Skip to content

Barriers to Job Success: Criminal Backgrounds

November 19, 2014

job appFor many job hunters with criminal backgrounds, getting a second chance isn’t easy. The Los Angeles Times reports that felons, even those with degrees, find it incredibly difficult to find work. According to a Pew Economic Policy report, a former inmate’s incarceration reduces annual work time by nine weeks per year and diminishes annual earnings by 40 percent. Yet rejoining the workforce is a critical part of successful rehabilitation program.

Incarceration is often traumatic. Yet being thrust back into society after spending time in jail has its own traumas. When James was released from prison after serving a long-term sentence, he felt ill-prepared and afraid over having to provide for basic needs – food, shelter, and money. Through Goodwill’s Second Chance workshop, he learned how to prepare for and deal with these pressures positively.

Community programs like the Second Chance series arm re-integrating individuals with tips and techniques to build a strong resume despite a criminal background. For James, participating in Goodwill’s programs helped him change attitudes and behaviors to improve his life, learn new skills, and overcome rejection time after time.

Goodwill supports implementing flexible hiring practices—such as the recently approved “Ban the Box” measure—that are designed to give former offenders the same chance at landing a job as anyone else being considered for the role. The “Ban the Box” initiative eliminated the box on City of Charlotte job applications that asks candidates to disclose their criminal records. The change means that hiring managers will delay asking about a candidate’s criminal background until later in the hiring process. Hiring practices that screen out former offenders early in the process have far-reaching impacts on African-American and Hispanic men, who are arrested at a rate that is 2 to 3 times their proportion of the general population.

For a former offender, making an honest living is vital to staying away from trouble and staying out of prison. Having a job transforms lives. As important as that transformation will be for a person with a criminal background, the impact could be even greater on his or her family and community.

Elizabeth Isenhour

Elizabeth Isenhour

What are your tips for explaining to a potential employer an action that you regret?

Four Tips for Turing a Thrift Store Table into a Beer & Wine Cooler

November 14, 2014


If you’re the type of person who loves to have friends and family over for backyard get togethers, no doubt you’ve seen the inspiring “trough table” from California’s Medlock Ames winery, featured in Dwell a few years ago and currently making the rounds on Pinterest. Featuring rustic, reclaimed barn wood and a galvanized metal beer or wine cooler running through the center, it’s the picnic table of an outdoor party planner’s dreams.

When my husband and I came across this coffee table at Goodwill (it was too smoke-saturated to put indoors), we just knew that we had to try upcycling it with a beer and wine cooler for our side deck—a spot where we had lounge chairs lining the fence near our grill, and a favorite hangout when we have people over.

The only problem: when we went to saw a hole in the table large enough to retrofit it with either a length of metal gutter or a planter box, we found out the top was made of composite wood and wasn’t structurally sound with a big hole cut into the center. And creating a custom frame was outside the skill set of two English majors.


But don’t let that dissuade you from trying this DIY!

Here are four trial-by-error things we learned, and tips/tutorials you can use to avoid our mistakes:

If you want to upcycle a thrift store table with a trough, it’s best to go with a picnic table or other table that has horizontal planks of wood running lengthwise in odd numbers, so you can remove the center board with a saw or crowbar and easily place a galvanized trough or metal/plastic gardening planter into the hole left behind. This is definitely the only option if you’re a beginner-to-novice DIY-er. Unless you have carpentry experience, leave the fancy upcycling to the experts — or phone a friend who can lend you a skilled set of hands. 
Domesticated Engineer has a great tutorial for building your own, and Danny Lipford has a great video tutorial for adding a drink trough to a wooden picnic table.

Thousands of amazing DIYs exist for turning an old shipping pallet from a thrift store or salvage yard into 
a piece of modern furniture, but even with the most amateur-friendly tutorial, it’s going to be a lot of work finding a pallet in great condition, removing the nails, puttying the old nail holes, and then sanding and planing the wood to uniform thickness—not to mention staining or painting the boards once you’re done. My advice? Get new lumber from a home improvement store, follow one of the great tutorials for building your own trough table frame (like this DIY beer/wine cooler table from Remodelaholic), and then pair your new custom table with benches, chairs, and décor from Goodwill!

