“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” — Mohandas Gandhi
Every morning, Jessica, puts on the insulin pump she wears for her diabetes and adjusts her dosage as needed. At church on Sundays, she teaches a class for the youngest children in the congregation. And whenever Jessica goes grocery shopping or anywhere else in her hometown of Dickson, people recognize her and say hello.
Family member Doris Grigsby says the Jessica people know today — the one who is often outgoing, confident and independent, rarely displayed those traits before she began working at the local Goodwill store a decade ago.
“Before Goodwill, she stayed at home most of the time. She had her games and her videos. I don’t think she went out a whole lot. She was mostly a loner and depended on her mom a lot,” Grigsby said.
Jessica, who is 44, was raised by her mother, with support from an aunt and other relatives, including Grigsby. She never knew her father. Jessica graduated from high school with a special education diploma but did not hold a job until 2007. That’s when she applied for a position at Goodwill and was hired.
When Jessica first began working, she started off just organizing picture frames and cleaning. She was shy and lacked confidence, Grigsby said.
But over the years, with patient guidance from supervisors and co-workers, she has learned to do tasks all over the store, such as processing home goods, hanging clothing, moving merchandise to the sales floor and pricing items.
Jessica can even organize books in alphabetical order, which she said was challenging at first.
Now, her favorite part of the job is helping customers.
“I say, ‘How you doing? Come back to Goodwill,’” Jessica explained. “They smile. Everybody knows me down at Goodwill. I have fun at work. I like the people.”
One regular customer is Betty Miller of Dickson, who enjoys chatting with Jessica and occasionally teasing her as well.
“She is such as sweet person. I’ll yell her name across the store, and she just looks and kind of does that grin — like embarrassment,” Miller said, laughing. “She is a blessing here.”
Store manager Stacey Kasunick said Jessica is an outstanding employee and beloved team member.
“She’s awesome. She’s one-of-a-kind,” Kasunick said. “Jessica is a very hard worker and good at assisting customers.”
Earning a paycheck has helped Jessica be more independent. She buys clothes and groceries, helps pay rent on the home she lives in with her mother and occasionally spends money on her mother, who is retired from a position at the local senior center.
The support and patience shown Jessica by co-workers and supervisors at Goodwill — whether in teaching her new skills or ensuring she receives her medications, have changed her most, Grigsby said.
“I think working and being around people has made the biggest difference in her life,” Grigsby said. “Overall, it’s made her a better person. When you are growing up and feel like you can’t do anything, that lowers your self-esteem, but Jessica feels like she can do anything.”