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Money Saving Tips on Healthcare

August 13, 2013

There is no doubt that healthcare is expensive and not everyone has a job that offers healthcare benefits. With unemployment rates being so high, there are thousands of people who are at risk for adverse health effects related to joblessness, including stress, depression and increased risk of heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure. To make matters even worse, a person without a stable income frequently forgoes health insurance, thus creating barriers to get the proper medical care he or she needs.

Often times when people have fallen upon hard times, they do not know where to turn for assistance other than a food pantry or soup kitchen. One of the most important places a person should turn to for help is his or her local Goodwill, whose mission is to help out-of-work individuals find family sustaining employment. In the interim, here are money-saving tips for accessing healthcare services while unemployed.

Types of Health Insurance

Everyone should have some type of health insurance, even if it is minimal, to provide basic health coverage and peace of mind.

Depending on your age, health, employment, affiliations, dependency status and financial resources, there can be more than one potential source for healthcare coverage. Obtaining coverage for healthcare from a single primary source is common, although coverage can be maximized by combining sources. The two most common types of insurance are private, employer-sponsored coverage and government-sponsored social insurance programs.

Group healthcare plans that are sponsored by an employer are the most common healthcare coverage source for working individuals and their families. The spouse and children of the worker can be covered under these plans, which are often free, or only require that partial payment be made by the employee.

The government provides publicly-run insurance coverage for senior citizens and low-income people meeting certain financial criteria. Under the Medicare and Medicaid programs, most medical expenses are partially, if not entirely, covered.

The Cost of Testing

Many people just accept what the doctor or dentist tell them. They do not question whether the tests or procedures are absolutely necessary, how much they cost, or if a similar (but less expensive) test or procedure is available.

Even those with insurance coverage that pay out of pocket as a result of a high deductible can be charged more for procedures. Insurance companies negotiate rates with physicians; the statements from your insurance company will verify this. The allowed amount listed is often less than the full charge from the doctor.

Many people choose to go to a free community-based medical clinic or a clinic that charges on a sliding scale, meaning you pay only what you can afford. Often times the charge is nothing, or as little as five dollars for the visit. If you need a prescription, most clinics have trial samples that they will give you for free, instead of you having to pay for the prescription at a pharmacy.

If you need dental work done, search for a free or low-cost dental clinic in your area.  Alternatively, if you are live near a dental school, call and ask them what services they offer. Most dental schools provide fillings and extractions and some even do minor surgical procedures such as root canals. The cost is usually very low because by opting to have services performed at a dental school, you are actually helping well-trained dental students hone their skills.

Unemployment and other life stressors have a significant impact on both physical and mental health, so continued healthcare is essential to your well-being and your ability to find and keep a job.  If you are facing unemployment challenges, contact your local Goodwill to learn how you can benefit from their career development services, job resource centers and on-the-job training programs. You will be provided with the help that you need to get back on your feet and become part of the workforce again!

Tammy Mahan has worked in the healthcare field for 20 years. She enjoys writing health articles for in her free time.

This Back-to-School Season, Remember the Three Rs

August 9, 2013

7_24-Back2SchoolShop-1Before students can get back to their desks and pick up the traditional three Rs — reading, writing and arithmetic — there’s one end-of-summer hurdle to get out of the way: back-to-school shopping!

Parents, before you run away in horror, you should know that back-to-school shopping doesn’t have to be stressful or wallet draining. In fact, it can be a fun time to help your kids learn something new, have an impact in your community and save money, Yes, all of this can be accomplished by following three new Rs.

1. Research: Instead of making a mad dash for the mall, you and your kids can learn about helping the community by donating to and shopping at Goodwill for back to school. At Goodwill, we turn the value of donated goods into job training and placement programs, and at the Donate Movement website, you can easily find out exactly how much of an impact your used goods can have by entering what you have to donate. For example, three pairs of gently used jeans provide 31 minutes of career counseling for one of your neighbors. Your kids can read about exactly how those career counseling classes have helped job seekers here and in other communities, while younger children can play the Donation Match Game to find out what items can and should be donated. Then, of course, you can enter your zip code on the Donate Movement website to find out how and where to donate.

2. Reuse: Students can have an impact in the community during the back-to-school season in two ways. First, they can make room in their closets, bedrooms and backpacks and donate gently used clothing and household items to Goodwill, where their value will be turned into job training and placement programs. Second, by opting to purchase reused items for school, the value of what they buy also goes directly back into helping the community. Young shoppers can find everything from clothes and school supplies to bikes, electronics and sports equipment at their local Goodwill store.

3. Revisit: With families now spending more than ever before on back-to-school shopping, it can certainly help to put off some of the purchases until later in the year. By returning to Goodwill throughout the school year, you can make sure you’re only buying items you really need (and you can probably get some of those must-have back-to-school items at deeply discounted prices in just a few months). Throughout the year, revisit the Donate Movement site to learn how your donated goods are having an impact, and return to Goodwill to drop off used items and find new ones.

