Goodwill Gave Her a Second Chance

Sandra Collins is looking forward to April 7, 2017. Ten years ago, she was a drug addict. She was homeless and struggling to take care of her two teenage kids. She wanted a better life, but she was living in a place so darkened by addiction and abuse that she couldn’t find her way out. After losing the support of her friends and family, and getting arrested again, she was paired with a case manager at Goodwill. Thanks to the WorkFirst Community Jobs program and retail and life skills training from Goodwill, Collins has the healthy life she dreamed of. She’s been the manager at the Goodwill Olympia Outlet Store and Recycling Center for two years. She bought a house on the outskirts of Hilltop in Tacoma, and on April 7 she will have been clean for 10 years. When one of Collins’ employees is struggling to turn their own life around, she tells her story. “I think that’s the thing I love the most about my job now,” she said. “I’m in the business to change lives.”

A life of drugs
“(I was addicted to) meth. It had always been what I always did. I had always been involved in the drug life. Selling drugs, manufacturing drugs. I noticed my children were getting older, and it was getting harder to hide things.”

Motherhood as an addict
“(My kids and I) just kind of hopped around from house to house; I was taking them to different drug houses. I was tired of the life, but I had never known anything different. I didn’t know how to change.”

Tracking Sudafed
“January of 2007, they made it law that you had to show your ID to buy Sudafed, you know what I mean? So that made it harder for me to buy, so that’s when I said, ‘OK, I’m going to quit doing this.’ So I struggled from January to when I got clean in April.”

“I think that’s the thing I love the most about my job now, I’m in the business to change lives.”

Five pills
“I was living in my car with my dog (her kids were staying elsewhere). I had taken Seroquel — they’re like tranquilizers. So when I had been up for like three or four days and I just couldn’t fall asleep, I’d take a Seroquel. Well my car had broken down, so I pulled into the public library in Parkland and I just wanted to end my life. And I had like five pills in the glove box. And so, I was going to take them. The only reason I didn’t is because my dog was sitting next to me and if I died, I just had the vision of her starving to death and dying with me. I couldn’t be responsible for that.”

Pinhole of hope
“When I first came to the Goodwill, I was very broken from the relationship I had been in. I was in a nine-year relationship that was very (abusive), and I was very broken. To the point where I never looked up, I always looked down. I had acne all along the sides of my cheeks because of my hair always being on my face. I felt like ‘OK I want to change my life, but I don’t know how to do it.’”

The commute to Goodwill
“Every morning I had to wake up at like 4:30, walk a mile and a half to (the bus stop). I had to get on three buses. It was a three-hour commute, but I woke up and I did it every morning for the simple fact that when I walked into work, my coworkers were so happy to see me.”

Resisting addiction
“If the bus was 30 minutes late (my kids) were calling me, ‘Mom where are you, what are you doing?’ So I had that support. But yeah, constantly thinking about using and constantly thinking about going out and making a quick dollar was always on my mind.”

Tough love
“Every time I see (my case manager), I give her a big hug because if she had never been so pushy with me, I would have never got the help I needed.”

Helping with transparency
“I’m so open about my story not because I want attention, but because I want to inspire people who are in a dark place — whatever that place looks like — and give them hope and faith to know that you can change your life for the better and that there are people out there who have changed and have become successful.”

Accepting the past
“I am who I am. I’m not afraid of where I’ve come from. I’m not ashamed of it anymore.”

Managerial success
“My store has been open two years in February now. I have good success in my store. I have achieved all of my company metrics — which are your sales, your payroll — I’ve exceeded them every month. I’ve pulled out about $1.5 million a year out of my store.”

Why believe in second
chances?

“Because people change.”

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is the managing editor at South Sound magazine. Email her.
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