They refused, and throughout Marilyn’s life, her mother took painstaking efforts to make sure she was treated the same as everyone else, while instilling in her a rock solid work ethic.
Growing up, Marilyn and her family lived in a historic neighborhood of seniors. The family did whatever they could to help their neighbors: delivering papers, mowing lawns and assisting with grocery shopping and other tasks. Far from being a burden or a chore, this early experience instilled in Marilyn a passion for caretaking.
Marilyn’s parents taught their children that service to others was the highest calling, and that hard work is the key to success. Armed with these important life lessons and ingrained determination, Marilyn fought to attend the high school of her choice, despite the administration not wanting to admit her because of her learning disabilities. To pay her parochial school tuition, she worked as a candy striper at the local hospital and the night shift at the county nursing home. It wasn’t an easy road, but Marilyn graduated from high school. She wanted to attend nursing school, but to her great frustration could not pass the entrance test. Marilyn went on to earn a two-year degree in environmental sciences from a local technical college. It was a moment of great triumph. She later married and started a family.
But among Marilyn’s life’s victories were unimaginable hardships. Throughout her life, bad people took advantage of her kind and trusting nature. She lost one husband to death and another to divorce following domestic violence. She spent time living in a women’s shelter to hide from her ex-husband and later, had to temporarily surrender two of her three children (both born with disabilities) to the county so they could get adequate medical care. Depression took over, which led to a brief struggle with alcohol. Years went by.
In 2013, Marilyn became homeless through no fault of her own. A modest raise at the grocery store where she worked boosted her just above minimum wage, causing her to lose her housing benefit. Marilyn lived in her car for two months, but still went to work every day. Amazingly, no one at the store knew of her plight. She eventually lost her 15-year job at the store when new management took over. She lived through a dozen other situations too harrowing to recount.
Every time life knocked her down, Marilyn came back stronger. She eliminated drinking from her life and regained custody of her children. She became adept at recognizing patterns of abuse and no longer allowed predatory people into her life. She found available resources to dig her way out of the financial and emotional disaster of job loss and homelessness. “The mostimportant thing I learned is that if you are in need, only you can ask for help,” Marilyn said.
After learning about Goodwill Workforce Development through a friend, Marilyn completed the job readiness program and customer service training. She applied for an opening at an Attended Donation Center (ADC) and interviewed with Retail Donation Operations Manager Todd Cordetti, who hired her on the spot. Todd was impressed with her outgoing personality and customer service orientation. Whenever Marilyn worked at an ADC, donations increased. “Marilyn is extremely hardworking, reliable and a joy to work with,” said Todd. “She is by far one of the best employees I have ever had. Donors went out of their way to call and tell me what an enjoyable donation experience they had with Marilyn.”
“I loved the interaction with customers and the blessing of the item coming through the door,” Marilyn said. “I thanked customers every day and gave them a smile and people appreciate that.” They also enjoyed the daisies she planted at the donation center that made everyone’s day a little brighter.
Marilyn’s story doesn’t end there. In fact, it’s beginning again. After three years working as an ADC attendant, Marilyn was recently hired as a home health aide in Goodwill Supported Living. Her new job comes with more responsibility and the opportunity to return to the work she loves… caretaking.
Despite having her own challenges, Marilyn takes every opportunity to help others. She has raised her children, overcome poverty, homelessness, and a dozen other situations. Ever the optimist, she seeks to brighten the lives of those around her. “I feel like I am a walking miracle. I consider my life a true blessing,” she said.