building in 1995. It was a promise he made to Glasco’s mother on her deathbed.
“Her mom was the same way – always trying to help somebody,” Bristol said. “But you wouldn’t believe what she’s been through. She’s the strongest person I’ve ever met in my life.”