There was a time when Linda used three computers on a regular basis. She served as a regional training manager for major retail businesses, where she worked long hours and was fully committed to her job. “I was a workaholic,” she said.
In 2004, Linda suffered from a stroke. In addition to new physical limitations, the computers she once used no longer made sense; she couldn’t process the information she was seeing and couldn’t translate her thoughts and intentions into actions on the computer. “There were neurons that were just not firing,” she said.
She couldn’t return to work, and Linda waited for years before applying for disability benefits; she kept hoping that she could fully recover and support herself. “Acceptance was the hardest part,” she says. “I had worked since I was 14. When I had the stroke, it was like an epiphany of ‘what am I going to do now?’”
That’s when she decided to become an advocate for people with mental health and medical issues. She realized she was capable of helping individuals fill out paperwork, taking them to the hospital, sitting with them in difficult situations and making food to share. She has been a resource for dozens of people in her community, at times working with up to 25 individuals in a month. Since she has been unable to use a computer, she has been filling out paperwork by hand, a time-consuming and frustrating process.
Linda enrolled in Goodwill’s computer training program so she could re-train her brain to use computers. The program is self-paced, which gives Linda the opportunity to take the time she needs to relearn the Windows operating system and programs such as Microsoft Word, Excel, Powerpoint and Quickbooks.
“What I desire to be able to be more successful at the advocacy avenue of my life and to, hopefully, get a job where I can still have the advocacy path,” Linda said. “If it was not through this program though Goodwill, I would have no hope of being able to supplement my income in any way.”
Though she has a lot of work to do before she graduates from Goodwill’s computer training program, she feels that she is on the right path.
“Even the most broken have value, and I see that as one of the tremendous goods that Goodwill does; they have a heart for the disabled and they have a heart for people who have limitations.”
Goodwill’s SPACE (Self-Paced Applications in the Computer Environment) program is free for SNAP benefits recipients and others who qualify for similar assistance programs. Learn more about the program here, or by calling 865.588.8567.