Older workers are a growing part of the 21st century labor force, and they bring a wealth of knowledge, experience and maturity to the workplace. To celebrate their contributions, Goodwill of Central & Southern Indiana is observing National Employ Older Workers Week from September 24-28, 2018.
In the last five or so years, Ralph McClury has come full circle at Goodwill. Much has happened along the way, and his road was not easy. Ralph comes from humble beginnings, growing up in Kentucky with 17 siblings, working on the family farm and picking tobacco to make ends meet. He volunteered for the Air Force in 1973 after graduating high school, but chronic kidney issues led to an honorable discharge. Ralph then moved to Indianapolis and found employment as a security guard during the day and bused tables in a downtown restaurant at night. It was at this job that Ralph began a long and unhealthy relationship with alcohol. Though he lost those jobs, he managed to obtain employment as a maintenance man at his apartment complex for six years.
“I got fired six or seven times due to drinking, but they would always re-hire me due to my skills as a handyman,” Ralph said. “But one day, they let me go for good.”
Soon after, he lost his wife and kids as well. He continued a lifestyle of drinking and drug use for many years, moving back and forth between Indianapolis and Kentucky. In 1996, Ralph served 24 months in the penitentiary. He was released on parole in 1998, but soon fell to drugs and alcohol once again, living “on the run.” The law finally caught up with Ralph, and he was put on parole again, but this time, he finished parole and started to head down the right track.
He was living with his girlfriend in Tennessee at the time, working as a tobacco picker when he was the victim of a farming accident in which his foot was crushed by a 3,000-lb. wagon. Ralph was bedridden for almost a year, unable to work due to this injury. In 2005, Ralph and his then-girlfriend welcomed their daughter, Lakin. Before Lakin turned one year old, her mother was arrested and still remains in prison today. Ralph attempted to raise his baby girl as a single father, but as drinking and drugs came back into Ralph’s life, he lost custody. He knew it was time to take control of his life and get back on the right path. Being a veteran, he reached out to the Hoosier Veterans Assistance Foundation (HVAF) as well as Goodwill for help. Due to a criminal history and his disability, Ralph was having a very difficult time finding employment.