Rebuilding a Life After Crisis


After growing her career for 12 years at a local customer service call center, Jerlene Powell’s world was flipped upside down when the company was bought out and she was laid off along with the rest of the management team. Due to some transitional paperwork issues her unemployment benefits were denied and Powell was left with no job, little money and low spirits.

Unable to secure another job, life quickly spiraled out of control for Powell. Her power was turned off, she was evicted from her home and forced to leave most of her possessions behind with no money to move or store them. Facing homelessness for the first time in her life, Powell spent several months couch surfing between friends and family members. Eventually, Powell was forced to move in with her boyfriend and became entangled in a dangerous domestic violence situation.

Looking for a chance to escape, Powell reached out to local women’s shelters, but all the rooms were full, so her name was added to the waiting list.


One day she saw a flyer for a job fair at Goodwill. Desperate to rebuild her life, Powell set out to walk in 100-degree heat in the summer of 2019 to get to the Goodwill job fair. She arrived tired, hot, sweaty, and felt like she was a mess. She felt embarrassed and unsure of how to proceed. That’s when Powell met the Goodwill Career Advisors, Aundre Williamson-Gary and Karen Brown.

“It felt like they were just waiting for me to come and were ready to help. They welcomed me with no judgement, with patience, understanding and such positive attitudes,” said Powell.

At Goodwill, Powell was welcomed into a supportive environment and provided the employment support she urgently needed. Guidance on putting together a resume and cover letter, as well as a USB drive to store her application documents, was a huge step in her journey back to independence.

Powell had very few clothes, and even fewer professional clothes for job hunting. Goodwill provided her with clothing and shoes from the joint Goodwill and Women United Clothing Closet. Career Advisors helped build Powell’s confidence and prepared her to apply for new jobs.


Jerlene Powell in her new home, November 2020

Jerlene attended several job fairs over the next few weeks before being hired by AmeriCare Plus at a Goodwill career event in July 2019, where she still works today.

AmeriCare Plus is a personal care agency providing in-home personal care and live-in companion services to senior citizens throughout Virginia. Powell received valuable training and was able to translate her customer service background and her desire to help others into her new position as a Personal Caregiver. Powell loves her new job and feels like she is making a difference by helping others. She works all over Virginia in her position as a live-in companion.

After securing the stability of full-time employment, a room became available for Powell with one of the local domestic violence shelters she had been waiting for. She was finally safe and employed. Unfortunately, shortly after she arrived the women’s shelter flooded, and Powell had to move once again to an extended stay hotel.

Finally, in June 2020, Powell once again had a home to call her own, complete with a washer and dryer! Thriving and excited for what the future holds, Powell feels stronger than ever. She credits Goodwill and Transitions Family Violence Services for helping her regain her independence.

“When doors close in your face and people tell you no, don’t get mad, frustrated, or upset because NO stands for Next Opportunity,” said Jerlene Powell.

Give now to help a job-seeker in crisis, and help make it possible for someone in your community to rebuild their life through the power of work!   

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