Little-known 'mystery' program turns desperation into hope

TACOMA, Wash. - A single mom, homeless and unemployed, ended up connected with what some might think is an unlikely source for help. The free program is rebuilding lives - but few people know it exists.

Kristina Haynes and her son Anthony are happy now, but it was a different story a few years ago.

"I was really depressed. I was really angry and hurt," says Kristina.

After the break up of her marriage, Kristina and Anthony were homeless.

"Given the choice of living out of a van or a homeless shelter, I chose the homeless shelter," she says.

She now says it was the right choice for many reasons.

"I'll be honest and say if I hadn't gotten into the shelter, I probably would have committed suicide," Kristina says.

The shelter sent Kristina to financial classes at Goodwill

"Goodwill, I mean?" she says.

John Tye, director of Goodwill Education and Training, admits, "We're still one of the biggest mysteries in town."

Under Tye's direction - Goodwill Training programs teach people culinary, computers, custodial and other skills to help them find work.

"Most people who come to us are in some way desperate," he says. "Their networks, their resources have run out, and they really don't know where to turn."

Kristina chose warehousing - and graduated at the top of her class.

None of the students ever pay for the training.

"I would buy stuff from Goodwill. Never would I imagine that a few years later they'd be teaching me stuff," says Kristina.

She's now working full time - out of the shelter and in transitional housing.

"They gave us a future," she says.

In addition to training thousands of people of every year and helping them find work, Goodwill also employs a few thousand people in its stores. Their mission is turning lives around.

Goodwill has been around for 90 years. The organization pays for programs through its retail store sales - putting your donations to work. It also receives some grants and partners with hundreds of local businesses.