Russel Shirer has a steady, enjoyable job at MidState Tooling, a machine shop in Manning, SC but this wasn’t always the case. Growing up in a rural southern town, Russell spent his childhood outdoors hunting, fishing and enjoying the family’s land. After graduating high school, he attended Central Carolina Technical College in Sumter, SC but he was anxious to work and didn’t complete his degree.
Over the next few years, Russel worked several different jobs. Although he had a variety of skills, challenges along the way made keeping a job difficult. In May 2011, he was referred to Goodwill and hired as a mail clerk at the Shaw Air Force Base Official Mail Center through Goodwill’s partnership with SourceAmerica, which is a part of the AbilityOne program.
While working in the mail room, Russell lost his best friends, his father and grandfather in a short period of time. During this difficult time in his life he became less focused and motivated. However, unlike previous places of employment, his supervisor John Braxton, WFD Specialist Melissa Simmons and fellow workers were understanding and supportive. “I don’t like to ask for help but once I finally bit the bullet and did, everyone was kind and supportive and that was something I was just not used to,” Russell explained.
Goodwill helped me become the person I am today. I wouldn’t be able to work in the job I have now if I didn’t have the skills I learned while I worked there.
As he struggled to cope with his personal challenges, Goodwill supported him and made sure he had the assistance he needed to be successful. His employment specialist Melissa Simmons describes Russell as determined. “He did everything he possibly could to make sure that he succeeded despite any setbacks he faced,” she said. Taking on extra responsibilities at work, Russell built a level of respect and trust with co-workers, customers and military personnel. He worked in the mail room for four and a half years –the longest he has held any job to date.
Taking a new job was a difficult decision but Russell says the skills he learned during his time with Goodwill were essential in making the transition. “Goodwill helped me become the person I am today,” he said. “I wouldn’t be able to work in the job I have now if I didn’t have the skills I learned while I worked there.”
Russell has been with MidState Tooling since September 2015. He enjoys the atmosphere and the ability to learn new skills, helping out with whatever the company needs from hauling equipment to welding projects. He calls himself a “Jack of All Trades.” Most important, Russell is happy with his accomplishments. “I’ve got my own land, my own truck, and thanks to Goodwill, a sense of security and the ability and skills to take me forward so I think I’m doing alright,” he said.