Hello, my name is Sandra Collins. I’m a new homeowner and the manager of Goodwill of the Olympics & Rainer Region (Tacoma)’s new outlet store in Olympia, WA. My life is fulfilling and very different from just eight years ago.
In April 2006, I needed a change in my life but wasn’t sure how or who could help me. I had burned my relationships with family and friends, and faced isolation after escaping nine years of domestic violence, being homeless with two teenage children, and being only three months clean and sober from a 17 year meth addiction. My self-worth and confidence were nonexistent.
In July 2006 I entered a six month program called Community Jobs at the Department of Social and Health Services. When I first met my case manager Cindy I was closed about my problems, fearing I would lose my kids and my financial assistance. Cindy placed me at a Goodwill Outlet store to work, and helped me get into a GED class. With no car, my bus commute was four hours per day, but I was punctual and worked hard. When I showed up for work my coworkers were always happy to see me – I started to feel special and important.
Soon it seemed Cindy had a solution for everything! As I started to open up to her she helped me get my life back. As the Community Jobs program came to an end, I had my GED, obtained a driver’s license and my Goodwill store manager, impressed by my work, recommended me for the PERFECT job at another Goodwill.
It was January 2007 when I started at the Lakewood, WA store as a full time production worker. A few weeks later I was able to move into my own place with my children. Within a few months my original outlet store had a full time opening and asked me to return. It was a great accomplishment to be asked back.
In July 2007 I became a supervisor at the Tacoma outlet, then promoted to assistant manager at the Kent outlet store. Work was changing my life and people were supportive. Finally, in November 2014 I was honored to accept the position of manager for the Goodwill’s newest outlet store that opened in February 2015.
Other Goodwill services have made a huge difference. With Goodwill’s financial literacy course, I opened a bank account and set goals – like getting a car and buying a house. At the time they seemed “pie in the sky,” but now I drive a car and my family and I are settled into our first home.
Since becoming a supervisor I have had an amazing opportunity to support people who have faced similar problems. I’m able to give back what was given to me – encouragement, training, and resources. People like me need a second chance. I work at Goodwill today to keep these programs alive – they make a difference and I’m living proof!
*Last year, Sandra shared her story when she testified at a Congressional subcommittee hearing titled Subsidized Job Programs and Their Effectiveness in Helping Families Go to Work and Escape Poverty. You can read more and view her oral statement here.