My Story: Michael Blanton

Written by: Amber Shelton, Public Relations Specialist, Goodwill Industries International 

Recently named Goodwill Achiever of the Year, Michael Blanton is a testament of hope to those looking to overcome obstacles and recreate their lives. When he was released from prison with no place to go and no money, Michael had a long road ahead of him.

He spent his first night on the back of a school bus being attacked by a swarm of gnats. Undeterred by his circumstances, he decided not to give up and asked for help. A friend told him about Goodwill, and he immediately enrolled in the Goodwill Re-integration Program (GRIP) operated by Goodwill Industries of Southeastern Louisiana (New Orleans).

Michael was a highly engaged program participant, and he was eventually hired as a doorman at a Goodwill location nearby. Always a hard worker, he consistently showed up early and stayed late to assist, putting in extra time to learn everything he could. Store leadership noticed his impeccable work ethic, and he was promoted to key holder within three months. In this role, Michael continued to prove himself a valuable team member who could be counted on to accomplish store tasks in a timely manner. He was promoted again three months later to assistant store manager.

Michael thrived in this role, and his steadfast leadership qualities emerged. His positive, enthusiastic attitude served as motivation to other team members, and he was vital to improving in-store operations. His store, just like many others across the nation impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, temporarily shut its doors and then reopened under rigorous safety protocols. Michael was instrumental in ensuring that his store reopened carefully and that the donations received during that timeframe were processed in a safe and timely fashion.

In January 2021, just 14 months after his initial hire, Michael was promoted once again, this time to store manager of another Goodwill location. It did not take long for his positive can-do attitude and his ability to motivate others to positively impact the store’s operations. In the time since his arrival, Michael has transformed the location by increasing revenue and team morale. His district manager, Monica, attributes this success to Michael’s infectious attitude and willingness to share his story with his team regarding how Goodwill helped transform his life.

Michael has not allowed his past mistakes to define his life, which is evident in his daily actions. His optimism and positive outlook are apparent to anyone that he comes in contact with, including team members, store patrons and members of the general public. In all four positions that he has held during his tenure at Goodwill, Michael has never allowed the description of his duties limit the work that he has accomplished. His actions inspire others to put forth their own best effort.

It is Michael’s personal mission to ensure that others are provided the same opportunities that he has received through Goodwill.

“I cannot begin to say how grateful I am, first and foremost to God, for all the doors He has opened for me over the last less than two years,” Michael says. “And Goodwill Industries of Southeastern Louisiana, thank you for taking a chance on someone with a less than stellar past and giving him a bright future.”

Michael has reached other personal goals as well, including purchasing a vehicle and finding an apartment near the Goodwill store.

Learn more about GRIP or contact your local Goodwill to learn more about programs for people with criminal backgrounds.

About the Award: Goodwill Industries International’s Achiever of the Year is a person who has shown great progress and accomplishment in overcoming challenges to finding employment, and who still benefits from the Goodwill work environment or receives services to support employment at a community site.