11 Jun After Troubled Past, Woman Finds Renewal, Growth in Job at Goodwill
Erica King describes her job duties in a way some people might find surprising. She says she “gets” to sort donated clothes and she “gets” to put them on hangers.
The 31-year-old Goodwill retail associate talks about other parts of her life with the same implied enjoyment and gratitude. After her shift, she “gets” to cook and clean for her mother, who has a disability. She “gets” to save money for a car. Occasionally, she even gets to go out for dinner.
“I feel like I have become a new person,” Erica says. “I love my life. I can’t get enough of it.”
Erica, who was raised in Marietta, Ga., spent years addicted to drugs. Though she was home-schooled, she did not complete high school. She only briefly held a job — and that was back in 2009.
She hit rock bottom when her father died in 2016. Her drug use escalated, and she hung out with a bad crowd. She mistreated her mother and other people she loved.
Then one day in 2017, Erica went for what was intended to be a short visit to Kentucky. It lasted much longer. She was arrested. She went to jail and ultimately received a three-year prison sentence.
After six months in prison, Erica became a Christian. She made other transformative changes as well.
“I quit letting other people control me and started taking control of my own life,” she says.
Erica began her recovery from addiction. She earned her general equivalency diploma. And when she got out of prison and entered a halfway house, she turned her mind to employment.
“After not having a job for so long, I didn’t think I was qualified or that I could get a job. I didn’t even know what my skill set was,” she recalls. “But everybody was telling me Goodwill was the place to go to try. I’m glad I did.”
Goodwill is widely known as an employer willing to hire people whose backgrounds include incarceration. Goodwill Industries of Middle Tennessee also provides free skills training and job placement services to that population. In 2020, Goodwill served more than 1,000 clients across middle and west Tennessee who reported having a criminal history.
Erica applied for a job as a processor at a Lexington, Ky., Goodwill store and was hired. But within a few weeks, she learned that her mother, who lives in Cookeville, Tenn., was in poor health and needed assistance.
Erica found that the Goodwill store in Cookeville was also willing to give her an opportunity. She has now worked there for more than five months, and she loves her job.
“It’s fun. And there’s plenty of people around to keep me company,” she says. “They have been most welcoming. I have created a family through the people that work there.”
The store’s manager, Cindy Magourik, praises Erica’s work ethic, her attitude and her outlook.
“The sky’s the limit for Erica. I’m very proud of the job she’s doing and what she’s doing in her life,” she says.
In July, Erica will celebrate four years of sobriety, six months of employment and nine months since her release from prison. Her goals are simple: to take care of her mom, to better herself and to go higher in her career.
“I have goals now,” she says, grinning. “I am more confident and more responsible, and I can feel myself becoming a true adult. Just being able to work and have some independence — and know that I can do it — feels amazing.”