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Giving Thanks to Our Customers

April 18, 2014

Customer appreciation is an important part of the Goodwill culture that is evident in every interaction with the public. Assistant Store Manager Julian Rance shares how a small gesture of showing gratitude made a big impact on a very special customer and his family.

Mr. Bob was one of the regular shoppers at our Cornelius store.  He was an elderly man who always enjoyed giving management a hard time about our pricing of medical supplies such as wheelchairs and walkers.  He would never disclose any of his own health issues with us, but we could clearly observe him slowing down.

He would often request a manager to visit him on the sales floor to discuss his concerns, but would still remember to thank us for our efforts to help people in his situation receive lower prices on medical supplies (even though he argued we could go even lower).  Mr. Bob enjoyed his interactions with us and openly considered us his family.

In December as I was making my 30-mile commute to work, it dawned on me that Mr. Bob had not visited the store for a few weeks. Upon my arrival, I decided that I would look him up in our store database and contact him later that day. Good fortune would have it that I would not need to make the call. Within 20 minutes of being at work, Mr. Bob called the store to speak with me!

He inquired about our jewelry jars, which he absolutely loved, and also shared that his battle with cancer was nearing its end. He was in hospice care. He told me he planned to come see his “family” when he got better. I knew what this meant.

For hours I pondered how to share our appreciation for Mr. Bob with him, but I knew time was limited.  Then, a few hours later, Mr. Bob’s son entered the store to look for the jewelry jar that Mr. Bob had inquired about earlier. I immediately knew who he was because he looked like an identical version of Mr. Bob, only 30 years younger. In speaking with his son, I learned that Mr. Bob was too sick to leave his house. At that moment, I knew what I wanted to do.

We could not bring Mr. Bob to Goodwill, but we could bring Goodwill to Mr. Bob. The following day, I brought my personal camera to work and recorded videos of the staff sharing their appreciation for Mr. Bob and his antics. I then made a DVD for him and contacted Mr. Bob’s family to see when it would be best to drop it off. I was determined to share the DVD with Mr. Bob before he drew his final breath.

That Friday, on my day off, I drove from my home in Matthews to Mr. Bob’s home in Davidson. I was greeted by his immediate family and they welcomed me into their home where I found Mr. Bob resting on a bed in front of his television.

As soon as he saw me, he reached for my hand and told me how much he missed his Goodwill family. I showed the DVD to him and he began giving instructions on how to turn on his DVD player. After watching the video, everyone in the room was visibly moved and began sharing stories about Mr. Bob. I learned how the staff from the Cornelius Taco Bell had already come by to deliver a “Mr. Bob Special” – a special food order made with ingredients that he could easily chew, which received the name because it was all he would order. I also learned about his childhood and his early days as a new father.

I spent an hour with Mr. Bob and his family that day. As I was leaving, his daughter hugged me several times and told me he was now satisfied because he had his whole family with him.

Mr. Bob passed away a few days before Christmas. I was alerted to his death by a personal phone call from his son. Although he was distraught, he jokingly told me he had a ton of stuff to return to Goodwill that his father had accumulated over the years. I told him we would take exceptional care of Mr. Bob’s belongings when they came back to us.

In late January, I entered the building on a closing shift and found one of our Donations Processors waiting for me. He immediately told me that Mr. Bob’s family had dropped off his belongings. Before I could get the question out he said, “We all took good care of his donations and his family thanked us the entire time.”

We can never lose sight of the fact that without our customers, we have no business. Thanking them or appreciating them should be the largest part of what we do, outside of providing excellent retail experiences.

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Julian and Mr. Bob, a longtime Goodwill supporter

 

 

Success Story: James

April 18, 2014

IMG_1306 (2)Imagine walking outside one day and the world as you knew it had changed. It sounds frightening—and a little bit dreamlike—but this scenario is the reality for hundreds of people released from prison each year after serving long-term sentences.

