DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – Michelle Wheeler of Dallas loves the idea of building things– and fixing what’s broken: and that includes her life.
“I was going through a really hard time,” shares Wheeler. “I left an abusive situation. I was homeless for a while… and so, I was living in a way I had never lived before. And I didn’t recognize myself anymore… life had to change.”
So, when the United Way approached her about getting involved in their Women in the Workforce program, it was just the nudge she needed.
“The people in this program really stood beside me and helped to guide me,” says Wheeler.
The goal of the workforce development program is to provide wraparound support to help move clients from jobs to livable wage careers.
And one of the eight career pathways puts “Women in Construction.”
When Ashley Douglas, Senior Director of United Way’s Southern Dallas Thrives Initiative, was asked “why construction,” her response came quick:
“Why not women in construction,” she responds with an enthusiastic laugh. “It’s really a holistic approach in terms of how we’re able to provide impact and work directly with residents to meet their ‘right now’, give them all of the necessities that they need from basic needs resources like transportation, or access to food, even assistance with childcare, to be able to allow them to focus on curriculum.”
Wheeler, now an HVAC technician with TD Industries, was a part of the first group of graduates completing training earlier this year.
“The job training was just part of it,” explains Wheeler. “I came into this with no family, no support, it was really difficult for me to start making those relationships again.”
But she’s learned to trust and is loving her new job and life. That progress is what makes Douglas smile.
“It’s just amazing to see,” says Douglas. “You literally see a life shift, and that is what we are here to do.”
The training is free for participants and the next class begins in January.
As for Wheeler, she can’t wait to see what she can build, on a healthier foundation.
“Is this really happening ya know?” exclaims Wheeler with a laugh. “I’m starting to feel like myself again… and I like it.”
Story by Robbie Owens for NBC DFW