PASSAIC COUNTY, NJ — Edwin Placeres knows the power that drugs and addiction can have over one’s life.
As a former drug dealer and user, Placeres now helps addicted men get off the streets and get clean through Bridge To Hope. The nonprofit works to help people complete a Christian substance abuse rehabiliation program and get jobs.
Bridge to Hope has helped 80 men in what Placeres calls the Matthew 6:33 House. It gives them a place to stay after rehab, rather than the alternative of returning to the streets where it would be easy to replase.
Bridge To Hope hosts many fundraisers and has raised more than $122,000. The next one is Comedy For A Cause featuring comedian Cleto Rodriguez. It will be at Calvary Temple International in Wayne at 8 p.m., June 21.
Placeres’ work in the inner-city is so successful because he used to be one of those men. He can relate to them. And when wanting to help people like that, realitably is a powerful ally.
Placeres ran the drug trade for one of the most powerful gangs at Paterson’s East Side High School. Placeres’ gang controlled half the school and a rival gang controlled the other half. (See related: Former Gang Member Is Now a ‘Kingdom Builder’)
At 13, Placeres was making thousands of dollars selling drugs. In one four-month stretch he attended class for only 15 minutes.
“I had my operations to run outside,” Placeres previously said. “I couldn’t be bothered with class and all that stuff. It wasn’t about school for us. It was about drinking and getting high.”
Placeres was charged with assault several times. His car was riddled with bullets. He was stabbed.
Placeres put Roberto Clemente Park in Paterson “on lockdown” and made his living running the drug trade in the 4th Ward. He said he made $75,000 a week.
At age 20, Placeres started using crack cocaine and heroin, committing crime to feed his habit.
“I went from making $75,000 a week to living in an abandoned building in Paterson,” he said.
In and out of jail several times, Placeres continued to sell drugs while behind bars.
“We used to sneak drugs into prison all the time,” he said.
Placeres’ brother, Rick, had prayed for him for years. But it wasn’t until he was lin prison that those prayers began to get answered.
“I used to tell my brother that he was crazy. I used to rebel and threatened to hurt him sometimes when he was prophesying over me,” Placeres recalled. “I said to him, ‘I’m using drugs and its affecting you. That Bible has got you wacked.’”
Then he began to really understang just how much God loves him. He became a Christian and founded Kingdom Builders, a construction business, and Bridge To Hope.
“I have to use what I’ve been given, this second chance, to bless others. It’s like that scripture that says: ‘When someone has been given much, much will be required in return; and when someone has been entrusted with much, even more will be required.’ (Luke 12:48) That’s what I’m doing now.”
Editor’s note: For more information about Comedy For A Cause on June 21, visit bthministries.org.
By Daniel Hubbard, editor