When James walked out of prison, it was the first time he’d experienced the world outside of the prison walls in more than 24 years. Gone were the VCRs and eight-tracks he remembered leaving behind, and in front of him was a world teeming with tiny cell phones and wireless devices that he had no knowledge of operating. “I was ashamed and embarrassed to ask people about these common things that they took for granted,” he recalls.

James attended Goodwill’s Second Chance workshop to gain tips on dealing with a criminal record in his job search. Through the program, he gained temporary employment as a contractor in Goodwill’s E-waste department. He began building a base of employment skills and work experience to help him find and keep a job.

Although James was open about his criminal background, there was a secret that he kept hidden from the world. Feeling insurmountable pressure to find a job and acclimate to a new life outside of prison, James was drinking heavily to cope with the frustration, anger and fear that he felt. “When I looked in the mirror, I saw a failure,” he said. “I felt like I was too old to make a change.”

James reached his lowest point after surfacing from a three-day drinking binge. He checked into a detox program and stayed for more than a month. With the help of the Men’s Shelter of Charlotte and Urban Ministries, James participated in their respective Community-Based Substance Abuse Treatment (CBSAT) program and the Substance Abuse Education and Recovery (SABER) program to regain control over his life. Over the course of several months, he received free housing, substance abuse education and therapy.

After completing treatment, James ran into Goodwill team member Vince Hicks. Aware of James’ personal situation, Vince asked him when he could start working again. Within days, Vince set up a meeting between James and Director of Environmental Enterprises Patrick Darrow. Patrick offered James a second chance to work at Goodwill in the e-waste department once again.

With a new outlook on life, James was grateful for the opportunity to prove his value as a worker. “Goodwill helped me grow emotionally and mentally because they bent over backwards to help me,” said James. “They saw that I was trying to build a different life for myself and supported me every step of the way. That motivated me to work even harder every day to prove that I am responsible, dependable and trustworthy.”

Now eight months sober, James has already started his job search with the help of team member Betty Cherry for when his contract with Goodwill ends. He keeps his goals simple. “I want to find permanent employment, find a place of my own and get a dog,” he laughs.

With a burgeoning skill set, James is eager to try out the tools he’s acquired at Goodwill in a permanent workplace. “It won’t be easy,” he admits, “but I’m no longer a person who is scared to try. I have faith that I can win this fight.”

Elizabeth Isenhour

Elizabeth Isenhour

Goodwill Invites Youth to “Be the Change” Through Community Partnership

April 15, 2014

pdsGoodwill recently partnered with SHARECharlotte and Providence Day School as part of a year-long project for the school’s freshman class. The project called “Be the Change” offered an interactive view of poverty in Charlotte, which taught participants how poverty touches almost every aspect of our community.

Along with Goodwill, more than 12 nonprofits and civic organizations engaged the students with panel discussions, guest speakers and immersion experiences. The project’s monthly activities begin in October and continued through April.

On February 7, Senior Vice President of Community Engagement LaRita Barber participated in a panel discussion with Ron Ahlert, Executive Director of Community Culinary School; Natalie English, Senior VP of Public Policy at the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce; and Robert Bush, Interim Executive Director of the Arts & Science Council. That afternoon, 24 Providence Day students enjoyed a tour of Goodwill’s Career Development Center led by Community Engagement Assistant Meredith Robinson and participated in immersion activities led by Kwain Bryant, Manager of Youth Services. Meredith said, “It was a really eye-opening experience for the kids. A lot of them were connecting the dots on poverty, our clients and Goodwill’s mission.”

“Leading the immersion experience was great,” said Kwain. Students had a chance to reflect on personal opportunities and explore barriers for peers who are exposed to poverty. The group also participated in a “Class Matters” activity, which allowed the youth to explore the mindsets of individual living in poverty, the middle class, and those with more wealth.  “It was great to see the level of introspection, compassion and awareness exhibited by the Providence Day School youth,” Kwain noted.

