I had just gotten out of the hospital and was in recovery from emergency surgery for pancreatic cancer. My husband at the time abandoned me and my three children because he was unwilling to take care of a sick wife and family on his own.
We were thrown out of our house, moved into a trailer park, and I was forced to have my family separated into two trailers. It was a nightmare. I had to start taking public assistance, was unemployed and had no means of supporting my family or myself.
In 2006, I walked into a Goodwill Industries of Ashtabula store like I did on a regular basis and started talking to the manager. I told her that I loved the atmosphere and would love to work there. When I went to Goodwill I felt like I was at home. The manager said, “Well guess what? We have some job openings right now.” I applied and got an interview that day.
I started as a cashier and was quickly promoted to head cashier. Less than two years later, I became the manager of a different Goodwill store which I loved. My crew was amazing and they were like family to me.
As I managed that store I began deteriorating. I would get dizzy spells and black out in the middle of the day. At the time, I had gotten into another abusive relationship and was beaten down to the point where I just didn’t take care of myself. He would tell me that it was all in my head and that I was exaggerating.
The staff at Goodwill told me to go to the hospital, that I really was sick. The doctor diagnosed me with severe uncontrolled diabetes and told me that my limited movement was due to peripheral neuropathy caused by untreated systemic illness.
I had a very hard time managing the store and keeping up with the physical demands so Goodwill’s production manager talked to me and decided to promote me to vocational evaluator so I could sit and recover while still working for Goodwill. The promotion allowed me to obtain medical insurance through Goodwill and treat my diabetes. I received high accommodations as an evaluator but my health took another turn for the worse.
One day I was in the evaluation room with a client and a helper when I started to get very dizzy. I saw rainbows and lost my balance. The helper called my supervisor and had me taken to the emergency room. I found out later that I had suffered a severe stroke. I was paralyzed in my left side and spent eight weeks in the hospital in recovery. I was unable to talk or move for over three months and suffered an emotional breakdown.
After my stroke I wanted to stay at Goodwill. I felt safe and loved there. They placed me in a position that was perfect for me. I could no longer read or write, and I had to sit down. I was offered a calm position sorting textiles, which has been helping me to heal ever since.
About a year and a half I was approached by the marketing intern and asked to appear in a commercial for Goodwill. Today I am known as ‘The Goodwill Girl’ and I appear in most of the local commercials.
Goodwill has honestly changed my life: physically, emotionally and spiritually. Before I came to Goodwill I struggled every day to wake up in the morning and carry on. I had almost nothing to call my own and life was meaningless. Now with Goodwill, I am so happy. I have no stress, and for the first time in a very long time I feel human. I can feel myself smiling, laughing and healing, and I truly feel cared about. This place is my therapy. In the years that I have been here, I have been educated and empowered.