by Christopher Six, Media Marketing Assistant
James was always a hard worker, that work ethic was drilled into him in his youth. But issues with homelessness and drugs often held him back. Horizon Goodwill has brought much-needed stability to his life and is helping him plot a path to retirement.
“My father died when I was 10. But before he died, even as a teenager, I learned a lot from him,” the Baltimore native explains. “He was a working man. I remember that life was about to get better for all of us. But then he died.”
James then went to live with relatives. “They were aunts, good women. I learned a lot from them, too, especially as far as work ethic. I grew up in a good household, but like a lot of young guns, I strayed away.”
James left school in 11th grade, and after a stint in the National Guard, joined the workforce. While he enjoyed the work and it kept him busy, trouble was also brewing.
“My aunt had introduced me to a man. He was young, he had three children and a wife, and I was around 23. We were just starting out,” James says of the opportunity. “Most of my work came from him because I was a part of him growing his family business. It just took off. He carried me along for the ride, and I was constantly working, but then I started using drugs, and that’s all she wrote.”
Yet, despite the drug use, he didn’t abandon James.
“I started messing up, but he kept me working. I became homeless and I started going to drug rehabilitation, but all along he stayed there with me, even though I had a drug problem,” James said. “He tried to get me to start my own business, but I wasn’t there, you know? I spent a lot of years being homeless. I had multiple skills and did physical work. I used to love doing it. But all along, I still had a drug problem, too. I just didn’t get right.”
Still, he didn’t give up on James, and through his connections at the Wells House in Hagerstown, James twice found himself on the path to recovery.
He found staying on that path to be difficult, but then something changed.
“Two times, I came out and went back home, did alright, then messed up and was back on the street. I guess the last time, that time was the time because I’ve been okay for 12 years,” James explained.
That was when another friend, a woman who used to work for Goodwill, suggested he might find a good fit.
“I was hired at the warehouse. From there I started working for the janitorial crew. I’ve been with Goodwill ever since,” he said. “I love what I’m doing. It gets hectic sometimes, but I’m in a good spot. I have stability now, which I didn’t have before.”
“I guess they liked my initiative and how I worked. Whatever they asked me to do, I would do it,” he continued. “So, a supervisor position came up, and they made me supervisor, and I’ve been a supervisor ever since.”
James sees his life as a long journey, and he has learned something every step of the way. That helps him appreciate the opportunity Horizon Goodwill has provided. He enjoys the work and now, with a 401k, he sees a time when he can stop, enjoy his retirement and catch up with old friends.
“I’m 62. I’ve been working basically all my life, and I’m looking forward to four years when I can stop working because I’m feeling my age,” he said. “I like working, don’t get me wrong, but comes a time when you just want to sit back for the rest of your life that you have on this earth. Just enjoy life.”