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Lexington Team Member Receives Free Car Through Goodwill’s Wheels-to-Work Program

Generous Donation Helps Mom of Four Overcome Transportation Barrier

For Danyika Gilbert, a shift leader at Goodwill’s Lexington, Tenn., retail store, there have been many bumps in the road to professional development — particularly when it comes to car problems. 

Once, when the transmission failed in a van Danyika used to have, her son had to make the short trip home by driving in reverse. Recently, another old car she acquired broke down the night after she drove to Nashville for graduation from a Goodwill leadership program. Since then, she has been borrowing a friend’s vehicle to get to work. 

On Thursday, Dec. 16, Goodwill gave Danyika a gift that will make her career path much more smooth. In a ceremony at the Lexington Goodwill store, Danyika received the keys to a used but reliable 2010 Toyota Prius.

The presentation was made through Goodwill’s Wheels-to-Work program, which was established in 2013 to provide vehicles given by donors to deserving team members who struggle with a transportation barrier. So far, Goodwill has given away 18 vehicles.

“This car will help me so much — more than anybody could imagine,” Danyika said. “It’s going to be such a relief that I can actually get up in the morning, get in my own vehicle and go where I need to go.”

Life’s challenges began early for Danyika. 

While attending high school in Alabama, she displayed a talent for math and her teachers encouraged her to pursue related careers. But Danyika got pregnant at age 16 and had to put her professional dreams on hold.

A stay-at-home single mom, she eventually had four children. She worked a few stints outside her home at factories, but those jobs were short-lived. And though she got some support from family and friends along the way — her finances were never stable. 

Danyika moved to Tennessee in 2013. As her children got older, she saw an opportunity to return to her career goals. She began taking online classes from Independence University. 

She also needed a job to make ends meet. A friend suggested that Goodwill might be a good fit, because the nonprofit offered flexible hours that would allow her to keep up with her studies. She attended a Goodwill Career Solutions-hosted job fair and applied for a position at Goodwill’s Lexington store. In 2016, she was hired as a donations processor. 

Danyika enjoyed the job and, despite some initial shyness and anxiety about working with the public, she eventually became a cashier. She later received two promotions — first to office administrator and then to shift leader. She recently graduated from GoodPaths, a 12-week leadership development program for promising employees. 

Goodwill’s Vice President of Donated Goods Leisa Wamsley, who presented Danyika with the keys to her car, said she has a bright future at Goodwill.

“Danyika is always willing to take on new responsibilities to help her store and to help Goodwill accomplish its mission of changing lives through education, training and employment,” Wamsley said. “All she needed was some help overcoming her transportation barrier, and that’s why we are so excited to present her with this car.”

Danyika achieved a major goal  by earning her associate’s degree in accounting. Her next plan is to become assistant manager at the Lexington store — and perhaps someday a Goodwill store manager.

“Goodwill has given me more independence and confidence,” Danyika explained. “I was so young when I had my kids — I kind of grew up when they did. Having this responsibility and being able to hold a job has shown me I can do things I never thought I could.”

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