“I wanted something better for myself and my family, and that’s where Goodwill came in.”
If you visit the offices of Housing Opportunities Made Equal (HOME) you will be warmly greeted by Zuleyka Malave-Serrano. Talking to Zuleyka, you’d never know the struggles she has gone through to get to her new position as Receptionist and Fair Housing Investigator for HOME.
Living and working in her hometown in Florida, Zuleyka found herself in a domestic violence situation that “got worse”, forcing her to leave. She came to Buffalo with her four children to restart her life. Her first step was going to the Department of Social Services for public assistance. She was then referred to Goodwill for mandatory work activity through Goodwill’s Workfare program. From the moment Zuleyka came to Goodwill she had a wonderful attitude, friendly personality and knew what she wanted to achieve for herself and her children. She actually came in with a resume that caught the attention of the Workfare department’s Program Manager and soon Zuleyka was assisting with many of the department’s administrative tasks and gaining valuable work experience. Everyone noted her enthusiasm for learning new things and succeeding.
One thing that had eluded Zuleyka was getting her high school equivalency (formerly GED). She “took it in 2011, failed and gave up”. She began taking classes with an on-site instructor from Buffalo Public Schools Adult Education Division at Goodwill who was “awesome and patient” with her. Zuleyka says, “It took three tries but I didn’t give up. I got my GED!” All the while, the staff at Goodwill was “very involved”. They were Zuleyka’s “support system” giving her a “big boost in confidence.”
Zuleyka was now ready to find a job and worked with her job developer on leads. One of those leads was a position at HOME. Zuleyka seemed like the perfect fit for the job so she applied while still continuing to apply for other positions. One day she went to her job developer to check if there was any word on her application, and “not ten minutes later” she received a call to interview for the HOME position. That was on a Tuesday, and by Friday she landed the position!
Asked about her new job, Zuleyka will tell you, “Life is very different for me now. I’m learning a lot, including things I wish I would have known before about tenant rights and fair housing issues. My hours are perfect and I have more time for my family. It feels great knowing I have a job to come to.”Recently Goodwill invited representatives from HOME to conduct a workshop for clients and employees. It definitely was a beyond proud moment when Zuleyka walked through Goodwill’s doors as one of those representatives!