If you want to get the look and utility of the inspirational “trough table” without the heavy-duty DIY expertise, try making a boxed trough that sits on top of your thrifted wooden patio table instead, which only requires a cordless drill and a few other tools! It’s an easy afternoon project, and one you can bring indoors between BBQ seasons to use all year ’round on any buffet or countertop. All you need to do is find an old card catalog drawer to line with a length of galvanized metal gutter, drain pipe, or livestock feeder, or take those liners and build a custom surround out of wood by simply measuring, cutting, and nailing together all four sides.

If you can make a smaller “incision” into the top of your thrift store table, or can use a router to cut circular holes just slightly smaller than the rim of your ice buckets to set them into, then there are some really cool options for DIY-ers of any skill level, like 
this coffee table, this vintage console table, or this industrial wooden spool. My absolute favorite though (and the one I think I’m going to try next) is making a beer/wine cooler table from an old sewing machine table, either by screwing the legs to a Radio Flyer wagon top or by securing a thrift store metal roasting pan into the sewing machine compartment of an old flip-top table.

Genius — and so Goodwill!


Melissa Massello writes about her DIY activities for Home Depot. Living in Texas gives Melissa plenty of time to spend outdoors, as her recent wine cooler outdoor table project attests. Home Depot has a large selection of wine coolers available, if you decide you’d like to try a project similar to Melissa’s.



Furnishing Your Home with Pre-Loved Finds

November 7, 2014
It’s no secret that there’s much treasure to be found at your local Goodwill shops. When I opened my photography office back in 2011, I needed to furnish  it on a budget. While perusing Goodwill at lunch one day, I discovered two matching lampstable lamps for $4 each! I initially thought I would just give them a nice coat of glossy, white paint… but after tossing on some inexpensive shades from HomeGoods, I never did, and I’m glad! You see, after having that office for two years, I decided to go back to working from home, and in that time we were also building a little beach getaway and were needing to furnish that space. The lamps that I’d previously loved in my office became a perfect addition to our new living room!


In addition to those lamps coming from my old office, so did the end tables & coffee table… both of which were found at the Cornelius ReStore. The coffee table ($40) was actually a dining table my husband cut down and the end tables were a whopping $7 each! The two chairs were from Craigslist for $25 each, I sewed drop cloth slipcovers over them. I love it when my pre-loved items, find the perfect spot multiple times!



 JJ Horton House-1034

Jessica Horton is a portrait and wedding photographer based in Davidson, NC with the ability to find an impossible deal and pick out the most expensive purse on the rack! Follow her blog JJ Horton Photography and on Facebook.


Vote for the World You Want to See

November 3, 2014

voteTuesday, November 4 is Election Day. Your vote is your voice as a citizen. We encourage you to speak up during this election season to vote for the world you want to see.

Despite modest gains to North Carolina’s labor market, poverty and stagnant wages are still major concerns during the current economic recovery. High rates of hardship among residents persist because of the state’s ongoing job shortage and rapid acceleration of low-wage work that fails to provide a pathway to the middle class. Recent legislative decisions that have disproportionately affected the working class include:

  • Elimination of the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC): This credit went to the families of nearly 1.2 million children whose working mothers and fathers earned low wages. The credit let these parents keep more of what they earned so they could pay the bills and cover the costs of child-rearing.
  • Reduction in Unemployment Benefits: In 2013, state leaders reduced the maximum number of weeks a worker can receive benefits from 26 to 20. And they put the maximum number on a sliding scale that can go as low as 12 weeks. (Forty-three states provide 26 weeks of benefits, and only three other states use a sliding scale.) NC’s current maximum benefit is 14 weeks—the lowest in the country.
  • Redefinition of “suitable work:” Once a worker has been receiving unemployment benefits for 10 weeks, the state now requires him or her to accept any job offer that pays at least 120% of the benefits amount. For someone receiving the average benefit, that’s about $14,222 a year—not enough to bring a family of two above the federal poverty level.

