A BIT ABOUT US
Working Towards a Better Tomorrow
This is for those of you who do not know my story.
My name is Hunner, and I’m a single mom of two beautiful boys. I am not a single mom by choice. I was forced into this role on June 4th, 2020, when my fiancé and children’s father passed away in a tragic car accident on his way to work. I will never forget that call at 7:33am, “Hunner, have you talked to Zach this morning?” “Yeah, he texted me earlier today and said 'Good morning I love you.' I won’t hear from him again until 9:00 break. Why?” “There’s been an accident, and we think it’s Zach’s truck. He’s not at work and he’s not answering the phone.”
I started calling and leaving crying/screaming voice messages because in my gut, I knew something was wrong. I called his mom and my grandma, and I told them to keep calling Zach's phone. I was trying to contact the police for information. I got to work that day and I told my boss what was going on, and he told me to go find him. I am forever thankful for Justin, my boss, for this act of kindness. I immediately drove his work route as fast as I could, and I’m still not sure how I got to the scene. A police officer stopped my car, and I jumped out (car still running), ran, and screamed, “I need to know if that’s my fiancé! His name is Zachary Sandifer! He’s 5’11, brown hair, green eyes! He’s wearing a ball cap!” The officers escorted me the back of a police car, and I knew something was wrong. As I watched the coroner drive by, I knew, and started screaming and crying. I screamed, “You have to tell me, you have to tell me. Please. You have to! Please tell me it’s not him. I’m just here to take him home. Please!” They said, “Ms. Creel I need you to pull your car up.” I did, and I waited as directed. The next thing I knew, all of these officers were saying “I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry.” All I remember after that is falling, the hot pavement of I-65, and the cold blooded screams leaving my body. That was the day that my world as I knew it, stopped turning...
My fiancé, Zachary Sandifer, was a 30 year old break press operator at Claborn Manufacturing. We were together for 5 years, and have two sons: Elijah “Eli” Sandifer and Elliott Sandifer. Zach and I had a fairly normal relationship. He had a past, but never let his past define him. In fact, he used his story to inspire and touch the lives of so many. You see, Zach was a recovering addict. When I met him, I was young and dumb. I thought recovery meant recovered. I was so wrong. Over our 5 year relationship, Zach lived in the halfway house, Living Free, a majority of the time. We made frequent visits during the week and spent the weekends together. He was there for every major event in my life: graduating from UNA, job changes, and welcoming both of our sons into the world. He was always by my side. He was definitely my rock, my best friend, and my soulmate.
He was one of the first members at Living Free in 2014. Straight out of jail, he had nothing but the clothes on his back. He had no job and no money. He often told me the story how he got involved in taking classes while in jail with Tim Bolden, who then introduced him to Rendell Drummond. Zach said he would make the jail guards angry trying to figure out his court date. One day, the correction officer yelled “Sandifer, roll it up. You’re getting out of here.” There stood Rendell, who was willing to take him in at Living Free. Rendell wanted to give him a fresh start, a new life, and a sober life. Zach never forgot Rendell's kindness. That day, he asked Zach what he wanted to eat. Zach said, “I don’t have any money, man.” Rendell kindly responded, “I didn’t ask if you had money, I asked what you wanted to eat.”
As life began at Living Free, Zach drove people to and from work, court, etc. until he found a job. Zach attended Daystar Church, in Hartselle, where he met Pastor Tom, who had a huge part in leading him to Christ. When Zach gave his life to Jesus, started working the steps, he began to change. He was still the same goofball that we all knew and loved, but a noticeable change took place. Zach began to reveal love and empathy for every single person that set foot in Living Free. While he was a good friend to all the guys, the newcomers held a special place in his heart. Because of the kindness and generosity Rendell extended to Zach as a newcomer, he became passionate about making others feel the same.
The Story of Us
Zach and I met on July 26, 2015, and it was love at first sight. I remember being nervous as ever going to the halfway house to meet him. Here I was, a 21 year old who had been talking to this 26 year old for almost a year without meeting in person. I remember it so well. I was wearing a red bicycle dress, and he was wearing basketball shorts, tennis shoes, no shirt and an Alabama ball cap. I hugged him as he put a black tank top on. He was freshly showered after cutting grass. I remember looking at this beautiful, tall, dark-haired, green eyed man with the most beautiful smile. I knew that I would marry this man someday.
Zach had been at living free for a year at this point. I started coming quite often to visit and attend AA meetings with him. It was there that I learned more about the disease of addiction. Yes, I said disease, because that's what it is. I learned that addicts are HUMAN, just like you and me! So many people think drug addicts and alcoholics are bad people, but I’m here to tell you, the majority aren't. I have had the pleasure of meeting hundreds of addicts. I know for a fact that every single person I’ve met through Living Free would go to hell and back for me, my boys, and for Zach. Living Free quickly became a second home to me, and even without Zach, it still is. I have grown to love Rendell, his wife Julie, and every friend that I have made through Living Free.
As I've said, the Living Free newcomers held a special place in Zach's heart because he knew how it felt to show up with nothing. He often mentioned starting a project to gather supplies for them. By supplies, he meant the simple necessities that we all take for granted: toothbrushes, toothpaste, soap, towels, wash cloths, food, a Bible, snacks, and some clothes (if we could find the money for them).
I am sharing this story because since Zach passed away, I have been looking for ways to honor his life. What better way than to extend his love for Living Free, the very place that saved his life? One restless night, I felt Zach's presence and a heavy feeling when the idea of Zach Packs came to me. He said, "Do what we wanted to start for the newcomers. Make it happen." So, I am making these bags for the newcomers to Living Free, and I'll call them Zach Packs. I obviously can't do this alone, so if you would like to take part in honoring Zach or making a difference in someone's life, this is a great place to do it.
You can donate items or send a monetary donation.
There are 3 drop off locations in the Decatur area:
Shoal Creek Baptist Church
Priceville Community Thrift Store
Daystar Church located in Hartselle
$$$ donations can be made to PayPal. Please click the Donate button above.
At Zach's celebration of life, Rendell said "If Zach could say anything right now I believe it would be "Give your heart to Jesus, and your life to recovery.""
In memory of Zachary James Sandifer, 07/31/1989 - 06/04/2020