By the end of the day, students had gained a much stronger understanding of the barriers faced by local individuals and how they can be a positive influence for advancing change.

Kilby Watson is the Community Engagement Manager for Goodwill. For more information on volunteer opportunities, contact Kilby at (704) 332-0316 or kilby.watson@goodwillsp.org.

Lace Up Your Running Shoes for FreeMoreWest 5K

April 1, 2014

RunningGreenway2Spring is in the air and what better way to enjoy the beautiful weather than lacing up your running shoes? Join us for the Second Annual FreeMoreWest 5K on the Greenway on Friday, April 18. Proceeds from the race support Goodwill’s free job training programs and career services for people in our community.

The FreeMoreWest 5K is a scenic race along the greenway through one of Charlotte’s most extraordinary neighborhoods. The new course is faster, has fewer turns and more of it on the greenway! After you cross the finish line, grab your family and make your way over to the Post Race Festival. Kick back and enjoy spring in full bloom with plenty of great music, food and local brew.

Event Schedule:

4PM - Registration table opens

5PM - Race Festival – Food trucks and OMB open

5PM - 5:40PM – Pre-5K Deep Stretch Session at Yoga For Life- Free to race participants!

6PM – Race starts

Do #alittlegood for your heart AND your community and register today for the race. We hope to see you running along the greenway!

Elizabeth Isenhour

Elizabeth Isenhour

Three or More and We’re at Your Door!

March 21, 2014

Home truckMore than 70 percent of Americans engage in the annual tradition of spring cleaning, according to a 2013 survey by the American Cleaning Institute. But one of the most common dilemmas for spring cleaners is what to do with all their unneeded stuff.

When you donate to Goodwill, your donations fuel job training programs right here in our community. By cleaning just one part of your home each day, you get a clean home and your neighbors get a fresh start.

Goodwill offers free home pick-up services for large donations such as gently-used furniture in excellent condition, along with boxes of clothing, shoes, electronics and other household items. We require you to have at least three or more large furniture items in order to complete the home pick-up request. To schedule a home pick-up, call (704) 393-6880 or book an appointment online.

This season, Goodwill has compiled a spring cleaning guide, which provides examples of specific items that can be donated this year. Here are some suggestions as you begin tidying up your home:

Clear Closet Clutter

If you haven’t worn those jeans, jerseys or jeggings lately, chances are you won’t. Seize the opportunity to clean out your closet.

Spread Holiday Cheer

Are you holding on to boxes of holiday decorations? Spread cheer by donating holiday ornaments, Halloween decorations and more.

Downsize Your Toys

Not sure what to do with your old laptop and other electronics? Put your clutter to good use by donating to Goodwill today.

For more spring cleaning ideas, check out our Seven Days of Spring Cleaning Guide.

Elizabeth Isenhour

Elizabeth Isenhour

What are you donating this spring?

DIY Photo Frames

March 18, 2014

mirrorOne of the great things about Goodwill is that you can find almost anything at their stores. Take some of those unique finds and transform them into something fun, creative, and eye-catching!

The other day I went to Goodwill and found a beautiful mirror with decorative, sun-like frame. Sadly, the mirror was cracked. Despite the flaw, I couldn’t resist the mirror for the rock-bottom price, so I went for it!

Instead of deeming my broken mirror useless, I decided to repurpose it into a picture frame instead. If you are lucky enough to find something cool like this, you can try it out yourself. All you need is:mirror3

  1. A decorative framed mirror or plate
  2. A frame-worthy picture
  3. Silicone glue
  4. A pair of scissors

Take your picture and cut it into the shape and size of the mirror or plate you are using. Be careful when cutting the picture because it has to be the same exact size as the frame interior to avoid gaps. Use silicone glue to adhere the photo to the frame interior and voila! This is the final result of the project and I must say I am amazed at how well it turned out. You can’t even tell it is not an actual picture frame!

mirror2

Scarleth recommends Goodwill to anyone who likes undertaking creative DIY projects on a cheap budget. For more glass-inspired ideas, visit her at Glass and Mirror Pros, Facebook and Pinterest.

