For more than 15 years, Jack Windle was a dedicated employee in the warehouse industry. But as the economy worsened, Jack soon found himself unemployed. Jack is not only hard-of-hearing, he struggles with reading comprehension, understanding and spelling, which makes filling out job applications extremely difficult.
Soon after losing his job, Jack was homeless and started living in a shelter; however, he needed more than 10 hours of work a week in order to be eligible for subsidized housing. Even though Jack’s son offered for him to stay at his house while he got back on his feet, Jack declined because he didn’t want to be a burden. Despite his pride, Jack continued to face obstacles in his search for employment. The shelter Jack was staying at had a strict rule where everybody had a curfew of 6pm, limiting Jack’s employment options. For Jack, this became a vicious cycle as he struggled to maintain his independence while finding meaningful employment.
Just as he seemed to hit a dead end, Jack turned to MERS Goodwill for guidance. In August of 2013, Jack was referred to MERS Goodwill’s Job Placements services by Missouri’s Division of Vocational Rehabilitation, where he met Tom Lemon, a case manager for MERS Goodwill. Tom helped Jack fill out applications and find leads for jobs, initially looking for warehouse positions. Unfortunately, many of the open positions were second or third shift and didn’t work with Jack’s schedule. Tom then started looking into the restaurant industry because Jack liked to be on his feet and stay active.
“At first, we were running into much of the same problem where the restaurant positions were later shifts,” said Tom. “It would be easy for anyone in Jack’s position to start getting discouraged; however, he was relentless and never gave up.”
In between weekly meetings with Tom, Jack would ride his bike or take the bus around town to follow up on job leads. Instead of calling potential employers, Jack would make the effort to meet with them in person and fill out applications. Each time that Tom and Jack met, Jack would bring at least five business cards from people that he either talked with or picked up.
Then, in February of 2014, Tom approached Mark Winfield, co-owner of The Precinct, a neighborhood bar and grill in Downtown St. Louis that was near the shelter Jack stayed at. When Mark heard about Jack’s story, he asked Jack to come in and fill out an application and had an on-the-spot interview.
“Mark told me that he wanted to help me out and I started right away,” said Jack. “When I first started working, everyone accepted me and worked with me through my disability, teaching everything I needed to know in order to be a great worker.”
Jack has been working anywhere from 15 to 40 hours a week at The Precinct and is central to their team. He is now eligible for subsidized housing and even found an apartment close to his work so he can ride his bike. Mark, who co-owns The Precinct with St. Louis baseball legend, Jim Edmonds, wanted to help Jack out even more and recently surprised him with a shopping trip to furnish his new apartment. Mark and Jim bought Jack all new furniture, a TV and free cable for a year just in time for Jack to receive his own set of keys.
When Tom looks back at how much Jack has flourished, it still gives him goose bumps. “Some employers would have seen that Jack doesn’t hear or spell well, or doesn’t have a place to live, and decided it meant he wasn’t a good person or wouldn’t be a good employee,” said Tom. “Mark and Jim looked past Jack’s surface and what they got in return was an incredibly dedicated and hardworking addition to the team.”