Robert Kennedy is quoted saying, “Tragedy is a tool for the living to gain wisdom, not a guide by which to live.” For Willie Nesbitt, circumstantial hardships have been plentiful throughout his life. But through these tragedies and challenges, Nesbitt has persevered.
At only 17 years old, Nesbitt enlisted in the Army to follow his father’s footsteps. “My dad was a military man. We’re a military family, that’s how we do it,” he says. For 13 years, Nesbitt served in countries like Germany, South Korea and Vietnam. His primary roles included being a supply specialist, which put him in charge of gear inventory, and he was later a truck driver for the Army. His military experience also connected him to an unexpected passion: maintaining floors. As with all his fellow servicepeople, Nesbitt was on rotation as a floor technician, responsible for stripping, waxing and buffing floors in select Army facilities. To this day he loves the feeling of accomplishment that follows a freshly gleaming floor. Content as he was in the service, in 1980, Nesbitt experienced his first major hardship. “My mom passed away of cancer and that took away my drive,” he says.
Taking time to reset, Nesbitt withdrew from the Army and returned to civilian life. “Transitioning from military life to civilian life was difficult for me at first. But I settled down, went to school and got a job,” he says. Things were going well for a while. Nesbitt attended drafting school and landed a job in his chosen field of architecture. Then he faced yet another hardship. “My dad got sick. I had a good job, but resigned to take care of him,” he says. Turning to drugs and alcohol for healing, Nesbitt soon found himself in need of financial and emotional support.
In 2014, another tragedy happened when Nesbitt lost his sister. “I lost it. I lost everything, stopped paying bills and I lost the house,” he says. Near his wit’s end, Nesbitt connected with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) which ultimately connected him to Goodwill’s Northeast Plaza career center. Having previous experience as a floor technician in the Army made him a perfect fit for our facility services team.
In May of 2018, Nesbitt was hired as a floor technician for one of Goodwill Industries of North Georgia’s contract sites, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Clifton campus. A valued member of the team, Nesbitt takes exceptional care of the facility’s floors. “I love the compliments I get on my floors. [After I’ve worked on them], people won’t come down the hallway because they think it’s wet. I love that,” Nesbitt smiles.
In his life Nesbitt has experienced a great deal of defeat, but with help from Goodwill he has been able to right his course. “I’ve gone through a lot. Homelessness, drugs and alcohol, deaths in my family, all kinds of things. But I’ve learned how to become a productive citizen again,” he says.
Thankful for Goodwill’s support, Nesbitt has a newfound work family and a job that motivates him. “Goodwill has made me a better person. It’s changed me. I think all for the better, because I care about people more and I care about myself more,” he says. With passion and purpose reawakened in himself, Nesbitt is bringing all of this life experiences together to make an impact and keep moving forward.