When Tamara was released from serving five years in penitentiary, she moved to Paducah from Lexington to get a fresh start.
She struggled to find a job that made her happy. Without her support system, she fell into depression – but she said her life turned around when she was shopping at the Paducah Goodwill store one Sunday. She asked the cashier if the store was hiring, and the cashier gave her a business card for Margie Silva, the manager of the Paducah Opportunity Center.
Tamara called and spoke with Margie the next day, and by Wednesday, Margie called to tell Tamara that the Paducah store was opening up a spot for her.
“I wanted to start fresh,” Tamara said. “I wanted something different with my life. I gave her my backstory, and by Wednesday she called me and told me I was on her mind. She spoke with the manager, miss Kenna (Elkins). They said they would open up a position for me.”
Less than two months later, Tamara was promoted to team lead. She said the opportunity was all thanks to Margie. Tamara said if she’s having a hard time, she can go to Margie’s office and talk to her at any time.
“I could talk all day about Margie,” Tamara said. “When I first met her, I told her she was my saving grace. Because I was in between jobs and struggling so much. I came and sat and talked to her, and it was like I had known her my whole life.”
Before taking on a larger role, Tamara decided to take part in the Reintegrating Individuals Successfully Every Day (RISE) program at the Opportunity Center to “spruce up” her job skills. She said she was able to learn skills that she wouldn’t have after serving five years in penitentiary. According to Margie, Tamara “has really utilized the RISE program to make positive changes in her life.”
“Being away from any technology and stuff like that for that amount of time – it changes in a matter of months,” she said. “So, that really helped me learn a lot about digital skills. It spruced up all the simple things, like the format of a resume and stuff like that.”
After completing the two-week RISE course, Tamara was set to graduate, but she knew her family wouldn’t be able to make it to the ceremony. To support her, the Paducah team joined the virtual graduation ceremony from another room and cheered her on.
“We’re not a team here, we’re a family,” she said.
Tamara makes it a point to share her story with her customers in Paducah and offer to help if needed, just like she was helped by the cashier one Sunday. Some customers may have negative opinions about Goodwill, but she said she helps to change their minds.
“I tell them the programs here have changed my life,” she said. “I give them a little bit of my backstory and it changes their whole demeanor.”