By: Nancy Marchbanks
Todd Trenchard was born into a life of privilege. The son of an Oil and Gas Executive, he never wanted for anything. He grew up a stone’s throw from Tulane University, and always attended the finest private schools. His parents threw huge lavish parties at the New Orleans estate that were the talk of the town. It seemed like the perfect life, the envy of everyone…but it was all a beautiful facade that hid the shame and secret of alcoholism. Todd’s father had a serious drinking problem.
Todd was a dutiful son, who loved his father. He was an exemplary student, a star athlete, as well as one of the most popular kids in school. However, at the tender age of 13, Todd was introduced to alcohol. “I knew at that second, from the moment I tasted it, I felt different…I knew I was just like my dad,” Todd said. The grip tightened very quickly. Drinking to and from school every day, the path of self destruction ensued.
In spite of Todd’s alcoholism, he was the class president, graduated with honors, and his popularity continued to soar. The drinking continued and intensified during the college years. Todd worked in the Bar business in order to keep the alcohol flowing while going to school. One fateful day, someone walked into the establishment and offered the savvy 18 year old something new to try… cocaine. “I did one line of cocaine and my life just stopped. What came next were countless stories of alcohol and drug addiction, 40 treatment centers, thousands of AA meetings and doctors,” he said. As Todd fought to control his demons, his father had achieved sobriety. Both Todd’s parents stood steadfast at their son’s side. Since money was no object, they sent him to the finest and most expensive treatment and rehabilitation centers. They did everything they could to help put Todd on the right footing…but it was not to be. As the addictions intensified, they had to distance themselves. “My parents were always supportive, they never turned their backs but they had to let me go for awhile. During the last few years of my addictions, I was pretty much all on my own,” Todd said. He was cared for in facilities that have the most luxurious amenities, and cost up to $50,000 for only a two week stay. He has also been in soup kitchens, and lived on cots with 50 other people in the one room. “It was easy to go to a place for 6 months and not have to face the reality of life. I’d get out, and then the process would start all over again,” he said.
Todd was a master of deceit during those terrible years. Many people were taken in by his very polished manner, and his way with words. Kind strangers invited him into their homes, and allowed him to stay with them, all hoping to help him turn his life around. “I would often take advantage of them – I didn’t mean to, but I would become this Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde kind of personality. When I was on track, I was as good as it gets – but when I was using, I was positively evil,” Todd said.
The power of addiction became so great over Todd that nothing and no one could release him from it. He said he has never known such hopelessness or loneliness. “I reached that point several years before I got sober. When everyone gives up on you, you give up on yourself. I actually welcomed death. You sink lower and lower into the depths of hell and you just want it to be over. I have absolutely no explanation why I am still here, except that apparently God had another purpose for me. I was in the right place, at the right time, at the right moment for God to take what was broken in me, which was literally down to nothingness, and do whatever it took to bring me back and give Him something to work with,” Todd said.
When Todd entered the Home of Grace in Vancleave, he was deemed terminally insane from all the drugs and alcohol he had consumed over the years. He talked to himself, and heard voices. His brain and body suffered catastrophic consequences from the many years of substance abuse. He begged for God’s mercy and salvation, and was ready to give himself completely in an effort to be well again. “I am not sure exactly what happened that day, but there was a transformation that took place. Something zapped me and it was instantaneous…that was 13 years ago. I don’t know why I was chosen, but I try to build upon it every day of my life,” Todd said.
The moment Todd left the room where he had his spiritual encounter, he wrote, “I shall make a difference,” on a scrap piece of paper. He has kept the note ever since. It serves as a constant reminder of the work he has done and the work he continues to do today. There was a time when Todd had nothing to call his own – no money, no car, no friends or family, and no job. He did not know where to begin, but he knew that he would somehow live up to his new promise. Todd had been under the spell of addiction for 27 years, and he was lost. He was resigned to live at the Home of Grace for the rest of his life. As eager as he was to begin again, he was frightened and had to proceed with great caution. Speaking at schools and churches was a good ice breaker. He also began helping the new men coming into the shelter. He was not ready to jump back into a “normal” life, so he made the transition in stages.
Todd found volunteer work suited him well. He discovered that it was not about him…it was about what he could do for others. During one of his engagements at a local church, he met his future wife, Debbie. They found they had the same core beliefs, and her gentle, laid back personality was just what Todd needed. She helped boost his confidence, and set the tone for Todd to take another big step forward. Soon Todd would become the Community Relations Director for the Homes of Grace. He taught the public that addiction can happen to anyone, regardless of their station in life. The next opportunity was to be the Development Director of Youth for Christ.
4 1/2 years sober, Todd was introduced to Jolly McCarty who was on the Board of Directors for the Home of Grace. Through Jolly, Todd met many important people in the community, one being the President and CEO of Merchants & Marine Bank, Royce Cumbest. “When I was strong enough, God started opening door after door for me,” Todd said. Approximately two years later, after many menial jobs, Todd was hired at Merchant & Marine Bank by Royce Cumbest to replace Jolly McCarty who had passed away from a bout with cancer. Today, he is the bank’s Senior Vice President and Marketing and Business Development Director. “I would never, NEVER have gotten to where I am at today if it had not been for Jolly McCarty, Royce Cumbest, Brother Bill Barton, Sheriff Mike Byrd, Robbie Maxwell and Mike Dickson. These men are giants, and I am forever grateful to them all,” Todd said.
When Jolly McCarty passed away, Todd Trenchard and Carl Crawford, owner of Shell Landing, planned a very special memorial for their friend. Over the years, The Jolly McCarty Memorial Celebrity Golf Classic continues to grow. It is now one of the biggest and most anticipated fundraiser events in Jackson County. The Bacot McCarty Foundation, which addresses the needs of youth, education, seniors and the arts across South Mississippi proudly partners with the IP and Merchants & Marine Bank for the event. Under the direction of Executive Director Todd Trenchard, millions upon millions of dollars have been raised for agencies across the region. For the past 7 years, Todd has been the Chairman of this prestigious affair. He credits a tremendous community partnership for making the Celebrity Golf Classic so extraordinary. Last year, two Super Bowl Champions from the New Orleans Saints participated; Marcus Colston and Pierre Thomas.
Today, Todd Trenchard is revered as one of South Mississippi’s top community leaders.