Goodwill helps local man go from robbing banks to managing assembly lines

Jay Wade now oversees assembly lines after serving time in prison. // WSBT 22 photo

A local man has gone from robbing banks to being a manager at Lippert Components, and he is sharing his story. Jay Wade credits hard work and Goodwill Industries for his success.

It takes dozens of people along the line at Lippert Components to churn out more than 2,000 awning parts a shift. Jay Wade is in charge of them.

"These are my people," says Wade as he overlooks the two assembly lines, "great guys."

Wade wasn't always in charge though, even of his own life.

"Being in prison, you just think about getting out, getting a job and staying out. That is all you think about it," says Wade.

He now considers himself a success.

"I would like to think so," says Wade.

But, early in his teens, it wasn't this kind of success he was looking for.

"I was constantly in trouble with my parents, skipping school, stealing until I got 17. Then it turned into more adult crimes, like robbery, selling drugs, shooting," says Wade.

It was an armed bank robbery that eventually sent him to prison.

"We parked. I got out, put my mask on, and went in the bank waving the gun and told everyone, 'This is stick up. Give me all 20s, 50s, and 100s,' and went out," says Wade. "It turned into a shooting when an innocent individual called the police and was following me. I turned around and just started shooting at him to get him away from me. I didn't hit him, thank God. I didn't hit him."

Wade went to prison for 10 years. When he got out he stayed clear of crime for a little while. He eventually went back to robbing banks and then more prison time.

"It was rough in the 90s," Wade says. He was incarcerated at the Pendleton Correctional Facility. "I saw it all right next to me. I was scared to death," says Wade.

After getting out in 2011, he got a job with Goodwill Industries. Wade says the organization taught him how to be successful in the real world and gave him the confidence to succeed.

"I cant stop praising them enough for helping me get through the doors," says Wade.

Wade was in the Second Chance Program at Goodwill. It helps people out of prison get back into the work force. The organization offers several programs that help those in need tackle the barriers that keep them from being employed. Last year, the organization helped 900 people get back into the employment game.

For Wade, the connections and reputation he built at Goodwill eventually led him to Lippert. Now he is giving back by setting an example for everyone else.

"It is amazing to me to finally have people tell me they are proud of me," says Wade. "I know I have let so many people down: my parents, my wife, my kids -- I have let them down in the past, but now I am righting my wrong."

Wade is now a part of South Bend's Group Violence Intervention program -- which aims to stop gun violence by talking with the area's highest risk people.

He shares his story and talks about what prison was like. And, he got involved in that program through Goodwill.

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