Clarence Carson remembers the night his life changed forever.
It was 1998, and Carson, now the Cross River, NY, Postmaster, had been living on the streets for 10 years. He went to the homeless camp where he usually slept and saw that someone had set it on fire.
“Living on the streets is very hard,” Carson said. “Homeless people are looked upon as disposable.”
He called his father that night to pick him up, beginning a long road to redemption.
Carson flipped burgers for a while, then worked as a machinist and a shipping manager. Along the way, he overcame a drug habit, self-published a book about his experiences, and began a relationship with an adult daughter he had never met.
“We have a wonderful relationship now,” he said.
In 2013, Carson joined USPS as a postal support employee at the Mid-Hudson Processing and Distribution Center in Newburgh, NY. He then worked as a city carrier assistant and spent time in sales before becoming Cross River’s Postmaster this year.
“I wanted to get back into the field and work with customers on that level,” he said.
Carson’s journey from the streets to Postmaster in Cross River, a small town in southern New York, is receiving attention. He was profiled this summer by his hometown newspaper, as well as a local TV station.
Colleagues also marvel at his story.
“Clarence is a great example that you can achieve anything you set your mind to, as long as you put in the effort,” said Westchester District Post Office Operations Manager Jerry Shapiro. “He’s always asking what he can do to help others who might be struggling.”
In addition to sharing his personal experiences, Carson likes to give advice to postal employees seeking career growth.
“Show up every day prepared and ready to work,” he said. “You have to be hungry and have that drive.”