No Free Lunch: One Man's Journey from Welfare to the American Dream

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“Everyone who is successful, regardless of age, race, or ethnicity, at some point in their lives received an opportunity. Someone believed in them enough to give them a chance.” These are the words of Rodney Carroll, one of America’s most innovative minds and a leading architect of the welfare to work movement. They encapsulate his inspiring memoir, No Free Lunch, the story of a man who rose to the top–and returned to bring millions of people along with him.

Raised in an area both economically and emotionally depressed, Rodney and his siblings were forced onto welfare after Rodney’s alcoholic and abusive mother was declared unfit to raise her children. Though lured by gangs that aimed to “draft” him into their midst, he clung instead to his wise and loving grandmother and his innate desire to “make a difference.” A part-time job as a truck loader for UPS would change Rodney’s life forever–and eventually change the lives of others who were looking for a chance to work.

By improving the efficiency of others at UPS, Rodney was rewarded with promotions. By balancing his successes and setbacks, applauding others’ accomplishments, and disciplining not humiliating, he learned how to manage men and women, lead departments, and, at last, to lift up others who started out as humbly as he had.

Putting his own job on the line, Rodney created a program to employ welfare recipients at UPS–a plan that would become a model for others across the country. Initially derided by others as “those people,” these new workers responded to Rodney’s faith in them, and their new self-esteem led to new self-sufficiency.

Written with vigor and humor, No Free Lunch is a testament to one man’s tenacity and compassion, a sweeping story that starts in a slum and ends on a stage shared with President Clinton, a stirring book about one American’s fight for the independence of millions.

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No free lunch: one man's journey from welfare to the American dream

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Ghetto-born Carroll managed to parlay part-time work at UPS into a career, then helped launch the company's Welfare to Work project. Now he's CEO. Read full review


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About the author (2002)

Rodney Carroll is President and CEO of The Welfare to Work Partnership. He lives in Mitchellville, Maryland.

Gary Karton, a former Washington Post reporter, was the Director of Special Projects for the Welfare To Work Partnership. He now writes for the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation. He lives in Arlington, Virginia.

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