My Story: Carmela Allen

by Beth Hannon-Penny, Older Worker Services Program Director, Goodwill Industries International

This week we celebrate Older Americans Month and recognize the contributions older workers (age 55 and up) make both inside and outside the workforce. At a time when employers need to build resilience, older workers can play a critical role. Older workers bring experience, reliability and perspective to every workplace setting. 

In May 2021, Carmela Allen found herself out of work and out of hope after the impact of her alcohol use led to a second touchpoint with jail and the loss of her Social Security Disability benefits. She didn’t have enough money to pay the bills and lacked the self-esteem she needed to find work in a new field.  Everything had changed since she left her role as a nurse several years earlier.

“Thankfully, I found Mary with the Goodwill SCSEP program in my area,” Carmela says. The Senior Community Service and Employment Program (SCSEP) with Marion Goodwill helps individuals ages 55+ find community service training in the field of their choice.

“Through this program, I could earn money while training. I was placed with Jericho House and that was a really good fit more me. I understood what people using drugs and alcohol were going through. I could help them through cleaning, grading paperwork residents were responsible to do, and talking to clients,” Carmela continues. “I learned a lot about technology and being on time. Most of all, I learned how to be more responsible and that I liked having a consistent schedule and a group that relied on me.”

Carmela took advantage of many of Goodwill’s services, including soft skills coaching, digital skills training, job readiness activities and résumé help. “Whatever I needed, they would try to assist me,” she says. “Goodwill has provided me the opportunity to learn and grow in a safe environment. I was given the encouragement that I needed to remain positive when I felt depressed.”

In August, Carmela left training and entered full-time employment with an employer that is brand new to her. Crossroads Factory Store is a home décor and gift shop that produces home accents, textiles, furniture and home goods, including specialty candles. Each one is wicked by hand and poured on site.

Carmela’s new position as a Wicker fits her personality well. She loves the family business environment and enjoys knowing the candles she and her teammates create are specialty items shipped all across the United States and even other countries.

Carmella isn’t shy about sharing her history of alcohol use with her employer or others. “I feel like at age 60 I don’t have anything to hide. I used to be miserable and now I am so happy. I love my employer and they treat us fantastic. I belong here.”

Now that she is working full-time, Carmela is determined to contribute everything she can to her employer. “It is important that I do my work well after Goodwill has helped me so much. There is still so much more to learn,” she says.

All older workers deserve the opportunity to thrive. Goodwill helps older Americans through paid training, upskilling, ongoing support and assistance finding jobs that provide livable wages. If you are an older worker seeking help with training or paid work experience, contact your local SCSEP representative to see if you qualify. Find a SCSEP location near you to see if you qualify.

Anyone looking to learn more about Goodwill job training programs or career search assistance can also contact their local Goodwill.