#MissionMonday - Zack

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.

ZackZack made questionable choices about his friends as a teen. Eventually these choices ended up leading him down a road that led to incarceration and a 21-year prison sentence.

At first, Zack only sold marijuana to support his own “high”, but pretty soon he discovered that dealing drugs was an extremely lucrative business.  Selling drugs gave him the ability to pay for the legal expenses he incurred as a result of this “business”. He had the money to post bond for his release every time he was arrested and never had to serve any time. Unfortunately for Zack, after seven consecutive arrests that did not end in jail time, his luck ran out when he was no longer a minor. At the age of 21, Zack was sentenced to federal prison with a release date of 2026.

During those first few years in jail, Zack’s rebellious nature still dominated his actions and choices.  This often resulted in him being “thrown in the hole” as punishment for his decisions. He was biding his time, doing his time… and wasting his time.

Then, something happened that altered the course of Zack’s life and led him to where he is today – a newly hired Team Member at Goodwill’s Corporate Campus store.

When asked about his “defining moment”— the moment that made him completely rethink his future, Zack says it all started when he met his tutor, Mike. Mike was an educated man and a “white collar” criminal.  Because of his background and skill set, Mike’s job during his incarceration was to be an educational tutor to his fellow inmates.

Mike helped Zack see that he had a choice about how he was going to serve his time, and how that choice could have a positive impact on his future.  Zack could continue to rebel and repeatedly get in trouble, or he could take advantage of these years as an opportunity to better himself, especially through studying and education.

Zack had always enjoyed learning.  However, school was just a place he went to rest his head on a desk and sleep off a drug-induced “high” from his late night before. To his teachers’ surprise though, they would sometimes discover that Zack actually knew the answers to questions asked in class, just from listening to what was going, as he dozed at his desk.

With Mike’s encouragement as a tutor, Zack made the decision to educate himself, improve himself, and head down a better road.  While in prison, he studied subjects like real estate, commercial law, entrepreneurship, and history.  His desire to learn and grow continues, and his goals include furthering his education, and perhaps eventually doing something in the legal field – maybe even starting his own company.

Zack says there was also a second pivotal point in his life.  While incarcerated, he became immersed in studying different religions and found himself embracing a spiritual path. This has become another stabilizing influence in Zack’s life and has given him a desire to help others and contribute to society in a meaningful way.

In 2016, one of the most significant events in Zack’s life took place and it came as a complete surprise to him.  He was contacted by the Department of Justice and told that he was being given clemency and would be released from prison because of good behavior. 

Zack was referred to Goodwill’s Job Connection by a residential re-entry program. He is still on home detention until he completes the program in early 2018.  The ankle monitor he wears is a tangible reminder of the past he is leaving behind, and the second chance he has been given for a brighter, yet unfamiliar future.

When he talks about his new job at Goodwill, Zack says he loves it because it’s like a family and it feels great to be part of a team.  He is thankful for the people who have made such a difference in his life – Mike (his tutor in prison), his spiritual community, and now Goodwill.

These days, Zack’s hope is that he might possibly “pay it forward,” by inspiring or motivating someone else who is struggling with the consequences of the bad choices they made in their past.

Zack says Goodwill has given him “much more than help in finding employment.”  He now looks forward to working with his Good Partner Coach and exploring the opportunities to further his education and grow within the organization.  Goodwill has become a major component of an ongoing support system that is helping Zack make the transition back into society after fourteen years of incarceration. 

Changing lives through the POWER of work—it’s what we do…