Meet Stephen Wallace

Stephen Wallace came to Georgia with only $50 to his name. He had little money, no family and no plans in the state, but his military service was up and he wanted to go where the weather was warm.

A navy veteran, Wallace served two years on a ship near Yokosuka, Japan and supported the American efforts during the Gulf War. Having grown up in a tough neighborhood in Saint Louis, he thought military service was his one-way ticket to success. What he never considered was what he would do when his service ended. “I was considered a troubled teen growing up,” Wallace says. “And to be honest, when I was asked where I saw myself in five years at that age I never thought I’d be alive that long.”

Returning home from the military was bitter-sweet for Wallace. Though he was out of the navy, his plans did not shape up as he hoped. He tried his hand at a few start-up businesses, but poor business decisions caused him to close down and start over every time. “I bounced around a lot when I came back to the states,” he says. Wallace headed south to Georgia. He visited the Georgia Department of Labor to update his résumé and check for job listings in the area. While he was there a representative referred him to Goodwill of North Georgia.

In his time in Goodwill’s First Choice:Veterans training program, Wallace’s workplace skills were assessed as he worked every job imaginable at the nonprofit’s Smyrna store. During breaks in the workday he would head to the adjoining career center to apply for jobs. When two positions became available – a part-time job as a sales specialist at O’Reilly Auto Parts and a full-time position as a security officer at Allied Barton – Wallace accepted them both. “I like to stay busy and I needed the money,” he says.

Much of Wallace’s workplace success he can attribute to skills and traits he honed while serving in the military. Well adept in time management, following directions, paying attention to detail and working as a team player, Wallace had the attributes to embark on his career. A tough economic climate made it challenging to land a job immediately, though. With Goodwill’s help, Wallace was able to put everything together and demonstrate his drive and ability to work hard.