This election season, we encourage you to vote for policymakers who are finding innovative ways of stretching limited resources to confront poverty. We need stronger pathways between low-income residents and economic opportunities. To learn more about individuals running for political office, visit NC Voter Guide to view candidate profiles.

Goodwill holds a bipartisan commitment to our workforce. We value ongoing engagement with our elected officials and our community to keep them informed about the value of job training programs and other community resources that help unemployed people in our region. What issues are important to you this election season?

Elizabeth Isenhour

Elizabeth Isenhour

Success Story: Rohan

October 24, 2014

As a young man, Rohan thought about going to college but didn’t know what he wanted to do with a degree and he didn’t want to go in to debt to pay for it.Rohan's Head Shot

One day in 2011 as he was giving plasma to make some cash, he heard about the job training and placement services Goodwill offers.

He walked in to Goodwill’s Job Connection on Freedom Drive where he met with a career counselor who recommended that Rohan enroll in the Goodwill Construction Services Training. Rohan completed the seven-week training program and gained forklift and NCCER certifications. He began working on a housing project in partnership with Goodwill and Habitat for Humanity. Once the project was complete, he went back to Goodwill to find more work opportunities.

This time Rohan was directed to GoodWork Staffing, Goodwill’s temporary-to-hire staffing agency. There was an opening at Anita Goodesign, an embroidery design company. Rohan started at Anita Goodesign in 2012 on a temporary basis, packaging marketing software materials. Rohan’s quota was to package 1,000 CD’s every day, but he clearly exceeded the company’s expectations and would package 2,000 CD’s a day. Rohan knew that if he pushed himself, he would demonstrate his value to the company. “I wanted to give my all today so that my employer wanted me tomorrow, the next day and eventually full time,” said Rohan.

Rohan’s hard work did capture the attention of owners Steve and Aundrea Wilson. “Rohan is diligent and always has a smile on his face. He approached me and emphasized that he appreciated the work and wanted to know if there was more he could do,” said Aundrea.

Rohan inquired about design because he liked to draw. Aundrea and Steve agreed to give Rohan the opportunity to be a machine operator and to learn the steps for embroidery.

“I never thought ‘needle and thread’” smirked Rohan. However, he spent the next nine months learning how to work the embroidery machine. He learned about the various threads, style and embroidery fabrics. This hands-on work experience helped to propel him to his next step of becoming a digitizer.

The digitizer is an important position in Anita Goodesign’s company. The digitizer takes the pattern designed by the creative department and digitizes it in to an easy-to-follow pattern for the customer to then follow to create the pattern. Rohan is one of three digitizers in the company. Steve, the CEO and founder, is one of the others. It was important for Rohan to learn how to work the embroidery machine first so that he could digitize a pattern that would work easily for the embroiderer.

“What he didn’t learn in school, he more than worked to learn here,” said Steve. “ He has a strong work ethic and determination and he always has a positive attitude.”

Since Rohan started as a temporary worker two years ago, he has worked his way from an hourly position to a salaried position with health benefits and a 401K. In addition, he has developed a valuable and highly specialized skill. “He has a skill I can’t hire. It’s not a skill you learn in design school or college or have on your resume. You need to be trained in the process from design to the end product” said Steve. “It’s people like Rohan that make businesses grow.”

Antia Goodesign recently released a new pattern and couldn’t think of a more appropriate name than “Rohan’s Roses.” “Rohan worked on these 15 rose designs for so long, he earned the right to have the design named after him,” said Steve.

Rohan was deeply moved by this honor. “I loved it being named Rohan. I thought to myself, we make 4,900 copies of this pattern so at least 4,900 people out there will know who I am!” said Rohan.Rohan's Roses

Rohan is very happy at work. He smiles as he shares that this is the first job he’s ever had where he doesn’t wish for Friday when he wakes up.

