Love and support help Lakewood woman put down the bottle and end homelessness


Love and support help Lakewood woman put down the bottle.

Posted by the Asbury Park Press on 05/20/07

At age 44, Nancy Sanchirico is a woman whose life is filled with hope — a far cry from the homeless, jobless alcoholic of two years ago.

She stopped drinking because of love for her daughter, Melissa Sanchirico, 26, and Melissa’s daughter, Ashley, 7, Sanchirico says.

“I saw how my daughter acted with my mother and sister, and it wasn’t how she acted with me. I wanted so much more out of our relationship,” she says.

She couldn’t have changed her life, though, without the help of the staff at Catholic Charities Emergency and Community Services in Lakewood, she says. She worked there as a receptionist in return for the government aid she was getting, she says.

“Those people were such an inspiration. They gave me so much support, and they didn’t even know me,” she says of the nonprofit agency, part of the Diocese of Trenton.

Today, Sanchirico works full time as a home energy clerk at O.C.E.A.N. Inc. (Ocean Community Action Now) in Toms River, riding the bus that stops in front of her apartment complex in Lakewood each day. She has a second job at Welsh Farms in Point Pleasant and has obtained her high school equivalency diploma.

“It’s 180,” her daughter says. “I feel a lot closer to her now. Ashley loves to go over and sleep over. My mother’s more pleasant to be around. There’s not a day that I don’t talk to her. I can’t see her ever going back to the way she was.”

“She’s a whole different person,” agrees William Vannell, 37, of Point Pleasant, Sanchirico’s boyfriend of three years.

“She’s accomplished a lot. She’s a success story as far as the social services field,” says Carmen Pagan, a supervising case manager at Catholic Charities.

“I am in no way perfect. I have a long way to go,” Sanchirico says. “But compared to what my life was a few years ago? It’s totally different.”

Two years ago, she hit bottom after years of drinking that began when she was a teen.

At 16, she got pregnant, quit high school, married. At 17, she gave birth to Melissa. Five years later, she was divorced.

She began drinking with friends, and soon, it affected every area of her life.

“I always worked — secretarial. But I never had a job for more than a year,” she says.

The drinking worsened when a seven-year relationship failed; she chose Sambuca and beer.

“Everything fell apart,” Sanchirico says. “I was going from one relationship to another. I had no place to live. I would stay with whoever I was with, but they got sick of my drinking and would kick me out.”

Over the years, she and Melissa lived with Sanchirico’s boyfriends, Sanchirico’s mother, and in a Jackson apartment she lost because of drinking.

“When my mother was drinking, it was horrible. We were constantly fighting. Coming home and seeing her passed out hurt. It hurt to the point where I had to separate myself from her,” Melissa says.

At about 15, Melissa went to live with Sanchirico’s sister and mother in Barnegat.

“She was there about two years,” Sanchirico says. “She was so good through all this, no trouble. She’s such a good kid, always has been.”

Sanchirico rotated between friends’ homes.

“The drinking never stopped. I never drank at work, but as soon as I got off work, I was right at that bar,” she says.

She lost a good job when her past caught up with her. Unpaid surcharges from a motor vehicle summons for driving while intoxicated led to revocation of her license. She was arrested twice. It was 2004.

“She was a functioning alcoholic. She got up and went to work. But once she got home, she was drunk,” says Vannell, with whom she was living in Jackson at the time.

Fired from a new job after not showing up for a week in order to drink, she enrolled in a rehabilitation program. Her insurance covered only five days; it wasn’t enough, she says.

“It helped for maybe three months,” Sanchirico says. “I went back to drinking.”

In 2005, Vannell kicked her out. Homeless, jobless, she went to the Ocean County Board of Social Services.

“That’s when I stopped drinking,” she says.

The board paid for a motel room, but she was required to find work. Still jobless 30 days later, she was enrolled in a program to obtain her high school equivalency diploma.

She began working at Catholic Charities to cover the government aid, she says.

“That’s where it all came together. They gave me advice. They had a lot do with my not drinking. They showed me people are good,” Sanchirico says.

“They got me this apartment, the pictures for the walls, the dishes, pots and pans, clothes and shoes. They knew I had nothing. They helped me with food when my food stamps ran out,” she says. “Bill has given me a lot of support too.”

In June 2006, she was hired at O.C.E.A.N. Inc.

“It’s a great organization,” she says. “They do so much for the community. I love to get up in the morning and go to work.”

Yet Sanchirico knows alcohol always is a danger.

“I have my days where I want to drink. It’s a struggle,” she says. “I’m not perfect, but I can see things turning around. I still owe some surcharges, but I’m working on it. I want to get my license back.

“I see a big difference with my daughter. I can see she respects me more; I hope she does.”

Bobbi Seidel: (732) 643-4043 or

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