LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Next month we are teaming up with Goodwill to declare victory over violence.

We want to help people with a criminal background – felony or misdemeanor – in our Second Chance Re-entry Job & Resource Fair.

A local man knows what it means to get a second chance. He turned his life around thanks to an employer who wanted to make a difference.

The first call, or face-to-face greeting, is one of the most important jobs at the Wingate Hotel.

It was also one of the most important trials of Jimmy Howard’s life and a chance to prove himself.

“I come and work hard and show I really want this job and show my work ethics, show that I can do this work, then I got a job,” says the front desk representative.

Nearly half of his life was spent behind something other than a front desk.

“I started selling drugs. And got caught up in a federal investigation and received 20 years,” Jimmy explains.

He served 17-and-a-half years in prison. During that time, he poured his energy into books.

“I wanted to reeducate myself because I had lost my focus,” Jimmy continues.

Goodwill recruited him to be a part of its TEO (Transitional Employment Opportunity) Program, a 16-week job training course helping the formerly incarcerated.

Jimmy learned how to use a smartphone, computer and software programs. He graduated from the TEO Program and gave an inspiring speech. His new boss was there to see it all.

“Jimmy is… Pride and Joy,” says Phyllis Kloski, Wingate General Manager.

Two years later, Kloski says it took communication and trust to make this possible.

“I had a few times where I said did I make the right decisions. I just relied on Goodwill,” she adds. “We talked about my obstacles, we talked about my feelings, they talked about what we could do. And I did it, and it worked.”

“It was a great feeling you know. Knowing that someone thought I was deserving of a second chance,” says Jimmy.

An even better feeling is that people don’t look at him as a felon but as a front desk representative. It’s a title he proudly holds.

“People come down every day to my office and tell me, you’ve got a good employee there,” Kloski says.

Jimmy heard a lot of “no’s” during his job hunt. He encourages more employers to step up and say “yes.”

“Help him get out of the life of crime. Help him reinvent his life, in order to be a productive, pro-social person of society again,” he advises.

Jimmy is proof it can happen and you can be the difference.

We are asking employers to help others like Jimmy by being a part of the fair on Oct. 5.

To sign up (the deadline is Sept. 22), just call Rick Watson at Goodwill, (501) 580-3962.