This is Maria’s story as relayed by our Outreach Employment Supervisor, Daren Strunk, one of SJW’s boots-on-the-ground during this time, working with clients and getting people back to work, no matter what their challenges may be!


Maria came to see St. Joseph the Worker in March stuggling to find employment. She had recently been released from a 16 year stint in the DOC for a violent crime. Maria was hoping to continue the type of work she had been doing inside the prison’s Second Chance program – running the office and administrative side of the program. She had a great resume, but what the state had decided she was qualified to do while locked inside, was not possible once she was released. That was crushing for her, but we worked on how to talk about her conviction, how to effectively interview, and how to answer the tough questions while always focusing on the assets she brings to the table. Of the many ways SJW was able to support Maria in her journey – resume assistance, job leads, interview coaching, clothing and bus passes – by far and away, the biggest factor in her eventual success was simply having someone believe in her while not sugarcoating how big a chasm she had to traverse.

Maria took my advice and applied for every job she came across and took every interview offered. She knew the other shoe was always ready to drop once they heard about her background, while often hearing what a great candidate she would be if she didn’t have a felony conviction.

She persisted and eventually interviewed with the store and district manager at a Mesa AutoZone and after a 2 hour conversation, they were willing to take a chance on her. 

Not only did she get a job as a store associate but she is hoping to be an assistant manager by the summer. Although she had to wait a full week for corporate to approve her background, she started at her new job April 6th. She even found an apartment in Mesa and has a place to call her own. Much like her employment search, that was no easy task given her background. The district manager at AutoZone even wrote a letter of recommendation to assist in her housing decision. Maria said, “God had a plan for me and while sometimes things looked bleek, I am working for a mulit-billion dollar company with tremendous growth potential. I could not have done it without the support of St. Joseph the Worker and Daren’s belief in me.”


Maria’s is a great story at any time, but to have this happen during the stress and strain of the COVID-19 pandemic makes it particularly special. If St. Joseph the Worker had not been open, Maria would not have ended up in her job at AutoZone looking at a positive future. Without Daren’s support giving her a much needed boost in her confidence, she might have gotten disheartened and turned to a different path. Maria is making her own success; but SJW was there to empower her to her higher potential, to help her belive in herself, to be honest with her, and to help her persevere to the end. This matters. What SJW does matters. And the fact that we are open during this uncertain and fraught time matters very much indeed.

Thank you for your support of our work and our mission. We persevere so those most in need can also persevere and overcome. From the bottom of our hearts, we thank you!