“I applied the skills I learned in my Goodwill training, which was to be on time and plan ahead. I apply these classroom skills everyday in my job,” said Rohan. “Goodwill led me here today. I learned how to be persistent and to never give up. Always strive to be your best.”

Barriers to Job Success: Lack of Housing

October 14, 2014

houseA report in the New York Times reveals that a shocking number of working people live in homeless shelters. According to the report, more than one out of four families in New York City homeless shelters include at least one employed adult and 16 percent of single adults in shelters hold jobs. As alarming as these statistics may seem, a more disturbing fact is that they are indicative of a nationwide trend of the “working poor” being unable to afford housing.

Unemployment, underemployment and low-wage employment are frequent causes of homelessness. The loss of a job leads to homelessness when tenants fall behind on their rent and homeowners fall behind on their mortgages—ultimately leading to eviction and foreclosure. Hard-working, responsible families are at risk of losing their homes as a result of job losses, reductions in working hours or lower wages.

As bad as it is for the 25% of homeless people who have jobs and can’t escape homelessness, climbing out of homelessness is virtually impossible for those without a job. For those with limited skills, education or experience, opportunities for jobs that pay a living wage are scarce. Most homeless individuals are looking for steady work, but find that it is difficult to come by for one who does not have a permanent address, reliable phone or access to technology. In today’s competitive environment, the difficulties of job seeking as a homeless person can be almost insurmountable barriers to employment.

Access to job training and job supports that lead to good paying jobs help families and individuals move from homelessness to housing and financial stability. Goodwill partners with various community agencies within the Homeless Services Network of Charlotte-Mecklenburg to help people experiencing homelessness by coordinating employment services closely with housing and other interventions.

The best defense against homelessness is a job that pays enough to afford a place to live. A recent study by the University of North Carolina at Charlotte found that it is cheaper to give homeless men and women a permanent place to live than to leave them on the streets. Moore Place, the subject of the study, is an apartment complex in Charlotte that houses 85 chronically homeless adults. The study found that, in its first year, Moore Place tenants saved $1.8 million in health care costs, with 447 fewer emergency room visits (a 78 percent reduction) and 372 fewer days in the hospital (a 79 percent reduction).

Although the Charlotte metro area has been gaining jobs since 2010, we still aren’t gaining jobs fast enough and much work remains to ensure that the opportunities that are created extend to the most vulnerable members of our society.

Elizabeth Isenhour

Elizabeth Isenhour

What do you think should be done to help people experiencing homelessness in your community?

The Queen City Style Shows Us How to be Stylish this Halloween

October 10, 2014

We recently teamed up with The Queen City Style, Whitley Hamlin, to pull together budget friendly and stylish costumes for Halloween. Here are a few of her ideas and DIY tips:

Madonna (2)


  1. White lace dress (Whitley wears a wedding dress from Goodwill)
  2. White heels
  3. Pale sheer stockings
  4. Lots of gold and pearl accessories
  5. White lace gloves
  6. Cross necklace or earrings

Make-up tips: Achieve this hair by using a 1/2 inch curling iron or crimper and tease! Apply red lips and don’t forget about the famous mole!

corpses bride (2)

Corpse Bride

  1. A wedding dress
  2. White evening gloves
  3. A veil
  4. A long blue or black wig

Make-up tips: Dark smoky eyes and pale lips

Coco Chanel (2)

Coco Chanel

  1. Tweed suit or jacket
  2. Black, straight, knee-length dress
  3. Black leather pocketbook (a faux Chanel purse works best)
  4. Pill box style hat
  5. Lots of pearl accessories

Make-up tips: Vintage curls or a low bun, red lips and natural eyes

photo 1 (3)

Vogue Magazine Editor-in-Chief Anna Wintour –for a little girl

  1. A simple black dress
  2. Mary Jane shoes
  3. White collar necklace or pearls
  4. Wide-framed sunglasses
  5. Her signature bob hair-do
  6. A copy of Vogue magazine

Make-Up Tips: Just apply some red lip

All of the clothing and accessories for these costumes can be found at your local Goodwill store. Happy hunting!


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 162 other followers