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Mark Combs receives free car

Life-changing gift: Goodwill employee receives free car

Man’s Tough Road Back From Homelessness Gets a Little Easier

(NASHVILLE, Tenn.) — Mark Combs remembers the moment his life finally shifted out of low gear.

He was standing in the courtyard of the Nashville Rescue Mission, where he had been staying for six months since getting out of prison. He had initially told himself he would only be in the homeless shelter for a week. Instead, he had returned to drugs and the streets.

“Me and this guy were waiting in line to get a bed, and he looked at me and said, ‘People here don’t believe they’re gonna die,’” Combs recalls. “It was so profound. I realized that I was wasting the value of my days and I had to do something different. I realized I was probably better than that.”

He also hoped to build relationships with his six children.

Combs said a prayer, asking God to show him a new path. Within a few days he was accepted into a program for the chronically homeless offered by Room in the Inn, another Nashville shelter. While in the program, he got off drugs and took classes at Lipscomb University.

Afterward, he came to Goodwill Industries of Middle Tennessee because he had heard the not-for-profit sometimes employs people with criminal records. He was quickly hired to work in Goodwill’s allocations department in downtown Nashville.

His supervisor, David Alexander, noticed how hard Combs worked and promoted him to second-shift supervisor on the donations dock.

“Mark has knack for problem-solving and an excellent ability to motivate his workforce,” Alexander said. 

At age 47, Combs’s life is revving up for better things. He has been sober for three and a half years, and his three-year anniversary with Goodwill is approaching. He picked up a second job, and he now makes child support payments for his two youngest children, whom he sees often. He is also in contact with two of his adult children who live in Oklahoma.

He even dreams of taking his younger children to meet the older ones for a family reunion being held soon in Tulsa. But until Thursday, there was little chance of that happening.

It was a struggle just getting to work. He lives with his sister in Madison and had to ride the bus or borrow a decrepit old Ford Expedition that she no longer uses. When pushed beyond 40 mph, the Expedition’s reverse gear no longer works, among other problems.

But in a ceremony Thursday, Goodwill helped Combs get past that roadblock by giving him a free car.

Goodwill Industries of Middle Tennessee President and CEO Matthew Bourlakas presented Combs with the 1998 Ford Taurus in good running condition through Goodwill’s Wheels-to-Work program. The program helps Goodwill employees and clients who need reliable transportation to get to work. The car was donated to Goodwill by SunTrust Bank.

“The Wheels-to-Work program represents a second chance, a belief and a hope that tomorrow is going to be a better day,” Bourlakas said. “We hope this car not only erases the barrier of transportation for Mark, but opens doors that give him independence and freedom.”

Combs said he is deeply grateful to Goodwill and to SunTrust for putting him on the road to continued success.

“There’s no question this will change my life,” he said.

Read this summers edition of The Ambassador – Goodwill’s quarterly magazine which provides readers with stories of events, activities and the inspiring changes Goodwill is making in the lives of others.

About Goodwill Industries of Middle Tennessee, Inc.

For more than 55 years Goodwill Industries of Middle Tennessee has provided job training and job placement free of charge to people with disabilities or other barriers to employment through the sale of donated items. In 2014, Goodwill served 28,159 people in Middle and West Tennessee and placed 9.558 people in jobs. More information about Goodwill’s Career Solutions, retail stores and donation centers can be obtained online at  www.giveit2goodwill.org or by calling 1-800-545-9231

Learn more about how you can help people like Mark by donating a vehicle to Goodwill  

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