A turn for the better

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Dana Wideman-Howard has turned away from her former life of drugs. She served almost 11 years in prison and now helps people find jobs at Goodwill's Job Connection in Augusta, where she won the Achiever of the Year award.  Kendrick Brinson/Staff
Kendrick Brinson/Staff
Dana Wideman-Howard has turned away from her former life of drugs. She served almost 11 years in prison and now helps people find jobs at Goodwill's Job Connection in Augusta, where she won the Achiever of the Year award.

At 17, Dana Wideman-Howard was pregnant with her first of four sons.


Today, at 36, Mrs. Wideman-Howard is a newlywed and holds down a 9-to-5 office job with Goodwill Industries.


It's the years in between, she says, that really tell her story, including 11 spent behind bars at maximum-security Leath Correctional Institution in Greenwood, S.C.


Things are different now.


In fact, Mrs. Wideman-Howard was recently honored with the Achiever of the Year employee award at Goodwill Industries' Job Connection on Peach Orchard Road, where she works as a job coach.


It's a role she accepts because it provides a chance to share her background while inspiring her clients, who include mentally and physically challenged individuals.


She said she still recalls the day she was released from prison and the challenges she faced. The adjustments to regular life were mind-boggling, she said.


Mrs. Wideman-Howard was incarcerated from May 24, 1994, to April 1,


2005.


"When I got out, it was hard. Everything had changed. The cell phone? I thought it was a calculator. I couldn't even hold it. Now I have two of them," she laughs.


"My nephew told me about the Super Wal-Mart, a place where they had groceries and clothes under the same roof. That was amazing to me," she said.


"Now, I don't drink. No drugs. I've been clean for 13 years," she said.


After first using marijuana as a 14-year-old, she eventually started using harder drugs , she said.


Mrs. Wideman-Howard is also frank when it comes to explaining how she became addicted to crack cocaine and her eventual road to incarceration.


"I was on drugs. I couldn't sit still and was negligent toward my children."


Her negligence turned into a felony charge after her third son, Dezman, died of blunt trauma to the head while under her care.


"They charged me with homicide by child abuse and said I medically neglected to take him to the hospital. I was the mother, so it was something I've had to deal with. I now use those experiences to save other lives," she said.


While she was in prison, Mrs. Wideman-Howard's three living sons were put up for adoption. After returning from prison, she said her biggest fear was that her sons would have ill feelings toward her.


"My children still love and respect me," she said of sons Carlton, 19, Cody, 18, and Denzel, 16.


After leaving prison, another major obstacle she faced was finding and keeping a job .


Her background as a felon did not sit well with potential employers, she said .


Her fortunes changed when a friend referred her to Job Connection at Goodwill's Peach Orchard site, where she landed a minimum-wage job.


"I started out as a receptionist making $5.25 an hour," she said.


After six months of training, Goodwill administrators noticed her commitment and perfect attendance.


"Goodwill gave me a chance when no one else would," she said.


Meredith Vasquez, an area Goodwill administrator, said she knew upon meeting Mrs. Howard that she deserved a second chance .


"She told me God sent her, and her can-do attitude was so special," Ms. Vasquez said. "She's one of the finest job coaches we've ever had at Goodwill."


Jim Stiff, a chief executive officer and president of Goodwill's central Georgia and CSRA regions, said Mrs. Wideman-Howard's Achiever of the Year award is recognized by 166 Goodwill branches nationwide.


"Dana inspires us all with her courage and her triumph over darkness. She's a leading light at Goodwill," he said.

Reach Timothy Cox at (706) 823-3217 or tim.cox@augustachronicle.com.

DANA WIDEMAN-HOWARD


Age: 36


Occupation: Job coach, Goodwill Industries


Background: Former crack addict and prison inmate, now high achiever and top Goodwill employee.


Family: Husband, Tony ; three sons.


Church: Macedonia Baptist Church

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butterflygina
172
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butterflygina 12/13/07 - 04:29 am
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Dana I am so proud of you!

Dana I am so proud of you! You are an inspiration to us all and we love you all.

cricketflea
3
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cricketflea 12/13/07 - 06:47 am
0
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It is fantastic to see a GOOD

It is fantastic to see a GOOD story---a turnaround story--- for a change. I am proud of you, Dana, and I don't even know you....bless you!!! Keep up the wonderful work!!! I am sure you have touched many lives!!!

worriedboutdafuture
5
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worriedboutdafuture 12/13/07 - 08:08 am
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Mrs Dana, YOU ARE A TRUE

Mrs Dana, YOU ARE A TRUE INSPIRATION!!! May god Bless you and your family! YOUR story proves that god is real and he does give SECOND Chances !!! God has blessed you Continue to share your story with others and watch the transformation in them through you! MAD LOVE !!! Worrried bout da future!! (With People like you in this World Our Future has a chance to be much brighter!!)

