Lisa Obeid had been out of a job for three years and was living with her mother because she couldnt pay her bills. She and her second husband had divorced, and no matter how many positions she applied for, she got no response.
Eventually, unemployment became so tough that she was willing to sell her plasma to earn money.
But while researching how to do that, she came across an ad for job training from Goodwill Industries of the Southern Piedmont.
She signed up for a training program with Goodwill and honed her skills. It allowed her to stay busy, get support and, eventually, find a job.
Now, more than a year later, shes moved into her own apartment with her two daughters. They recently bought a black Pekingese and poodle mix puppy named Hershey. And in May, Obeid won Goodwills most prestigious award.
Everybodys happy now, said Sarah Alawi, 19, Obeids daughter.
Finding her way
In 2008, Obeid was working in customer service for a securities company. But when the position was moved to St. Louis, she was laid off.
As time passed, no new offers came, and the stress of unemployment led her and her husband to separate. Then she and her three children (Sarah, Summer, 13, and Justin, 24) moved in with her mother. She started battling depression.
Things were just really hard, she said.
After finding the ad for job training at Goodwill, she decided she would go to the organizations Charlotte Job Connection and see whether she could turn things around.
Sitting in a cubicle talking to a representative at the job resource center, Obeid, now 48, said she cried, telling him, I just cant find a job. That was when she learned about Goodwills free banking and customer-service training program, which fit with some of her former experience. She enrolled.
She was told to be thankful for something every morning.
One morning, I had gotten up early ... and I tried to do that, she said. I start praying, and I started forgiving people. I also started forgiving myself.
The two-month program, one of three occupational-skills training programs at Goodwill, taught her valuable skills she was able to put on her résumé, she said.
She also started volunteering with Habitat for Humanity to keep her head and her hands busy.
When she graduated from the training program in November 2010, she could type 70 words a minute and was also selected to speak on behalf of her class.
But her work with Goodwill didnt stop at graduation.
At the end of the class, I could not see myself coming back home to sit, she said, so she asked to volunteer, and they put her to work typing their training manuals and helping with the same class she had taken.
About a month after her graduation, a job opportunity came up with insurance and annuities company AXA-Equitable. She applied.
Within a week, they called me, she said. I interviewed, and I was hired.
Now, she works 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. in customer service. She said her schedule doesnt allow her time to volunteer right now, but its something she wants to get back into.
I try to pay it forward, she said. I decorated my apartment with stuff from Goodwill and Habitat.
The classes are funded by money from Goodwills donation-based thrift stores. Goodwill is a not-for-profit organization that provides job services for unemployed or underemployed workers, as well as for people with disabilities.
Alawi said her mothers trials brought them closer together as a family. She said theres no point in looking back.
I dont really think about that time, she said. Everyones good now.
Two of Obeids Goodwill instructors nominated her for the organizations highest award the Good Work! award, which is given to people who used services at Goodwill to succeed.
She had put in a lot of the work herself, said Lelia King, spokeswoman for Goodwill Industries of the Southern Piedmont. She just kept working and took it upon herself to go above and beyond what was expected.
Said Obeid: Its the first time Ive ever really won anything in my life.
Obeid said she still struggles with depression but said its not as overwhelming as when she was unemployed.
Its like that story where the man keeps praying, God, please let me win the lottery, please let me win the lottery. And then God responds, Go buy a ticket! she said. You have to participate.