Meet Charles

Charles, ReEntry Participant

We all have people in our lives we count on for earnest advice, tough love or patience to help us persevere. We lean on these pillars when life throws a curve and rejoice with them when we complete major milestones. In Charles’ story, one pillar stands out in his transformation and has empowered him to become the father, friend and neighbor we all deserve.

Charles was born and raised in Minnesota. He entered the foster care system at 6 years old. By age 15, he was on his own. Forced into adulthood, Charles made hard decisions to ensure his basic needs were met. One of those decisions led to Charles eventual incarceration. “It was back in 2000” recalls Charles, “I was convicted and sentenced to 17 years on my birthday.”

Near the end of his term, a friend recommended Charles to Goodwill. “He asked me what I wanted to do when I got out. I said construction. He asked me if I knew anything about construction. I said I don’t even know how to use the tools! He told me about Goodwill’s construction program and that I should check it out.”

When Charles was released, he found reentry into the community a challenge. “I was living in a community home, making less than I did in prison. I thought this is too hard, just send me back” recalls Charles, “all of that changed when I met Beth. I never questioned going back”

Beth is Charles’ reentry counselor at GESMN. “Beth never judged me and always made herself available to me. Her and TK [Charles’ construction trainer at GESMN] were the first people to desire a career for me, not just a job.” Charles enrolled in the Construction Training Program at Goodwill and quickly became a star pupil.

Upon graduation, Charles earned an interview with Ames Construction. “I was nervous” said Charles, “I have a learning disability on top of being a felon and I thought after all this hope I had been set up to fail, but I did everything Goodwill taught me. When I got the job and received my union card I cried.”

Charles started his career working on a major highway project. He was known for his tireless effort and dependability. Unfortunately, tragedy struck a few months into his employment.

While waiting to pick up a friend who needed a sober ride home from a bar, Charles was shot six times by a stranger. Thankfully, he survived—with positive spirit intact and, astonishingly, recovered fully in just a few months, never losing his union status and role.

“My kids have benefited from seeing me work. For the first time in my life I have healthcare, a pension and retirement. You didn’t learn about these things in my neighborhood. They are proud of me. My mom is proud of me.” said Charles.

Motivated by his second chance Charles is now realizing his dream of starting his own commercial cleaning business. Today, he continues to do construction clean-up under the union, now with a commercial cleaning firm.

“Goodwill is the best thing that ever happened to me. They have given me everlasting tools and embraced me like no one before in my life. They have empowered me to be a strong father figure and a positive force in my community. I know I can handle anything because Goodwill is my pillar.”