Fort GordonGA
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Fort GordonGA 12/13/07 - 08:42 am
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oh, what a mighty god we

oh, what a mighty god we serve. dana, i don't even know you but your story let me know that god is real. please keep telling your story and continue to let god use you. i am so proud of you. god bless. amcd

devharris46
0
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devharris46 12/13/07 - 09:15 am
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Dana, What a blessing!!!

Dana, What a blessing!!! This is what we seek everyday in the kids we meet - CHANGE in their lives!! GOD BLESS YOU. GOD IS STILL ON THE THRONE!!!

Just Sassy
0
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Just Sassy 12/13/07 - 09:47 am
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You can do all things through

You can do all things through Christ who strengthens you.
Glory to GOD for the things he has done. Continue to humble yourself and let god's work be noticed. Blessings to you and your family. Merry Christmas and a prosperous New Year. :)

twilahzone
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twilahzone 12/13/07 - 09:53 am
0
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Dana, I am reading your story

Dana, I am reading your story with tears in my eyes. I was feeling sorry for myself because I am at a point in my life right now. . finding a career--not just a job.. . and I know that I have outgrown this area career or job wise--PERIOD. And here is your story---with much hardship than I could EVER imagine--and you shined in the end. You have made my day.

lfjohnson
0
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lfjohnson 12/13/07 - 09:54 am
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Congrats on your blessings

Congrats on your blessings God says,"through Christ all things are possible". Love ya, LaTasha Johnson

3572
0
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3572 12/13/07 - 10:17 am
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Dana i dont know you but you

Dana i dont know you but you are alright with me. God Bless

SunDown
2
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SunDown 12/13/07 - 10:18 am
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Stories like this one amaze

Stories like this one amaze me. You just never know what will transpire. It's wonderful to see someone pull themselves out of the gutter, turn their lives around, and start contributing. It's almost like a "switch" flips in their head and they begin to shun what they once embraced. Years ago I had a very close friend that was a fall down drunk. He was in the military for a while and got out so he would have more time to drink! Eventually we thought he had damaged his brain with alcohol, and we just all sort of gave up hope on him. He ended up in Regional for a while after a suicide attempt. One day I called his wife and asked about him and she said she had literally kicked him to the curb. He begged to come back but she wouldn't have him. Finally she allowed him to sleep in the yard but only for one night. One night turned into two nights, and then three nights... for each day he did not drink he could sleep in the yard for one night. Eventually his "switch" apparently flipped and now he is one of the most amazing, trustworthy, productive individuals I know. This story just reminds me of my friends amazing transformation. Good luck Dana!!!!!

marien
29
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marien 12/13/07 - 11:00 am
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Dana this is a great story I

Dana this is a great story I wish nothing but the best for you.

treynolds
0
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treynolds 12/13/07 - 11:18 am
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Your story is a true

Your story is a true inspriation and keep up the great work you do, many people deserve second chances to prove themselves!

asmithgs
0
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asmithgs 12/13/07 - 11:58 am
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Dana, you and I shared a

Dana, you and I shared a laugh in Jazzy's one evening and I did not realize what trials and tribulations you had gone through. You are one of the most humblest people I have ever met. Keep up the EXCELLENT work and keep climbing that ladder of success! You are a true inspiration and I pray the Lord keeps blessing you and your family. Just believe and receive it...God will perform it!!!

washingtoncathi
0
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washingtoncathi 12/13/07 - 12:45 pm
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Dana, may GOD continue to

Dana, may GOD continue to Bless you and your family. I wish you the best of luck!!!!! GOD had a plan for your life sometimes he will put you in a place to really find him and you did that . GOD will never leave us or forsake us all we have to do is turn our life over to him and let him do the rest. GOD has a way of placing "ANGELS" in our paths yours(Meredith Vasquez ) GOD is good all the time!!!!!!!!!!!!

