(St.Joseph,MO) For Isaac Hardin finding employment was the number one goal after being released from prison.
"I was out a week and had a job,” Hardin said."I was at [the] Big Biscuit, [as a] dishwasher nobody wants it, but it was a start."
After securing part-time work at the breakfast chain,Hardin sought help from Goodwill’s employment center GoodWORKS to look for additional employment.
“I came in, they showed me how to look for jobs on the computer and enter apps (applications) in through the computer and make some calls from the job board,” Hardin said.
The program helped him to quickly secure additional employment to help support himself as he made the adjustment back to life outside of the prison system.
"I walked down there, put my application in and had a second job within fourteen days," Hardin said.
Hardin is now employed with I&M Machine and Fabrication Co., programing machinery to create construction and automobile parts. Hardin said he plans to pursue his welding certificate at Hillyards Technical School later this August.
Vice President of Goodwill Mission Advancement Lauren Solidum said Hardin is considered a huge success story from the GoodWORKS program, but he is only one of thousands of newly released ex-offenders looking for employment in St.Joseph.
"We did an assessment around the community's needs and assets in the spring and fall of 2016. What we found there was that over 19,000 individuals were reentering the community from the Department of Corrections," Solidum said.
Following the workforce survey, Goodwill decided to take action by creating the GoodPATH program, an employment program to help former convicts re-enter the workforce by providing jobs in the Goodwill Store.
The St.Joseph Goodwill store will pilot the new program by providing jobs in store production, the donation bay area and at the register assisting customers.
"The jobs themselves offer the opportunity for these individuals to build back work history to start their lives over, to be given a second chance," Solidum said.
The program begins working with inmates during their final days of incarceration to prepare them for employment after their release.
"We spend a lot of time focused on resume building, that mock interview preparation. How to express and speak to an employer about incarceration, life after incarceration," Solidum said.
Goodwill also provides external resources for people searching for employment outside of the store as well.
“We have wrap services that specifically address elements to life after incarceration such as housing, medication assistance, mental health, transportation, childcare all of those things that build a plan so that when your release you are stable and ready to go into employment,” Solidum said.
The program gives people the opportunity to overcome their past instead of returning to old habits.
"If you are being released from prison, there are resources out here for you. You just have to do the leg work and get to them, play your part and you can succeed,” Hardin said. “You don't have to go back to what you were doing."
The goal for the first year of the GoodPATH program to help at least 50 ex-offenders obtain and maintain jobs in the community by July 2019. Solidum said Goodwill will begin the new employment initiative by working with with people from the Western Missouri Correctional Facility in Cameron, starting on July 9.