Heather had a career she loved, managing a jewelry department for a major department store, and an active lifestyle.
But then, in 1996, her health took a sudden downturn. She was stricken with primary lymphedema, a rare disease that causes fluid retention and weight gain. She also began having seizures.
“My whole world came tumbling down at once,” she recalls.
The condition made walking or even standing for long periods difficult, and she fatigued quickly. Soon, she was forced to leave her job and apply for state disability benefits.
For several years she worked in her mother’s Ohio art gallery. But in 2003 they moved to Nashville, and after that she remained unemployed for more than a decade.
When Heather’s mother died in 2014, she found herself yearning for a change.
“I have always felt good about myself. I’m a pretty positive person, but I did want to just get out and do something again,” she says. “Also, disability doesn’t really cover the bills.”
With her background in retail, Heather hoped to be able to find a job quickly. But after applying for 10 different positions and being turned down each time, she realized she needed help.
“People would see me and say, ‘Oh, you could never handle this job because it requires a lot of standing,’” she explained.
“I was disappointed, knowing that I could do the job but I was being judged for my weight.”
Heather had seen Goodwill’s TV commercials describing how the not-for-profit helps people struggling to find work. In May of 2015 she visited the Goodwill Career Solutions center in Antioch. She took resume and job readiness classes and then entered a paid, eight-week retail training program with a job coach at the Antioch Goodwill store.
She struggled a bit with physical endurance, but the store accommodated her by allowing her to sit during slow periods. After the training program, she was hired on as a part-time retail associate.
“Heather is doing a great job as a cashier and taking care of customers,” Transitional Job Coach Linda Proudfoot says. “She is a good-natured person who gets along with everyone and would do anything she could for you.”
Store Manager Chasity Humphreys admires Heather for her grit.
“She works hard and doesn’t let anything stop her from doing a great job,” Humphreys said.
Customers and co-workers compliment Heather on her work, which brings her satisfaction. She also has managed to catch up on her bills.
“Goodwill gave me a chance to get back into workforce, a team to be part of and something to look forward to,” she says.
— By Chris Fletcher
Prior to joining Goodwill as its PR & Communications Manager in 2014, Fletcher was a professional journalist for
more than 25 years working at media outlets in three states, including the Associated Press.