Story Behind the Stores: Austin is making the most of his second chance

Austin had nothing but a prison jumpsuit, shoes and his family’s good graces when he was released from prison on Feb. 28, 2020.

Ready to change, he went back where he grew up in Fletcher County, but no one was willing to give him a second chance. He tried moving to Lexington but still “had the door shut in my face, over and over again.”

Someone then told Austin about how we embrace the reentry community at Goodwill. Despite not having much retail experience, he applied.

“I had never even step foot in a Goodwill before,” he said. “But I gave it a try. And they opened their arms up to me. They welcomed me right in. November 9 will be one year I’ve been here, and I started as a material handler. And now I’m an assistant store manager II. I didn’t even realize all the programs they had until I came here. Now, I’m all about Goodwill.”

Less than a year and a half removed from incarceration, Austin has his sights set on becoming a store manager. He’s taken advantage of our financial literacy resource to build his credit.

“Now, I’m able to have my own vehicle, my own house,” he said. “I support myself; I don’t have to depend on anyone else. I put everything into my store that I used to put into chasing, chasing drugs. That’s my key to staying sober, too. I focus everything on my store.”

Austin is able to relate to his employees who struggle with addiction, and he refers anyone outside of Goodwill to our programs and services.

“I let fellow felons know that that isn’t their title,” he said. “There are ways to turn yourself around, especially with addicts. … There is hope out there. You just have to want it.”

Austin earned the title of assistant manager II after recently completing our GREAT program, a 10-week retail advancement training. Without Goodwill, he said he’d be stuck in his old ways.

“I’d probably still be back in Fletcher County … barely surviving,” he said. “The sad thing about that is people want to talk about prison being a revolving door. Well, people get out and no one gives them a chance, so they go back to doing what they know best.”