You just can’t beat the person who won’t give up.” ―Babe Ruth
John’s life changed during a robbery in 2009.
A man with what appeared to be a gun under his T-shirt walked into the gas station John managed in southwest Florida. Instead of complying with the robber’s demand for money, John confronted him and pushed him out of the building. In doing so, he violated an important safety policy.
The mistake got John fired from his longtime position and began a chain of misfortunes that ultimately left him homeless.
“I went from owning a house, having two cars and making more than $35,000 a year as a manager to … basically losing everything,” he recalls. “Oh yeah, I hit bottom living on the street.”
For much of that year, John lived in a makeshift tent in an empty lot that belonged to a former neighbor. He looked for work without success. Things got so bad, he even had to surrender his beloved pet dogs to a shelter.
The experience was particularly difficult, he says, because he was used to playing the role of breadwinner and protector for others. John’s father died when he was 4, and John quit high school at age 15 to get a job and help support his widowed mother, brother and sister.
John’s homelessness ended when a friend sent him money to travel to Tennessee. There was a place to stay with roommates —as long as he could find work. John took the few belongings he had left and moved to Clarksville, but initially he struggled to find employment. A short stint as a restaurant dishwasher didn’t work out.
John went to Goodwill Career Solutions in Clarksville in the winter of 2011 for help. He had heard about Goodwill’s employment services from one of his roommates who worked for the nonprofit organization. John applied for a position with Goodwill and was hired as a donations attendant working at a trailer site in Clarksville.
“The day I got hired was such a blessing,” John says. “We had to deal with the weather, but it was the best job ever. We always thanked the customers for their donations.”
Once John was earning a regular paycheck, he was able to purchase a used car. His supervisor at Goodwill gave him a ride to make the purchase on his day off. Soon, John not only had a roof over his
“I made a promise to my family that I would take care of them as long as I lived,” John says. “Goodwill helped me to do that.”
After two years, John was transferred to work at the Goodwill store at 2001 Needmore Road in Clarksville. He started out working in the donations area but was soon promoted to cashier. John’s excellent customer service skills and grasp of the operation eventually resulted in another promotion to lead sales, helping to manage the store.
“He’s a huge part of our team,” store manager Kristin Hinman says. “He’s very knowledgeable. The customers like him. He’s always got a joke or a kind word or something. He just really cares about everybody.”
Unfortunately, John lost his sister to cancer four years ago. He lost his brother to a heart attack two years ago. Where once John viewed Goodwill as a means to take care of his family, he now views Goodwill as his family.
John says for him the best part of the job is helping customers.
“All I’ve ever done is take care of people,” he explains. “Goodwill gives me a chance to sometimes talk to people that are in need. People are needy in lots of ways, whether physically, spiritually or just needing a friend. If someone’s having a bad day, I listen to them. Sometimes that makes them feel better. “
John says he once found a female customer crying in the book section. She told him her daughter had recently died of cancer. John’s own sister was battling cancer at the time. He said their brief discussion made them both feel a little less lonely — a little more hopeful.
head and transportation, he was once again able to help his family members and friends a little financially when needed.
“God put me at Goodwill for a reason,” he says.
Eight years after starting at Goodwill, John once again enjoys stability and security. He has a place to live, two cars, a job he loves and the ability to help others. His health has improved as well, because for the first time in his life he has health insurance.
John hopes he can serve as an example to others going through tough times.
“Don’t give up,” he says. “Goodwill’s out there. They can help you get a job and get back on your feet.”