Donald Jenkins, warehouse supervisor for Advance Memphis and owner of Jenkins Lawn Care and Tree Removal Service, shares the story of how he moved forward from a negative life of addiction and homelessness to being in a place where he can help others.

Advance Memphis was formed in 1999 to bring about economic revitalization through empowering local adults in a zip code with 70% unemployment. Its six-week “Work Life” program works to help adults recognize their value and take their place in the workforce, instilling knowledge and skills in an environment of relational support. Volunteer mentors lead small group discussions and provide a support network that continues after graduation from the program. Donald helps lead some of the small groups and tell us that he loves being able to help somebody else and tell them “you can do it. You can make it.” There are also several “stepping stone” programs to help participants advance including matched savings, GED prep, and addiction recovery.

Donald, a graduate of the Work Life program in 2010, also completed LAUNCH, Advance’s 10-week program in which hopeful entrepreneurs learn the basics of starting their own businesses. Through his participation in the matched savings program and hard work in the warehouse, Donald was able to save enough money to buy a truck and the equipment he needed to start his lawn care service. He hopes to use the business to take care of not only himself and his family but his neighbors as well. He plans to employ young people and ex-offenders and to mentor and motivate them.

Donald tells us he is striving to do his best and stay on a positive path despite things from his past that try to pull him back. He says he did bad things and hurt a lot of people in his past and now he wants to help a lot of people. He ends with words of encouragement and hope for others, “You can leave the old…negative life that you used to have behind. And you can go forward with a positive life and you can make a difference in this world by helping other people.” Thank you, Donald, for inspiring us and helping others; you truly are making a difference in this world.