In Joshua’s past, he ran with the wrong people and “got caught in the wrong place at the wrong time,” which led to a drug charge and a two-year sentence in a federal penitentiary in Kansas. When he was released, he was sent to a halfway house in Bowling Green, two hours from his hometown of Paducah, with almost nothing to his name.
Joshua wanted to change – but he needed a second chance. That’s when he learned about Goodwill at his halfway house.
“The halfway house’s relationship with Goodwill was the best thing because Goodwill does a lot,” he said. “They see a lot of us come in there, and they don’t judge us off of where we’ve been or what we’ve been through. They look at us as people, and they help us get back on our feet.”
Joshua was matched with Sonya, a career coach, who helped him find a job and a place to live. She even helped him with transportation before he was able to purchase his own vehicle.
“Words can’t even explain how Sonya and Goodwill have really helped me,” he said. “And that’s not just me saying that. I will tell anybody.”
“Sonya helped me with finding an apartment here when I decided, you know, I’m working here, I have a good job. I’m going to stay here. She was on the internet every day trying to find a good place for me. She took me around to several apartments to look at them, to see if I wanted them. She gave me advice on them. … She went above and beyond for me.”
Joshua completed the Soft Skills Academy and the Reintegrating Individuals Successfully Every Day (RISE) program at the Bowling Green Opportunity Center, which has served as his “support system.”
“It’s not even just Sonya,” he said. “I could walk into Goodwill and everybody there – Miss Traci, Chad – I can go in there, they all know my name. They all speak to me. They all help. They don’t give up. … They’ve helped me a lot with getting me stable. A lot of my success is because of Goodwill. If it wasn’t for them, I’d probably still be in the halfway house trying to find a way.”
Joshua said he lost touch of several skills during his two years in incarceration, such as digital literacy. Through RISE, he brushed up his skills and learned more, with help from Mike, a training facilitator at the Opportunity Center. Joshua earned a Chromebook for completing the program and says he uses it daily.
“The RISE program really helped me get back up-to-date with computers,” he said. “Then I learned some things I didn’t know about doing different things with email, doing spreadsheets, making a resume, doing a vision board. My vision board was my wallpaper. If I hadn’t made that vision board and seen where I wanted to be, I wouldn’t have been as focused on being where I’m at right now.”
Just five months after being released from a federal penitentiary, Joshua, 35, is currently a manager at Zaxby’s and on track to become a general manager. He has stable housing and owns his own car.
“For the most part, Goodwill has been my support system,” he said. “Goodwill has been my motivation. They’re so good with helping me – I’ve been telling everybody about them.”
Specifically, Joshua has been spreading the good news in his hometown of Paducah. Goodwill recently opened its newest Opportunity Center there at 1601 Broadway Street. He shares his story with individuals who might need the same guidance.
“If you really need the help, take advantage of it, in a good way,” he said. “Really go get that help. If you’re struggling with getting a vehicle, go take advantage of that help. They’re helping people get cars, helping people get houses, helping people pay rent. They have these tools to be able to help.”