When a visitor enters the donation services unit, it won’t take long to be greeted with a smile and a wave by the team members at work. The atmosphere is light, friendly and welcoming. That positivity is no doubt a reflection of the unit’s leadership. In fact, Donation Services Unit Manager Johnny Walker makes a point to begin and end each work day with a smile for his team.
Johnny’s positivity is made more admirable by the knowledge of the hardships he has overcome.
“Something I’m not proud of, but I’m not ashamed of at the same time, is to speak about my incarceration,” Johnny said. “But, you know, that up until this point hasn’t defined me.”
Johnny shared his story with the Abilene Reporter News when he was recognized as an Abilene “Everyday Hero” this year.
Johnny grew up in a small town in West Texas, where he was raised by his single mother who suffered from a heart attack when Johnny was a young boy. He worked from the age of 13 to provide for his family. That led him to leave high school early and pursue a general education diploma.
Unfortunately, it also led him into a rough crowd. Those circumstances eventually led him to an arrest and charge with burglary of a habitation. Johnny spent more than 16 years in prison for the offense.
“I looked at the Goodwill organization and the things that were inside of it as possibly a way to start over,” Johny said. “I knew that this was the place I needed to be - that I wanted to be.”Johnny started out as a production work at Goodwill West Texas. A short time later, he was made a lead. His next promotion was to assistant manager.
Then in 2021, Johnny was named manager of the donation services unit. “I have overcome adversity,” he said. “I know if I were to meet a man or woman who’s been through a similar situation, I can be a catalyst. If I can do it, if I can get my life back together, (they) can too.”
Thank you to the Abilene Reporter News for recognizing Johnny and contributing to this story.