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‘I can breathe’: Former Ontario Goodwill employee lands new job after stores close

Businesswoman gives former Goodwill worker new job and new lease on life
WATCH ABOVE: Former Goodwill worker Raphelia Debique could not pay rent when she lost her job after Goodwill shuttered its doors in January. Businesswoman Sheri-Anne Woolley, who started her own cleaning business Mona Home and Office Cleaning, saw the story and offered her a job. Tom Hayes has the story.

TORONTO — Raphelia Debique says she can “breathe” again after securing a job with a cleaning company weeks after learning she was one of more than 400 employees who lost their jobs when Goodwill Toronto closed its doors and declared bankruptcy.

“I’m doing good. My family is doing okay,” she told Global News. “I can breathe now because I have a job.”

After losing her job, Debique was in a desperate situation; she had run out of money — and would soon be out of a place to live.

The former Goodwill employee was scraping by on wages of $12 an hour when stores across the province were unexpectedly closed.

She needed her cheque so she could pay rent the following day, but Goodwill then announced it would not be able to pay out employees during their regular pay schedule.

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Debique’s story touched many people across the province, including the woman who would eventually become her new boss.

READ MORE: Goodwill closes Ontario stores citing ‘cash flow crisis’

“I saw her on Global News and I couldn’t believe that this was happening,” said Sheri-Anne Woolley, who runs her own eco-friendly cleaning business called Mona Home and Office Cleaning and added that she had been through a similar situation to Debique in the past.

“I had lost my job, but knew this could be a stepping stone to something better. And I saw the passion and the way she spoke — I thought, this is someone I can help.”

Woolley added that Debique is “doing fantastic” in her new role and is a welcome addition to her team.

READ MORE: Goodwill employees speak out after store closures across Ontario

“She’s a bubbly spirit. She’s in a much different place than when I met her and she’s a really dedicated employee, just as I thought she would be,” Woolley said.

“She’s very dedicated to the job and to the people of the company. And I couldn’t ask for a better employee.”

The former donations operation is currently in the hands of a liquidator but Debique now feels she can rest easy knowing that her future is a bit more certain.

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https://twitter.com/TomHayesNews/status/689123828094611456?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw

“I started [Employment Insurance], but I couldn’t wait. I had to find a job and I saw her email,” she said.

“I took about a week to respond because I wasn’t sure, but then I said, ‘I have no choice. Here’s somebody’s who’s giving me an opportunity.’ I’ve had other opportunities, but there’s something different about this one and I responded. And it’s a good thing I did.”

READ MORE: GTA Goodwill stores to stay closed as company seeks solution to cash-flow problems

Woolley then helped Debique with her back-rent, trained her as a cleaner and gave her a full time job. It’s hard work, but cleaning two to three homes a day means Debique can keep her own home.

“[My grandchildren] are the reason, I do everything for them now because I have no choice but to help to take care of them,” Debique said.

“But for now, this is what I have to do to take care of my family and pay the rent. I call it the survival. I have to survive. If I don’t survive I don’t know what else I’m going to do, or my family’s going to do.”

READ MORE: Goodwill employees speak out after store closures across Ontario

Debique said that after almost nine years of service at Goodwill, she said she will end up with less than $2,500 of the more than $10,000 owed to her.

Goodwill employees speak out after stores closed across the province on Jan. 20, 2016.
Goodwill employees speak out after stores closed across the province on Jan. 20, 2016. Doug Gamey/Global News

“The intention was never for me to get anything for anybody. What I asked for that day was for the company to tell the truth and pay us what we rightfully deserve,” she said, adding that she loves her new job and thanks viewers for their support.

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“I don’t know how you’re supposed to repay somebody who has done something like this for you, right? I don’t think I’m ever going to meet another employer like this. I don’t think I will. And this is an opportunity that nobody should pass on, and I couldn’t.”

With files from Nick Westoll and Madeline Campbell