DEUCE Community Update: September 2023

Believing in someone is the best way to empower them. This is a truth that I hold close to my heart. Often, we see potential in others that they can not recognize in themselves. As a coach, most of my work is simply holding a mirror up for other people so they can see their reflection. The least effective way to lead is to tell people what to do. A higher expression involves helping people develop more awareness about themselves and their behaviors so that they can better navigate their own path. 

It can be easy for me to forget, but just because I utilize this technique on others, doesn’t mean I’m exempt from its effectiveness. There is so much of myself that I can not see. In being concerned with my own development, I typically think in terms of what I need to do better or improve on. It can be easy for me to undervalue myself and miss my own potential.

This is the part where I insert relevant examples…

The lifting of stones speaks to something primal in us. It is a test of ourselves. With the best stone lifts, the outcome is never certain. There is a drama to lifting a stone that is apparent to everyone who witnesses the feat, but also knowable only to the lifter. We are all fighting something within ourselves that is represented by the stone.


I am uninterested in a life without challenge. That is why, for me, stone lifting is a quest without end. It is less about the weight of the stone or getting strong enough and much more about the fight. With that being said, I don’t consider myself particularly good at picking up rocks. There is much in that world that feels far off to me; unreachable. However, recently, a good friend and coach has seen a capability in me to lift a stone I once thought I would never lift. Because of her belief, my efforts have doubled. The stone no longer feels impossible, but just outside of my reach. Achievable if I dig into myself and earn it.

At a time when no one believed in me, I knocked on the door of an old auto shop that had been turned into a gym in Dallas, Texas, and asked for a shot to intern there. The owner, a cantankerous Italian American man named John asked me my story and then agreed. No one else in the world would give me the time of day. I couldn’t even get hired under the table at local car washes. I’m not sure John saw anything in me that day, I think he mostly figured he could beat me up if it didn’t work out.

As time went on, however, John put faith in me. He gave me an insane amount of time, patience, and mentorship. He walked through a thousand mini-crises with me as I learned to navigate a world that was foreign. He is the kind of guy who doesn’t dole out praise lightly, so when he did it really meant something. One day, he handed me a key to the gym and told me that I’d earned it. I can’t remember having ever felt more accomplished.

I never would have had the courage to stand in front of a room and coach if it wasn’t for John. As I prepared to run my first class, I told him I wasn’t ready. He said, 

“Of course, you're not ready, if you wait until you’re ready it will never happen. You’re going to coach this class and it’s going to suck, but that’s ok because the next one will be better.”

Without his help, there’s no way I would have survived my first year out of prison. If I hadn’t known how much he believed in me I’m not sure I would have really tried. I have a lot of difficulty expressing to him what that means to me and I think he has trouble accepting it when I try. What I do know is that what means the most to him is my willingness to give others what he gave me.


When I first started at his gym, I thought that I was learning how to teach people to do fitness. (Whatever that means.) What I realize now is that I was learning how to trust in my ability so that I could go on to see the greatness in others they are afraid to realize. 

Watching the growth of other humans and seeing their potential unfold and manifest is the most beautiful thing imaginable to me. Those experiences are why I will always do this for a living. Professional development in my line of work just means becoming a more effective catalyst for the growth of others. The best way I’ve found to do this so far is to show them what they are capable of when the vision is unclear.

Campbell Lillard
DEUCE Community Inc. Co-Founder

  • Every Thursday | Community Dinners are on hold until we settle at our new location in La Cienega Heights

  • Every Saturday at 1:00 p.m. | Community Workout at DEUCE Gym @ 110 Lincoln Blvd

  • Fundraiser Toolkit | Interested in helping with our housing efforts but unsure how to get involved? Chances are you have someone in your network who might be able to help. We would love to help provide you with resources to help you share the story of what we are doing. Check out some examples of what this can look like HERE.

The Amazon Prime packages that show up on the porch of the DEUCE Community House mean more to these guys than you can possibly imagine. From the bottom of our hearts, thank you. Amazon Wish List

This month, we would like to acknowledge one of our hardest working volunteers, Jesse. Jesse has been involved in DEUCE Community since our inception. He is always willing to give his time and leadership and is unmatched in his kindness to the people in our program.

He was born in Terre Haute, Indiana to Debra and Jeff Hills, the 3rd oldest of 9 children – 7 boys, 2 girls.

2006 Graduate of the Virginia Military Institute. Iraq and Afghanistan Veteran, officer in the USMC. DEUCE Gym member since 2021.

In 2021 my little brother Jacob died of suicide at the age of 29. Jacob suffered from a TBI as a teenager, struggled with addiction spanning almost a decade, and was facing several legal charges at the time of his death.

Jacob was a son, brother, and father. He was charming, funny, intelligent, and his potential was limitless. I often think about how his potential, given the right circumstances and support, could have manifested. I see a little bit of Jacob in many of the members of DEUCE Community.

I lost so much time with Jacob when he was alive. A tough lesson I had to learn was that I lost our time together to my own hurt, anger, judgment, and ego. Now that he is gone and I have time to think back about the person I wish I could have been for him, I realize I can now be that person for others.

For me, volunteering at DEUCE Community is all about relationships. Asking strangers to be vulnerable and to trust you with their pasts, insecurities, fears, ambitions etc., and meeting their trust with the same vulnerability and buy-in to the relationships and program at large.

DEUCE Community is not only a second chance for those in the program to find their place in society, it is also a second chance for me to lead with grace and be the type of person I wish I had been for my brother. I’m so grateful for the opportunity to serve this community. I’m fortunate to call many members my friends. Through volunteering, I have made meaningful relationships that enrich my life every day.

“A seat at the table for anyone who’s hungry.”