In 2014, Robert Thrower bought a bus ticket and boarded a bus in Greenville bound for Columbia. He was ready to change his life. It may be hard to imagine but Robert was heading into uncharted territory…at 56 years old he had only been to Columbia once before, when he attended a football game.
For 24 years, Robert had struggled to keep a job and was faced with alcohol and drug addiction. He knew he needed to get away from the “people, places and things” that were influencing his life. So, he decided to uproot himself and find a path to recovery through Oxford House. With more than 1300 houses around the country, each Oxford House is a place where 6 to 15 residents live and work together to become comfortable in sobriety and to function as productive, clean and sober citizens. Robert chose Columbia for his new home after talking to Ben Jackson, Chapter President of Oxford’s Midlands Chapter 2.
When Robert arrived at Oxford House he was interviewed and accepted into the program. And the very next day he headed to Goodwill’s Job Connections Center at 2744 Decker Road, which was literally in walking distance. As a resident of Oxford House he needed a job, and he knew that Goodwill Industries of Upstate/Midlands South Carolina could help.
The first person he met when he walked through the doors of Job Connections was Marett Bishop, the CDS Team Lead. Over the next 2 weeks the two of them worked together to overcome the many barriers that were preventing Robert from securing a job. Not the least of which was Robert’s lack of familiarity with Columbia and the fact that he had no transportation. He was determined to walk to work or find a job along a bus route.
One of the things that Marett remembers most vividly was Robert’s dedication to the search. She shared, “He was always waiting when we opened our doors at 9:00 am and 1:00 pm. And on the first day, he brought me a local transit system map. Robert knew he was going to have to learn the area and figure out where potential employers were located.”
At Goodwill, Robert worked on his computer skills, set up an email address, built a resume and learned how to navigate websites to find jobs that were a good fit for him. He applied for dozens of jobs while raking leaves to keep afloat. “I raked A LOT of leaves during that time,” chuckled Robert. Finally, his prayers were answered and the Home Depot on Two Notch Road offered him a job. He now works in the electrical department, and has been crossed trained in several other areas. “My goal is to become a full-time associate when a position comes open.”
If you have ever heard the expression “walk a mile in his shoes,” Robert is the poster child. When Home Depot first hired him it took him 45 minutes to walk to and from work. Now, rain or shine, his trip is only 10 minutes since the Cycle Center in Five Points generously gave him a bike. And while he loves his bike, Robert said, “I am looking forward to the day when I will have four wheels rather than two wheels under my feet!”
Robert is quick to thank Goodwill Industries of Midlands/Upstate South Carolina for the support they provided to him.
He said, “You know, this wonderful organization helped more than 10,000 people find jobs last year! Folks just don’t realize that by donating clothes and household items to one of their centers you are literally helping thousands of real people just like me get back on our feet.”
Robert is a true inspiration to others and in mid-December he celebrated one year of sobriety. Robert, we are so proud of you!
For more information about Goodwill Industries of Midlands/Upstate South Carolina, please visit www.GoodwillSC.org or call 803.509.6053.
Photos by Kimberly Campbell