My Story: Lonnie Willis Jr.

I grew up in Toledo, OH, and as a young adult my days were consumed with alcohol, drugs and violence. I remember being in my 30s and there being a lot of arguing, a lot of fights with people on the job and people on the streets. I had gotten out of control, but I couldn’t stop it.
My family and friends tried to intervene, but my life had escalated into some serious charges of violence.  I served about 10 years in different correctional institutions – 90 days here, six months there – for minor offenses. In 2008, I was convicted and sentenced to two years in prison on an aggravated assault charge.

When I was in prison, I asked God to help me. I knew the problem was me. Upon my release from prison in August 2010, I was no longer using alcohol or drugs. I said goodbye to my family in Toledo and came to Columbus, looking to start a new life. I was enticed by promises of opportunity.

Promises of work and a place to stay did not materialize, so my first nights in Columbus were spent sleeping on the streets. I eventually landed at the Hilltop Lutheran Church, doing odd jobs and meeting David Foster who helps at-risk individuals in the community turn their lives around.

It was David who guided me into the employment training courses offered through workforce development at Goodwill Columbus. These would prove to be invaluable to me.

In November of 2010, an opportunity to load and unload trucks at the Goodwill Distribution Center surfaced through Goodwill’s Director of Retail Operations Vivian Reyna. I took it. I knew this was my chance, and I had to do a good job.

Being personable, getting the job done and showing leadership qualities has resulted in me receiving a couple of job promotions. I am thankful, and today, I greet the public as an attendant at one of Goodwill’s attended donation centers.

I enjoy everything about my job. They trust me, and they care about my well being at Goodwill.

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