In 1973, Chuck Fidroeff’s military plane was spiraling toward the ground in a nosedive. Flying over Vietnam from Thailand, the EC-47’s engine failed and the plane crashed, killing two passengers. Fidroeff was one of the seven lucky survivors. Twelve years in the Air Force had earned him the handle “Double-O-Chuck.” After being unconscious for seven days, Fidroeff awoke a different man, and decided to change others’ lives in a positive way. “I wanted to be meaningful,” he says.
He studied accounting at Chico State University in California, and worked for a decade as an accountant. Later, he became the mission director at Outreach Gospel Mission in Brookings, Oregon. “I took a big pay cut, but I followed my heart,” Fidroeff says.
Then, on Christmas Eve in 2011, a phone interview for the Good Samaritan Mission in Jackson led him to the Tetons. “It was 26 below zero on my first day of work,” Fidroeff says. “But the minute I got here, I knew I was needed.”
Ordained in ministry, Fidroeff counsels clients with drug and alcohol problems using a form of Evangelical Christian counseling called nouthetic counseling. “When people are at their bottom, they need something to cling to,” he says. “They need hope.”
He points to one of his clients, who has struggled with sobriety since the age of 12. After losing custody of his children, the man landed in jail. Fidroeff helped him join the mission program and find employment. “Now he is able to be the dad he was meant to be,” Fidroeff says. “When people get here, they are lost and broken. We embrace people and help them move forward.”
The faith-based Good Samaritan Mission shelters and feeds homeless clients who are over 18, nonviolent, and free of significant mental health issues. They are required to be sober and acquire employment within two days. The mission offers breakfast and dinner seven days a week, lunch on weekends, and food boxes to anyone who is hungry.
At 68, Fidroeff isn’t ready to quit anytime soon. He’s on the board of Wyoming’s Homeless Collaborative, speaks at churches and the annual Old Bill’s Fun Run for Charities, and attends Business Over Breakfast events with the Chamber of Commerce. He broadcasts his musical Bible studies online via Facebook twice a day with his trusty guitar in hand. Fidroeff’s comforting songs and smooth voice offer refuge to students and clients both near and far.
He also mentors students online and delivers weekly food bags to families who are food insecure. On Christmas, he dresses as Santa and delivers gifts and totes to needy children.
Content in his life of service, Fidroeff sees each day as a blessing. “The most important thing I have is the people who come to the mission,” he says. “There is no better job in the world than helping people get their lives back. Life isn’t about me. It’s about what I give, not what I get.”