LIFT Annual Report 2013: Building Strong Foundations - Page 10

Gary’s STORY Lighting the Way to the Future Gary Johnson describes the South Philadelphia neighborhood where he grew up as a “negative environment,” but a smile appears when he recalls trash day. “I was eight years old,” he says. “Before the garbage truck came, I’d go looking for broken TVs and radios on the sidewalk. I’d bring them home and take them apart.” After decades of bad decisions and bad luck, Gary realized he needed a LIFT. The odds were stacked against him, and not just because of Philadelphia’s record unemployment levels. The day after he was released from prison, he visited his assigned employment agency but quickly grew frustrated. “They didn’t know how to help me,” he recalls. “They knew how to help people who already had career paths. I dropped out of high school a year before graduation.” Then he tried LIFT. “Before LIFT,” he summarizes, “getting a job was like looking for a needle in a haystack—at night. LIFT was my flashlight.” LIFT program development associate Anisha Sinha asked him about his life and goals, and he began visiting LIFT’s offices every day to write a resume and cover letters, to submit job applications, and to build his job readiness skills. “I didn’t know how to talk in interviews,” Gary admits, “but Anisha forced me to articulate my story and my objectives. It helped me prepare for the real thing.” Twenty job interviews later, an area hotel wanted to hire Gary as a part-time dishwasher. They requested a character letter, and Anisha readily wrote a glowing recommendation. “He was diligent about coming to LIFT and