Cleaning up his life

If you ask Terry Holmes, he'll tell you God has a plan for everything.
Holmes, 53, of Newton, had his share of difficulties in life -- involved with drugs at age 20 and in prison during his 40s.
Now clean and sober for 13 years, Holmes makes it his mission to show others how he cleaned up his life by cleaning up area schools.
He worked as a custodian at Hickory High School and Newton-Conover middle and high school since his release from prison on misdemeanor charges.
"It's the kids. They're what I love about my job so much," said Holmes, who now works as a custodian at Conover School for children with developmental delays.
Holmes' life started on a downward spiral when he was 18 years old. His mother died, and he turned to drugs and alcohol.
"All the trouble that I got into was pertaining to drugs," he said.
Holmes was charged with several misdemeanors and spent time in prison in his 40s. He was released in 1997 and was ready to get his life back on track.
"I had nowhere to go," Holmes said. "No clothes on my back; nothing."
But, Holmes said, God had a perfect plan.
Holmes turned to the Rev. Reggie Longcrier, who Holmes said he met "when they had different lives" in Statesville.
"He ministered to me and told me how I could get back on my feet," Holmes said. "He turned my life around."
Longcrier helped Holmes get back on his feet, including establishing transitional living and getting Holmes a job.
Holmes worked as a custodian, but his job entailed more than cleaning the school.
"I was like a mentor to most of the students," Holmes said. "They worked with me around the school, and I developed a bond with them."
Holmes also participated in Big Brother/Big Sister programs, as well as Newton-Conover City School's Gear up Program, which prepares students for life after graduation.
"I helped some of them with their struggle with everyday life," Holmes said. "I saw a lot of myself in those students."
Holmes adopted his now 13-year-old grandson, who was born a month before Holmes' release from prison in 1997. He later adopted his granddaughter, now 11, when she was 6 months old.
But God had a plan.
Holmes' grandchildren are now his children, and he wants to ensure they have the opportunities to succeed that he didn't have.
Holmes donated a kidney four years ago to his sister, who faced kidney failure without a viable transplant.
"Of all my brothers and sisters, I was the only compatible match," Holmes said. "It was a blessing. God has a plan."
Several years ago, Holmes was fearful of losing his job due to cutbacks in the school system, and when he was called into his supervisor's office, he feared the worst.
The news was good. Several principals in the school system wanted Holmes as their custodian, and Holmes had his choice of positions.
"They said my work spoke for itself," Holmes said. "I've always been a hard worker. I've had to be."
Holmes toured each of the schools who wanted him as custodian, and Conover School immediately captured his heart.
"When I came here and walked through here and saw these kids, it just touched me," Holmes said. "It's like I was meant to be here."
Holmes keeps the school clean every day, and he also gets help from some of the school's students. Holmes teaches students how to be self-sufficient and perform daily cleaning duties.
For Conover School Principal Betsy Rosenbalm, Holmes is an integral part of the school's dynamic.
"He is an extension of our classroom," Rosenbalm said. "He always keeps everything positive, and he works well with the students."
As much as students enjoy working with Holmes, he said he enjoys working with them even more.
"I've been given a second chance," Holmes said. "At the time when my kids were kids, I wasn't around. It takes a man to raise kids, not make them."