Goodwill Public Policy Team Delves into Key FY2015 Budget Issues

March 14, 2014

capitol hillPresident Obama has said that 2014 is a “year of action,” and the Administration’s FY 2015 budget request proposes a host of initiatives aimed at employment and job training and represents a substantial commitment to helping people find and keep good jobs.

Below, we highlight priorities of particular interest to Goodwill. The GII public policy team will be hard at work on Capitol Hill in the upcoming weeks and months pressing for resources that will help our agencies perform their mission.

Service Members and Transition to Civilian Life

The president’s budget supports initiatives such as pre-separation counseling and employment workshops, and mandating compliance with a Career Readiness Standard before transition. It also provides targeted resourc­es for wounded veterans in order to reduce dis­ability evaluation processing time, ensure that recovering service members have active recovery plans and that those who transition to veteran status will have timely access to benefits.

Finally, the budget includes $33 million to continue the Integrated Disability Evaluation System (IDES) and VetSuccess on Campus initiatives. IDES and VetSuccess counselors ensure that veterans, especially wounded veterans and students, receive timely information about education opportunities, job counseling and placement. The budget also proposes $1 billion to create the Veterans Job Corps program that would put thousands of veterans back to work over the next five years.

Work Opportunities for Low- Income Parents

The Obama Administration proposes redirecting $602 million in annual Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) funding to a Pathways to Jobs initiative, which will support state partnerships with employers to provide subsidized job opportu­nities for low-income individuals.

Investments in Training and Employment Services

Included in the budget is more than $3 billion in formula grants to states and locali­ties to provide training and employment ser­vices to more than 20 million Americans at 2,500 job centers across the coun­try. The “Opportunity, Growth and Security” initiative would add another $750 million to restore prior cuts to these grants; increase the investment in innovation, evidence-based practices and performance in the workforce system; and provide additional funding for programs that serve populations with sig­nificant barriers to employment.

Creates New Pathways to Jobs and Careers

The budget proposes $1.5 billion to support a four-year, $6 billion Community College Job-Driven Training Fund that will offer competitive grants to partnerships of community col­leges, public and nonprofit training entities, industry groups and employers to launch new training programs and apprenticeships. It also includes $2.5 billion in mandatory funding for Summer Jobs Plus, which will fund summer and year-round job opportunities for 600,000 youth as well as innovation grants aimed at improving skills and career options for disadvantaged youth.

Performance and Innovation

The proposal invests an amount equal to five percent of the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) formula grants in driving in­novation and performance at the state and local level through. This includes $60 million in the Workforce Innovation Fund to support inno­vative state and regional approaches to ser­vice delivery; and $80 million for improved incentive grants to reward states that suc­ceed through their WIA programs in serving workers with the greatest barriers to em­ployment.

Unemployed Workers

$158 million in reemployment and eligibility assess­ments and reemployment services is also included under the budget. This investment will reach those who are most likely to exhaust their unemployment insurance (UI) benefits, as well as all recently separated veterans transitioning to civilian jobs.

The budget also provides $2 billion in mandatory funding to encourage states to adopt Bridge to Work programs, which would allow in­dividuals to continue receiving their weekly UI check while participating in a short-term work placement and support other strategies for get­ting UI claimants back to work more quickly. In addition, it requests $4 billion in man­datory funding to support partnerships between businesses, education and training provid­ers to train approximately one million long-term unemployed workers for new jobs.

Employment for People with Disabilities

The budget provides new authority and $400 million in new resources for the Social Security Administration (SSA), in partnership with other federal agencies, to test innovative strategies to help people with disabilities remain in the workforce. Early-intervention measures, such as supportive employment, targeted incentives for employers, and incentives and opportunities for states to better coordinate services, have the potential to achieve long-term gains.

Paul Seifert is a Senior Public Policy Specialist with Goodwill Industries International.  

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