In May 2016, Mary earned her associates degree in human services from Big Sandy Community and Technical College. At 65 years old and the first in her family to accomplish the feat, she yelled at her graduation ceremony, “Seniors are awesome; I’m a superstar!”
Mary is a mother of four, a grandmother to 17, and a great-grandmother to nine. Since they were children, she raised her now 22- and 26-year old grandchildren, one of whom has a severe intellectual disability.
In 2007, Mary was working a seasonal position at Thunder Ridge Racing & Entertainment Complex until her position ended on November 3. On November 4, she began working at the Goodwill store in Prestonsburg. Mary started as a production clerk, and after two years was promoted to production clerk II.
“The opportunity to work at Goodwill just fell into my lap,” Mary explained. “I never missed a paycheck.”
In 2010, Mary received a Goodwill Shining Star Award for exceeding expectations. “We had a bad winter, and some employees weren’t able to get to work, but I never missed,” Mary explained.
Although Mary was succeeding at her job, she had much more she wanted to accomplish, so she enrolled in Goodwill’s community employment program in 2012. The program is designed to help Goodwill employees achieve their personal and professional goals through ongoing case management with a Goodwill job counselor.
After enrolling in the program, Mary applied for a Care Fund loan to pay her electric bill in the winter. Goodwill’s Care Fund assists employees in emergency situations. Eligible employees may apply for an interest-free loan amounting up to one week of net pay, which they re-pay over 10 pay periods.
Then, in 2013, Mary applied to purchase a vehicle from Goodwill Cars to Work, a program designed to connect working Kentuckians with affordable transportation to help them maintain and improve their employment.
“[Cars to Work] was such a blessing to me,” Mary said. “I was able to get back and forth to work and take my grandson to his medical appointments.”
Knowing she had a reliable vehicle to get to and from classes, Mary applied to college in 2014. Goodwill programs coming full circle, Mary used the tuition reimbursement checks she received from Goodwill to pay off her vehicle. She paid off her car loan in 2015 and earned her diploma in 2016, with her supervisor Melinda Hall (pictured right), manager of the Prestonsburg Goodwill, supporting her from the crowd.
Mary’s next goal is to earn her bachelor’s degree in substance abuse counseling. “I love school; it has made me happier,” Mary said. “I want to work in substance abuse, because it’s everywhere. Every single family is affected by it. I know mine is. Goodwill has been a stepping stone for me, and I’m ready to help others in the same way Goodwill helped me.”