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Longtime Goodwill Employee: ‘It Was Like I Won The Lottery’

(Middle Tenn.) — Mary is terrified of dogs. She was bitten once and never got over the experience.

For Mary, roaming dogs have been the worst part of her daily mile-long walk to work and home, worse even than the pouring rain, ice or snow — all of which she has braved in the nearly 10 years since she began working at the Goodwill store in Shelbyville. But nothing, not even dogs, keeps her from her job.

“One day, when it snowed, Mary arrived to work an hour and a half early to ensure she made it,” Goodwill Retail District Supervisor Vicki Spurlin said. “She has a great attendance record. She is also very dedicated and really cares about what goes on in her store.”

Mary, who is originally from Richmond, Va., was born prematurely and has struggled with a learning disability her entire life.

When Mary was a child, her older sister worked at a department store. Mary had seen in advertisements that Goodwill helped people with disabilities learn to work in its stores. She decided that she would one day work for Goodwill.

But it wasn’t until 2007 — after her family had moved to Tennessee — that she got her chance. Mary was struggling to find work and went to Goodwill Career Solutions for assistance. She was assigned a job coach to train her to work as a donations processor in the Shelbyville Goodwill store.

“Even as a little girl, I knew Goodwill was for all kinds of people,” Mary said. “It took a long time for me to get here, but I did it. Goodwill gave me a chance. I like working here.”

Mary said she used to have a lot of anxiety about talking to people. But since starting to work at Goodwill, she has gained confidence and learned to comfortably interact with co-workers, donors and customers.

On Tuesday, Goodwill gave Mary yet another opportunity to improve her life. At a special ceremony at Goodwill Industries of Middle Tennessee headquarters in downtown Nashville, Senior Director of Marketing Karl Houston presented Mary with a pre-owned Toyota 4Runner in good running condition through Goodwill’s Wheels-to-Work program. The vehicle was donated to Goodwill by a generous Nashville woman.

The Wheels-to-Work program helps Goodwill employees and clients who need reliable transportation to get to work. To qualify, participants must meet certain qualifications, such as being employed at least 32 hours per week and having a valid driver’s license and good driving record. After being notified of acceptance into the program, participants must complete training classes on budgeting, defensive driving and car maintenance.  

Mary has not owned a car since 2005, because she could never afford one. She said when her supervisors first let her know that she would be receiving a donated vehicle, she began shouting for joy and jumping up and down in the Shelbyville store.

“It was like I won the lottery,” she said.

On Tuesday, Mary said she is grateful to Goodwill and its donors.

“I am so excited I could barely sleep last night,” she said. “This will make a big difference in my life. No more walking to work in the rain, and no more worrying about dogs.”




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