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The Long Comeback: Clarksville Goodwill Employee Makes Career Out of Exceeding Expectations

Michael Mayfield can easily recall the many jobs he held before 1983: pizza-maker, Radio Shack employee, journeyman carpenter and more. But to remember the tasks he needs to perform in the next few hours, he needs a little help.

Michael’s life changed dramatically in a car crash in September of 1983. Then just 32, he suffered a severe brain injury that robbed him of much of his ability to retain short-term memories. He nearly lost his life. 

Emergency workers resuscitated him, and he spent four months in a coma. A year of rehabilitation followed, during which he re-learned how to walk, talk and feed himself. Even then, his prognosis was not encouraging — doctors told the family he would need constant care and would be unlikely to live for more than a decade. 

The father of four — a free-spirited, jack-of-all-trades who played bass guitar and saxophone — would never again be able to do many of the things he loved. But he was determined to contribute and to help people if he could. 

“I would go crazy sitting at home doing nothing,” Michael says. 

For years, he lived in nursing care homes. Eventually, he was able to take a job doing the laundry at one of them. In 2004, his sister, Kim Jones, and her late husband moved to Clarksville, Tenn., and they brought Michael to live with them.

After a few months, the family began looking for jobs that might suit Michael. Kim noticed that Goodwill had an opening for a housekeeper. Michael applied and was hired into Goodwill’s situational assessment program. 

“It was a challenge for him at first,” Kim recalls. “But let me tell you, I couldn’t have asked for a better place for him to work.”

Michael’s supervisors at Goodwill listened carefully to Kim’s suggestions for how best to help him. They were patient and supportive throughout his training. 

When he struggled to remember and prioritize his daily duties — sweeping the floors, polishing the windows, cleaning the break room — supervisors provided him with a clipboard checklist that he wears on his hip while working. He frequently refers to the list and marks off duties as they are completed.

Earning a paycheck allows Michael to help support himself, and the job has made him more independent in other ways. He uses a computer and a cell phone, does his own laundry and cooks for himself when needed. Each week, he calls the city’s transit office to schedule his rides to work on a van provided for citizens with disabilities. 

“Pretty sharp for somebody they said would never be able to do anything,” Kim remarks. 

Pam Taylor, manager of the Madison Street Goodwill store, says Michael is an outstanding team member who takes pride in his work and is beloved by customers and co-workers.

“He always gives his best, and he’s always smiling or telling a joke,” she explains. “When he leaves for the day, he’ll say, ‘I’ll see you tomorrow, and that’s not a threat.’”

Now 71 and a grandfather of three, Michael has worked for Goodwill for 18 years and has no plans to retire. He likes staying busy and enjoys the camaraderie of the store. 

“People here don’t look at me as just the janitor,” he says. “They look at me as a friend.”

What’s more, he loves being part of Goodwill’s nonprofit mission of changing lives through education, training and employment. 

“It makes me feel good inside, because I like to help people in need,” he says. “That’s what we do here — we give people a chance.”

Custodial Training

This free program is suitable for anyone interested in becoming a front-line cleaning and maintenance professional. The instruction, led by a CMI-certified trainer, teaches basic and advanced skills in commercial building cleaning through both classroom and hands-on training. Training begins upon acceptance into the program.

What You’ll Receive

  • $150 per week stipend
  • Training credential
  • Job placement assistance


  • Participants must complete a screening interview and meet one-on-one with the Custodial team.
  • Participants must register as a Goodwill Client and be on a free service plan with a Career Coach.
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