To celebrate Goodwill Industries Week, we thought we’d share one of our favorite My Story entries with you: New York & New Jersey local Michelle Banton. Enjoy!:

Michelle Banton is a shining example of the power of work.

Before coming to Goodwill Industries® of Greater New York and Northern New Jersey, my life was totally out of control. As a teenager, I made some really bad choices that led me to drug and alcohol addiction, and I became a single mother at the age of 15. I had to drop out of high school during my junior year to care for my baby, and depended on public assistance to live.

By the age of 23, I was a mother of three. I became homeless, and then had to leave my three children in my mother’s care when I went to prison. At that point in my life, I had very low self-esteem and felt worthless.

During my second and last time in prison, I began to lead a more productive life. I worked on my GED and managed to pass with really high scores. When I was released from prison in 2003, I had a different attitude. I was determined to change my life.

My probation officer referred me to Goodwill® for job training at the Harrison, NJ, facilities. I enrolled in the 25-day vocational rehabilitation evaluation process. It was hard for me at times, and I didn’t think I could make it through it. I wanted to give up, but the staff at Goodwill was very supportive and encouraged me to continue.

Michelle Banton sorts clothing at a Goodwill retail store.

When I completed the evaluation, I went on to the next phase – work adjustment training. In October 2003, I was offered a full-time position as a sorter and hanger at Goodwill. I accepted the job – my first real job – and that’s when my career took off.

I’ve been employed at Goodwill for seven years now, and in that time, I’ve been promoted several times. I started here as a sales operations associate at Goodwill’s Harrison store.  In March 2010, seven years after coming to Goodwill, I was sent to manage the Jersey City store and six months later, I went to the Fairfield store as production manager.

Today, I’m a dependable professional. I earn a yearly salary, I own my own apartment and I’m able to pay my own bills. I now feel I live a productive life.

Hear more stories from individuals like Michelle by visiting the My Story archive on the Goodwill Industries International website. Happy Goodwill Week!

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