After serving a five-year prison sentence, Michelle left incarceration to stay at a faith-based transitional home – having only $60 and one pair of shoes to her name.
“I knew it was going to be a hard road,” Michelle said. “I am in my mid-50s. It is hard to start over at the age, especially after I lost everything.”
Michelle’s first job after incarceration was working at McDonald’s but knew she wanted to move on eventually.
While walking to McDonald’s every day, she passed the Crestwood Goodwill on her route. She eventually asked the store manager if there were any job openings, and the manager encouraged her to apply for an opening. Michelle struggled with completing her application on the computer, and she was given Nick Cristello’s phone number, a talent acquisition specialist for Goodwill.
“He walked me through the entire process,” Michelle said. “I told him about my background, and he was very understanding and easy to talk to. He showed me compassion. A few days later, I had the job!”
Michelle started with Goodwill as a cashier, where she enrolled in Goodwill’s GoodSmiles program for dental work.
“I was in need of heavy dental work, and what insurance wouldn’t pay for, Goodwill did. They paid for everything!”
After being employed with Goodwill for three months, Michelle worked with her career coach to apply for a secured auto loan through the Goodwill Cars to Work program.
“I was on a limited budget, so it was nerve-wracking, but Goodwill made it affordable and matched my down payment. In less than a month, I had a car – a 2014 Nissan Versa! I am so proud of it. Goodwill was my backbone. They encouraged me every step of the way. There was always someone there to offer support when I was overwhelmed.”
After being placed in her vehicle, Michelle was then promoted to a team lead position at the Middletown store.
“Goodwill entrusted me with keys to the store, even with my background. It gave me a sense of pride, especially when my past was a train wreck.”
Michelle worked as a team lead for several months before applying for an assistant manager position.
“I was nervous to apply for assistant manager because I didn’t think I was capable, but Nancy [regional manager] encouraged me to, and I was hired. That was a miracle. I was over an entire staff and shift!”
Living with her cousin at the time, Michelle inquired about Goodwill’s housing program and was given Henrietta Marables’ name. Through Henrietta, she learned that Goodwill would be hiring for a resident site manager for its housing program.
“I kept that in the back of my mind,” Michelle said. “I kept praying God would give me something that would glorify Him, because He has been so good to me.”
A few months later, Michelle took and passed her ACE exam through Goodwill, which increased her pay. During this time, she decided to see if she could be approved for a home loan.
She said, “I had a foreclosure on my background. I thought I might have enough money for a shed.”
To Michelle’s astonishment, she qualified for a six-figure loan!
“I did a lot of praying over it. I knew I could make all my payments, but it would take nearly everything I had.”
It was then Michelle was invited to interview for the resident site manager position.
“I knew people who applied who had much more experience and fewer background challenges,” she said.
While at work in January 2021, Michelle’s manager asked her, “Do you have something to tell me?” Michelle answered, “No,” to which the manager replied, “Michelle, they are going to offer you the housing position.”
“I was floored,” Michelle exclaimed. “I didn’t believe it!”
Michelle began working as the resident site manager on February 14, 2022.
“It has been such joy,” she said, with tears in her eyes. “I have been given so much over the past two years. I wanted to use my experience to lift other women. When you lose so much, you lose faith in people, and you can’t imagine how you will ever crawl your way out.”
Michelle recently placed three women into Goodwill’s housing program.
“To see their tears and smiles, I have no words to describe,” Michelle said. “The beauty of it all is, I knew how they felt, because I had been in that situation. It was breathtaking knowing I had a hand in something so beautiful. I can’t believe I have been put in a position to give back.”