Success Stories – Bill Erben

In the early 80s, a dependency on marijuana, then methamphetamine, kicked off my tour of the county jail system. What started with minor infractions quickly advanced to assault and battery, possession of a controlled substance, and possession of a loaded gun. By 1987, I’d graduated to a new league, the federal system. I was convicted of aiding and abetting an unarmed bank robbery and sentenced to six years. When I was paroled to a federal halfway house in 1991, I decided there was only one thing I had not tried – to stay clean and sober and stay out of the system.

I looked for employment everywhere, filled out applications, went on job interviews, and tried to convince any employer that I’d served my time and was ready to be a new member of society. My search went on unsuccessfully for about four months, until someone told me about the Calidad Industries program. I applied to Calidad and, in October 1991, got a job as a grocery shelf stocker at the Alameda Naval Air Station. I finally had the opportunity to prove I had something to contribute.

I dedicated myself to the job, and in 1994, was promoted to a lead shelf stocker in charge of training. Three years later, an unexpected door opened when a manager at Goodwill Academy recruited me into the case management field. I was hired as Goodwill’s apprentice services coordinator and life skills instructor. In this role, I helped others as I had been helped years earlier.

That was the start of my career. I soon became Alameda County’s work experience program manager, offering welfare recipients the skills and knowledge necessary to earn a sustainable wage. Since then, I have been promoted several times and am now Goodwill’s director of employment and retention services. I also have 29 years of being clean and sober.

Along the way, I’ve been guided and mentored by many supervisors, VPs, and co-workers. I’ve also had the opportunity to be a mentor to my employees. I’m proud of the people we serve every day through Goodwill’s mission. I am happy where I am. I love my job.

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