It’s safe to say that most people at one point or another dream of being rich. Who doesn’t want the feeling of not having to worry about money and how the bills are going to get paid?
Now imagine you were a millionaire by the age of 18 – with multi-million dollar businesses and a modeling career with Calvin Klein – only to lose everything in the span of less than a year. And, oh yeah, while you’re at it, go head and trade that mansion for a federal prison cell the size of an apartment bathroom.
This was the life of 42-year-old Robert Kossak who is now a pastor at Trinity Community Church in Hockessin and founder of the nonprofit Project Crossroad, an organization that works to help mentor and serve at-risk youth in the tri-state area.
Robert, a Millville native, opened a Delaware banking and real estate company while in high school that pulled in $1 million a year by the time he turned 21. He says by his mid-20s, he was worth more than $25 million and most likely could have retired at a time where most young people his age were just trying to figure out their career paths.
Besides being a runway and magazine model as well as an entrepreneur, Kossak also joined the Association of Volleyball Professionals Tour and began to travel as pro volleyball player.
Then it all came crashing down.
In 2005, Kossak and a Florida man were convicted of 13 charges, including conspiracy and bank fraud, after stealing loan checks, forging signatures on loan documents and charging fees without telling clients from 1998 and 2001. The FBI accused the men of stealing more than $660,000 from over 60 victims.
On April 22, 2005, Kossak began a five-year federal prison sentence in Fairton, New Jersey. In a previous interview with the Cecil Daily Kossak said, “I had to look at my wife and our newborn daughter as I walked to the police car in handcuffs. That is a moment I will never forget. Not a single one of my friends or business partners came to see me in prison, even though I had made many of them millionaires,” he said.
Before starting his prison sentence Robert was able to witness the birth of his daughter Ava as well as find Christianity as his new motivation for life. While incarcerated Robert began to work with the R.O.P.E. Program, which stands for Reaching Out to Provide Enlightenment. Kossak and other inmates would go into juvenile detention centers and speak about life experiences and how bad decisions landed him behind bars.
It was through this program that Robert found his new purpose for life, and once he was released in 2009 he immediately founded Project Crossroad In Elkton, Maryland, an organization that began mentoring and serving at-risk youth in the surrounding community.
Fast forward to 2015 and Robert is an ordained minister with a mission to reach today’s less fortunate youth for Christ in hopes of turning them away from some of the dark paths that he has taken. Project Crossroad is now located in Newark and maintains relationships with the surrounding juvenile detention centers to put on events and outreach programs.
This Saturday, Project Crossroad will host the Ferris summer outreach at The Well Coffeehouse & Marketplace in Hockessin. The outreach will feature Got Music Group, a rap group from Louisiana, and Grammy-award nominated and former Bad Boy music producer Herb Middleton and his wife, author/playwright, Janelle Middleton.
The day’s event will take place from noon to 4 p.m. and will include lunch by Buffalo Wild Wings, Chick-fil-A and The Well. I got a chance to sit down and talk with Robert about his unbelievable story of material loss in exchange for spiritual gain, and how he intended to effect today’s generation in a positive way.
Q: Growing up, what motivated you to be such a go-getter at a very young age?
A: When I was 15 years old I lost my dad suddenly and it devastated our family. I remember my uncle grabbing me and bringing out to the woods and telling me to dry my tears because I was the man of the house now. My father was a very hard worker and instilled a work ethic in me at a very young age. At that point I made a promise to myself to not ever end up like my dad and to make sure I could always provide for my family. It wasn’t long after that I started to create my businesses.
Q: When was the turning point in your life when you chose to dedicate your life to God and take responsibility for the decisions you had made?
A: Well, I had spent a total of 5 years and millions of dollars fighting the government on the charges but out of all those years 2003 was the worst for me by far. I was in and out of depression, my marriage wasn’t doing well and on Christmas Eve I was all alone in my house and basically decided I was going to kill myself. I had pretty much decided that I hadn’t been happy since my dad died and I was going to go be with him. So I went and got every pill I had in my medicine cabinet and opened a 30 pack of Busch Light and just started going to town. So I’m sitting there channel surfing, fading in and out of consciousness, and I came to a Christmas Eve special with a family that was praying to Jesus before they ate dinner and it hit me. I had tried everything else in my life to make me happy but God was never one of them. So it really was just process of elimination. I told Jesus that night that I accepted him as God, and if he allowed me to live through the night that I would serve him for the rest of my life. Long story short I blacked out soon after that, woke up in a pool of bloody vomit – but somehow I felt great! I immediately grabbed my wife’s Bible and read it from front to back in only five days and that was my life’s turning point.
Q: What do you hope to accomplish on Saturday when these young people come to the Well?
A: Well, we have so much lined up for these kids. From great entertainment to great speakers. I just hope that they can be inspired by the stories they are going to hear and make a choice to do something greater with their lives. Many of the youth don’t feel like much is expected of them anyway at this point. If showing one how far I fell will help them see hope in their own lives then it was all worth it. The 5 years I spent in prison were the worst and best times of my life because it molded me into the new person that God had created me to be.
IF YOU GO
WHAT: Ferris Summer Outreach with the Got Music Group and Herb Middleton
WHEN: Saturday, June 6, from noon to 4 p.m.
WHERE: The Well Coffeehouse and Marketplace, 6949 Lancaster Avenue, Hockessin
MORE INFO: To donate to Project Crossroad or for more information, visit www.projectcrossroad.org/donate/