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Rebel with A Collage:  Goodwill Employee Fights Back Against Addiction

A photo collage hangs in the backroom of the Goodwill store in Smyrna, Tennessee. Skimming over the images will allow anyone to see an overwhelming display of support, coupled with a strong sense of pride, sprinkled with touches of humor. The images and messages in the collection mirror what is going on amongst the Goodwill team members in this middle Tennessee town.

Photos of Goodwill employees standing tall in their smocks are most visible. One image displays a Smyrna team member being recognized at a graduation ceremony for a career assessment program exclusive to Goodwill employees.  Group photos give an idea of the cohesiveness of the team, and the photos of employees wearing costumes and mismatched garments are a reminder of the fun they had during Spirit Week in May.  Messages in the composition offer words of encouragement. “Fantastic Work,’ and “Well Done,”are tucked below an uncredited quote that reads, “You’re allowed to be both a masterpiece and a work in progress simultaneously,” a statement that could bear significant truth for any person who wears a Goodwill badge to work.

Assistant store manager Karen Schaap is included in a few photos, including an image that captures her sticking out her tongue to have fun with the camera.  

I love my employees so much. They are what keeps me sober.” Karen’s battle with substance abuse came to a turning point during the global COVID pandemic. During the early years of her career, Karen held a corporate position with a big box retail company. When the pandemic forced employees to begin working from home, Karen found herself feeling isolated in her corporate role. “That’s when my addiction became much more noticeable for me,” she said.

While in recovery, Karen became aware of the healing she experienced when performing service work by offering rides to people who needed to get to and from work.  It was during this time Karen began to realize her passion for helping others, “I needed to find something in life that is not only doing service work but a job that I like.

Online job searches lead Karen to a job interview with Sarah Reynolds, the manager at the Goodwill store in Smyrna.

“So she (Sarah) asked me, ‘Why Goodwill?’ And I said, ‘You work with others. You all have a mission. You all have a purpose. You all have a reason. And that’s what I want. I want to get back to a company that has a purpose — it has a reason.’ And I tell you, from that day that Sarah hired me, I have never had a day where I’ve come into work not wanting to come into work.”

It would seem the rest of the Smyrna team share most of Karen’s sentiment. Positivity radiates as she trains new hires.  The backroom of the store echoes with laughter and operates with efficiency.  Over a year has gone by since she joined the Goodwill family in Smyrna. Years  have passed since Karen began a sober life — July marks two years of sobriety.  She’s begun rebuilding relationships with her children, while understanding that it will take more time and more work to regain the trust she once had in her family.

Had it not been for Goodwill, I would not be the person that I am today. I am a much stronger human being. I'm happier, happier than I thought I could be in my life. I'm engaged to an amazing man, which I never thought would happen again at the age of 44. And I get to pick up my two-year chip — it's all coming together.”

A work in progress, and a masterpiece.  

  • Texa Johnston
    Posted at 09:07h, 25 October Reply

    Way to go Karen. I’m extremely proud of you. Keep it up girl & you’ll go far in life. 🙂

  • Debbie Brown
    Posted at 19:26h, 16 August Reply

    I am so proud of you! – Debbie from Shelbyville store.

  • Janice Kymes
    Posted at 21:13h, 09 August Reply

    Karen, I am very proud of you and what you have accomplished! I have known you all of your life almost and you make me feel like a mama hen! You are that strong powerful girl that I always knew you were – and I’m so proud of you! Your mom would be so happy and proud too! Just take care of yourself and I will continue to keep you in my thoughts and prayers.

  • Helen Turner
    Posted at 20:07h, 30 July Reply

    Thanks for sharing your story with us Karen. If you can bounce back after your battle with substance abuse, others can be encouraged to not give up and follow your example.

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