Program gives veterans second chance

NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) -- Goodwill is a retail store and place for donations, but it is also a business that changes lives. Recently a Forbes article pegged Goodwill Industries as 2013's social enterprise.

Veterans like Bernard Weiters can understand why.

"Goodwill brought out something in me that I didn't know that I had," he said.

When you see his smile and eyes full of life, it is hard to imagine Weiters' former life.

"No hope. No self pride. I just lost everything," he said.

The 61-year-old says he left the military in 1979, but making the transition to civilian life was hard.

"Life was going fine. Then I had a downfall with an addiction of alcohol," he said.

From there, his life spiraled out of control. He was jobless and homeless.

Weiters realized he needed to turn his life around. While at the Veterans Hospital in Charleston, they connected him with Goodwill.

"I said Goodwill? I said that's a clothing store. I had been about every place in Charleston, unemployment office job seminars, and there was nothing," he said.

Now he says Goodwill is his saving grace.

A program called Operation Independence helps veterans train for job and search for employment, as well as helps them receive housing assistance.

The program began in 2004 when Goodwill was awarded a Department of Labor Homeless Veterans Reintegration Program grant. When the funding ended in 2009, Goodwill committed to continue to fund the program.

Weiters worked for Goodwill but has been working a maintenance technician in Johns Island for the past couple of years.

"It gave me my pride back. It gave me respect back and opportunities," he said.

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