Roland Hall died twice last winter.

That's what his doctors tell him. His body rejected a kidney during a transplant operation in January, and he spent seven weeks in the ICU after a second successful operation a few days later.

So Hall, 63, had a lot to be thankful for as he was honored as one of five Family Self-Sufficiency program graduates Wednesday in Charleston.

The national program is sponsored by the Charleston County Housing and Redevelopment Authority, and its goal is to help get people off the Housing Choice Voucher rent subsidy program, or Section 8.

"It gave me something to look forward to, no matter what. It gave me that perseverance to move toward something else because there were goals set," said Hall, who pays most of the rent on a townhouse in Charleston.

There were times when Hall certainly needed that sense of perseverance.

In November 2005, he passed out while driving a truck loaded with 8,000 gallons of gasoline. The truck rolled down an embankment and crashed into some trees - miraculously not spilling a drop. While in the hospital afterward, Hall was told that his kidneys were traumatized and that he'd have to go on dialysis.

And so he did, while working part time at a group home for adults with disabilities. In 2009, Hall's social worker suggested that he and his daughter would be a good fit for the Family Self-Sufficiency program. He met all the qualifications, and it was through joining that he met Ginean Mazyck, the program's coordinator.

"A lot of people in his situation would have chosen to stay at home and just be, but he didn't. He got out there and worked, and he would call regularly and remind me of what I had to do," she said, laughing.

Hall received his kidney in January at MUSC, and his recovery has lasted all spring. He's still impatient to get back to work, and he didn't let his health slow down his Family Self-Sufficiency progress.

"If there was anybody who was deserving of that kidney transplant, it was Mr. Hall," said Mazyck. "When his mother called me in March to tell me he was doing better, I went over there to see him, and he said, 'Ms. Mazyck, I'm ready for graduation!'"

To graduate, participants are required to meet goals that they set for themselves. The goals can be financial, educational, health-related or job-related, but everyone must seek and maintain employment for two years, create and stick to a budget and attend credit counseling. They check in with program staff regularly to keep them on track.

If participants' income increases, they pay more of their rent, and the difference is set aside in an escrow account. They receive that escrowed money upon graduation.

Hall, Mazyck said, has been a model participant.

"He's a self-motivator. He's got his mind made up, and that's an ideal client for me," she said. "Because if you don't have motivation within, how can I motivate you out here?"

Hall, in turn, praised Mazyck for her support of all the program participants.

"Ms. Mazyck, she was tough," he said. "She would give you high standards to meet as a person, and I would meet them."

Hall, whose body has reacted nearly perfectly to the new kidney, said his next goal is to buy his own place within the next year - nothing too fancy.

"I don't want a big home, because who needs it?" he said. "And then I'd have to cut grass."