Robert Smith has been an employee at RecycleForce for almost four years, and he might have been skeptical at first but simply coming to work every day helped to change his life.
Mr. Smith started at RecycleForce when he was on parole. “Mr. Keesling (RecycleForce President) offered me a job here and told me all I had to do was come to work and everything else would fall into place,” said Smith. “At that time, I had a full plate and couldn’t believe that this job was going to take care of everything, but he told me to keep coming to work.”
Mr. Smith came to work each day and started to see progress. There were several issues he needed to work through, including paying child support, getting a driver’s license and finding a place to live, and after being incarcerated for 12 years it seemed out of reach. “RecycleForce put trust in me when I didn’t trust myself. I had two choices: love myself or the streets, but I couldn’t do both. I got the street blocked out of my mind and continued with my job.”
After Mr. Smith got into the swing of things at RecycleForce, he started to tackle some of the issues he needed to resolve. First up was paying child support. “I never paid child support in my life. Mr. Keesling told me that part of my responsibility was to pay it and move forward. I started seeing the money come out my check, which was a little sting, but it helped me build a better relationship with my child’s mom.”
Next up on his list was getting a driver’s license. Mr. Smith spent time in the EARs (Employee Assistance Representatives) office studying to get his license, which he did. Once he had a license, it was time to find a place to live. Having a felony in his past, it was hard to pass a background check to find a place to live. Mr. Smith didn’t let that hold him back and found a house which he has lived in now for two years. “It’s rough when you have to start paying bills and rent, but that’s life. When I get up in the morning to go to work, I brush my teeth and look in the mirror and I’m confident because what I’m doing I’m doing for me.”
Mr. Smith’s confidence continued to build at RecycleForce as he was handed more responsibility. He soon became a team lead, motivating his coworkers around him. He played the role of team lead for approximately one year before he was asked to be a supervisor. “As a supervisor, you have a lot of responsibility and they trusted that I could do it. They told me it might be rough, we’re trying to recycle lives and some people don’t want to change. But they could see that as soon as I walked in that door I was changing. I’m always here; rainy days, snowy days, lights off…I’m going to be here. Because I look at this organization as a family. They believe that I set a good example for what this organization is trying to build. Each day is better than yesterday to me.”
“Working is therapy and it’s good for me, plus it pays my bills. When I go home from work I don’t have any problems. As human beings, we all make mistakes. Don’t judge anybody by what they’ve done in the past, look at what they’re doing in their future. Don’t ever shut anybody out. I’m a prime example of that. Over the past five years, I’ve changed my whole life around. I’ve voted the last two years in a row and I can’t wait to vote again this year. That’s how I’m fitting back in the community. I’m drug and crime free and not causing problems, I’m trying to be part of the solution.”