Great
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Great 12/13/07 - 12:58 pm
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I am Proud of you Dana. This

I am Proud of you Dana. This was a geat story!!!!!God Bless!!...

whyme
2783
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whyme 12/13/07 - 01:26 pm
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If this woman had not turned

If this woman had not turned her life around and her story ended at the child neglect/felony portion, people on this site would be writing in with all sorts of negative and hateful comments. God bless this woman whose story did not end at that point but instead became an inspiration. Hopefully people on this site will pray for similar turning points for other newsmakers who appear to be unworthy of another chance.

t2007
0
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t2007 12/13/07 - 01:28 pm
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Way to go Dana. Keep it

Way to go Dana. Keep it moving girl. You can do anything through Christ. When one door close, I believe that is GOD's way of leading us to the right one. Good Luck and gather your strength for GOD. I couldn't agree with you more whyme because many don't get a second chance. Praise GOD for it.

Angiebee06
0
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Angiebee06 12/13/07 - 02:34 pm
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Dana, continue to allow God

Dana, continue to allow God you use you! This story is for all those people out there who thought they couldn't...but what God has for you, it is for you! Stay encouraged, God has so much more instored for you! Be Blessed!

As It Is
2
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As It Is 12/13/07 - 04:10 pm
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Dana - Way to go. How great

Dana - Way to go. How great it is that you took your tragedies and not only helped yourslef but are now helping others. What can we do to really reach 13 an 14 year olds to keep them off of drugs? What else can parents do? What else can schools do? What else can society do? There is NO WAY we will prevent drugs from getting into their possession if they want them so we MUST begin NOW to come up with alternatives. Most "Dealers" are simply friends who give drugs to other friends since often, they wouldn't go to a true "Dealer". So, again, what else can we do and how do we get this implemented within our schools. At the very least, those who are caught using drugs in Middle or High School need mandatory drug testing through the remainder of their school years to assit in keeping them drug free. Maybe if we can keep them off drugs int he experimental years, through college, they would have no desire to ever try or start. Either way, we must take new approaches in addition to trying to stop the flow of drugs into our country and local areas. Great Article and again proves that ANYONE can do ANYTHING in the USA without government give-away programs.

perlik38
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perlik38 12/13/07 - 05:30 pm
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Truly Inspiring....God Bless

Truly Inspiring....God Bless

james23
0
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james23 12/13/07 - 05:32 pm
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hey auntie i didnt even know

hey auntie i didnt even know until my sister told me that they read the article in class. then i saw the paper and there it was.im glad u are letting people know wat god can do.hopefully it will inspire others. well see u when i come over.. love u.

MAnd130630
0
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MAnd130630 12/13/07 - 07:40 pm
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Everything happens for a

Everything happens for a reason. GOD will not put more on your shoulders than he thinks that you can handle. Remember the past but don't look back.

dee4
0
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dee4 12/13/07 - 11:28 pm
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Dana, To God Be The Glory and

Dana, To God Be The Glory and may you continue to be Blessed, because for one sure thing, God is still in the Blessing business. My story is "somewhat" similiar to yours and all I can say is WHAT A MIGHTY GOD WE SERVE, HE'S EVERY BIT OF AN AWESOME GOD. Your sister in Christ.

sunkeye
3
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sunkeye 12/14/07 - 01:52 am
0
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Dana I remember you as a

Dana I remember you as a child of about 12-13 when you were good friends with my cousin M. I would visit them and you would come over laughing and being silly typical teen behavior. I heard of the troubles you had with drugs and eventually being incarcerated. I have to say reading your story made me so happy. Unfortunately a tragedy had to occur for your true light to shine. Continue to shine and May God continue to bless you.

TUCO
0
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TUCO 12/14/07 - 05:20 am
0
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mrs dana god moves in ways

mrs dana god moves in ways unseen to man. u r a living proof of that. i dont know u but there's a reason behind your living. please dont be afraid, keep living it.
and most of all dont b ashamed, let it b known so others can recieve the blessings. p.s. we r watching u just like god... love u n family...

valleygirl73
0
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valleygirl73 12/14/07 - 11:07 am
0
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This story brought tears to

This story brought tears to my eyes. It also brought gladness to my heart. Keep on doing that which is good, praiseworthy, and right!

skippy824
0
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skippy824 12/17/07 - 02:33 pm
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Dana, I have known you and

Dana, I have known you and your family all my life you are such an inspiration to me my momma told me about the article and I couldnt wait to read it I have heard such inspiring things about you since youve been home . When my days get dark I think about you and all that you have overcome and I know with Gods help my days will stay sunny and bright Thank you for sharing your story. Again you are such and inspiration I look forward to being blessed by your presence.

a crazy old man
38
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a crazy old man 12/19/07 - 07:37 pm
0
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David Copperfield Monday,

David Copperfield
Monday, January 28, 2008 at 5:30 PM at Bell Auditorium in Augusta, GA

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