#MissionMonday - Monalisa

Every Monday, we'll be posting a new story of how our mission has assisted people in the community. Be sure to check back each week for a new and inspirational story of someone who was helped by Goodwill Manasota. Changing lives through the power of work...it's what we do.


Monalisa’s dad was a minister in a small Florida town. She and her siblings attended school regularly, always looked neat and clean and were always on their best behavior. The family attended church several times a week. Their dad preached on the evils of drinking alcohol, smoking, dancing and many other things.

Monalisa felt stifled. When she was 14 years old, she left home with a man who promised to show her the world. Monalisa moved with him to South Carolina where they were they married and started a family. Her husband worked hard and took care of the family. However, Monalisa had yet to “see the world.”  She was bored with her life and realized that she had married too young. She went back home to her parents and brought her two boys with her. Her husband was sad, but they stayed in touch, remained friends and he continued to send money for the kids on a regular basis. 

A few year later Monalisa was older and still ready to see the world. She met another man, Tom, who promised to take her away from that small Florida town. She moved to Texas with Tom and her two sons. Her family grew.  Early on, Monalisa realized her relationship with Tom was not a healthy one. He was not faithful to her and frequently he was abusive. Occasionally, he was nice to her. When her two-year old son died in a fire, he was supportive and he mourned with her. However, he still had a very bad temper. Monalisa could have gone home again, but she chose to stay in Texas. She would have been embarrassed to return home yet again. She was afraid of what would happen if she told Tom she was leaving. Over the years, the police arrested Tom numerous times for domestic violence, but somehow he was always out of jail before she was out of the hospital.

Several years ago, Monalisa finally got the courage to leave. She moved to Washington with a friend. By then, all the kids were grown. Washington was nice. And yet Monalisa couldn’t’ stop thinking about her sleepy little hometown. She wanted to go back. She figured she had finally seen enough of the world. 

At first, being home again was great. Then, Monalisa began to feel anxious and depressed. She had never gotten counseling for all of the bad experiences she had. Soon she began hanging out with the wrong people. She had access to drugs and alcohol and used them liberally because they seemed to help when she was depressed. Unfortunately, they also caused her to make bad choices. Monalisa was in and out of jail frequently.

After her last stint in prison, Monalisa entered a drug treatment center in Sarasota. Part of the program included getting a job. Monalisa wondered who would want to hire her when they learned about her background. Nevertheless, the program managers were adamant: Monalisa needed to look for work. She began looking online for jobs and she learned that Goodwill hired people with a background like hers. She had nothing to lose by applying. She submitted an application, she got an invitation to interview and Monalisa got a job at Goodwill.

Today, Monalisa could not be happier. She loves her job. Her leadership team compliments her on the good work she does. She goes to counseling appointments regularly as part of her treatment program. Soon she will be able to find a place to live. This new job at Goodwill comes with a life coach and Monalisa has been taking advantage of those services too. She talks with her GoodPartner Coach about affordable places to live that are within walking distance from the store where she works. She and her Coach discuss the fact that moving out of the treatment program is really going to be a test of her motivation to change. Monalisa knows she does not want to get involved in substance abuse again, nor does she ever want to go back to prison. Her plan is to return to her roots by finding a church nearby where she can make friends and not feel lonely. She says she feels blessed that Goodwill has given her an opportunity to start her life over and she wants to prove to herself and her family that she can do it. She know she can count on her leadership team and her Coach to help.  Monalisa is grateful there are places that allow people to start over again when they are ready.