Clarissa came to work for Goodwill Manasota when she was 19 years old. She was a single mom of a five-month-old girl and lived with her mom and her younger sister and brother. Clarissa needed to get a job to help support the family; her mother did not work as she had been unable to maintain employment. Clarissa thought her mom might have an undiagnosed mental illness.
The family received SNAP assistance, Medicaid coverage, and some housing assistance. Occasionally, Clarissa’s mom would get an unemployment check if she had stayed at a job long enough. Despite all of that assistance, the family had just recently been evicted from their house due to non-payment of rent and her mother’s erratic behavior. There were times when the family had to live in shelters and it was looking like they were headed in that direction again. They had been able to find a small house where the owner allowed them to move in and pay deposits over time but Clarissa was worried that this housing would be temporary unless she could do something to make sure the rent was paid on time EVERY month. She was hoping that if she could help support the family, they might have a chance at a life with some stability.
Clarissa’s job at Goodwill was her first and she was very nervous. She met with her GoodPartner Coach immediately. While nervous about what she should talk about with her coach, over time she began to open up about her life and the troubles with her mom and how the family had always been in a state uncertainty. Now that she was employed, she worked hard, made friends, and began to get the hang of regular employment. However, Clarissa always seemed sad. She loved her job but things at home were terrible.
Clarissa and her coach talked more and more as time went on about what she wanted and what her goals were. One goal was to get her high school diploma but she had not been able to pass the FCAT. Her coach thought she would be a good candidate for the Ave Maria program, helping her with the application, and Clarissa began attending classes. It wasn't always smooth sailing but her Coach convinced her to stay in the program. Later that year, Clarissa graduated with a high school diploma!
As Clarissa continued to work at Goodwill she showed that she was responsible and a hard worker. She got a promotion and began gaining more and more self-confidence. She was not only taking on more responsibility at work but she was also starting to be more responsible at home. One of the tasks she knew she was going to need to take over at home was management of the family finances.
Clarissa’s mother provided child care for Clarissa’s siblings and her baby. Her mom received Social Security checks for her siblings, family assistance funds for the baby, and Clarissa was turning over her paycheck to her mom every two week, as well. And yet, once again, the family was being evicted because her mother was not paying the bills. Clarissa started taking over the finances but not without a great deal of difficulty; her coach referred her to an agency that could give her some legal advice.
Not long after, Clarissa discovered that her mother was using drugs – that's where the money had been going. Her mother’s mental state was continuing to deteriorate and Clarissa became increasingly worried about her baby’s safety as well as that of her brother and sister. So she found herself an apartment and got her mother removed as representative payee for her daughter. Now Clarissa and her daughter were safe but her brother and sister were not. She worked with the legal agency to determine how she could get her siblings to a safer environment. Yet another battle began. Clarissa took her mother to court to declare that she was an unfit parent and had misused the children’s funds. Her mother failed to show for the hearing not once but twice. Clarissa won and the judge awarded her custody of both of her siblings.
At the ripe old age of 22, Clarissa had custody of three children. Fortunately, her sister – who would be 18 in a few months – started working part-time while finishing school. After graduating, she began working full-time.
Clarissa’s attempts to get her mother into treatment have not been successful. She does not allow her mother contact with the children because she thinks it will do more harm than good. But she keeps track of her mother just in case there is a time she may be open to getting the help that she so desperately needs.
Clarissa knows she still has some issues to work out. However, she is amazed at what a long way she has come at such a young age. She walked into Goodwill shy and scared, with no self-confidence and no long-term goals. Today she is a confident, productive young woman who is determined to make it in life and realizes there are no limits except the ones she places upon herself.
Clarissa has stopped placing those limitations on herself. She credits her first job and the mission of Goodwill for helping her realize that good things are possible. Goodwill has taught her that it’s okay to have dreams and aspirations and with a little hard work and planning, anything is possible, even those things that used to feel impossible. It’s what we do...