With thousands of schoolchildren in the Charlotte region saying goodbye to summer, it’s time for all of us to resolve to stop letting the back-to-school season stress us out, and instead see it as an opportunity to learn something new and do some good.

This back-to-school season, remember the other Three Rs: Research, Reuse, Revisit!

Interview Attire for Blue-Collar Jobs

August 6, 2013

For the most part, we all have a pretty good idea of what to wear for an interview in a business or corporate setting. Yet there still seems to be a lot of gray area around appropriate interview attire for both the blue-collar and pink-collar industries. Cultivate a professional yet standout look with these helpful tips for finding the perfect interview outfit drawn from our local Goodwill stores.

shirtandtieRegardless of the industry, looking professional is a must. However, unlike in corporate settings, a suit isn’t necessarily required for jobs related to manual labor or service-oriented work. For men, a neatly pressed shirt and tie are great options. To help make a lasting impression, be sure to stick with basic colors (black, brown, navy, white or cream) and a good fit. For women, a nice blouse paired with a neatly-pressed skirt or pair of pants in solid colors works well. A blazer or jacket is completely optional, but can add a classic touch. Like in any other professional setting, keep heels to three inches or less.

topandskirtAnyone who knows me knows that my love for thrifting runs deep! I must admit that it was frustrating at first until I developed an “eye” for great finds.  Follow these tips to easily find similar interview looks to the ones pictured here:

  • Have an idea of what you are looking for before heading to Goodwill. Look on blogs, in magazines and to professionals in your industry for inspiration.
  • Be patient. It’s okay if you don’t find a whole new wardrobe in one visit. The key is focusing on quality items, not the quantity.
  • Try everything on. Often, sizes may be different from what we find in retail stores. A big part of creating a professional wardrobe is to have a good fit.
  • Be sure to check for stains, tears or any other damage before purchasing.

Happy shopping! Until next time…put your Profashional foot forward!

nakishaNakisha Ann Hall (pen name Ann Bouvier) is a makeup artist, corporate wardrobe stylist and trainer who travels across the country engaging audiences on various beauty and career topics. Follow her style via her blog

DIY Furniture Finds: Faded to Fab in a Flash

August 3, 2013

If you’re looking to update your home décor, there’s no need to purchase something brand new. Whether you want to dress up a dresser or add something extra to an end table, many previously loved items can be given a new life and turned into something that’s brand new to you.

When thrifting at your local Goodwill store, antiques market or even on the side of the road, remember that many worn-out pieces of furniture can be transformed into standout home décor with a little elbow grease and TLC—along with some refurbishing know-how. Here are a few ideas to get you started on trash-to-treasure DIY projects.

bigstock-Beautiful-sophisticated-stylis-16221536Dressed for Success

Few things are as stylish and sophisticated as a piece of furniture painted in a sleek black. This is true whether you’re upcycling a dresser, end table, bookcase or computer desk. To copy this chic, modern look, keep these tips in mind:

  • For especially old items, sanding is not recommended because the furniture may contain toxic lead or other harmful chemicals in the paint. Instead, apply a coat of primer before painting.
  • If you want to avoid streaks that can result from using a standard paint brush, use a foam or synthetic fiber roller.
  • Always allow adequate time for the coats to dry before applying the next layer and before reassembling your drawers or shelves!

Take it Outside

patiofurnitureIf you prefer an outdoor project this summer, here’s one for updating tired patio furniture on a dime.

  • A fresh coat of paint and stylish seat cushions can transform outdated chairs and loveseats into showpieces.
  • Add a splash of color by purchasing bright cushions in weather-resistant material or make them yourself.
  • With the addition of a coffee table and end table, you truly have an outdoor retreat that is hard to resist!

What home furniture refurbishing projects do you plan to take on this fall?

Chris Long is a Home Depot store associate in the Chicago area, where he has been helping customers since 2000. Chris is also a contributor to Home Depot’s Home website. His interests range from providing advice on end tables to other pieces of household furniture.

Volunteer Spotlight: Dot

July 31, 2013
Dot Siler 04- DSC_0142

Volunteer Dot Siler

For the past four years, Charlotte Mecklenburg Library’s Outreach Department has partnered with Goodwill to create a learning environment that is customer-focused and committed to providing opportunities for personal success in reading and learning. As an Outreach Specialist, I have enjoyed the privilege of enriching the lives of people in need by helping them reach their full potential through learning.

I often work with Goodwill’s Operation Independence staff in helping coordinate special events for displaced vets and their families. You can imagine how thrilled I was at one of these events to encounter a disabled vet who had written a children’s book about a sock that had gotten displaced in the cycle of life and happily found his mate.  Literacy and workforce development have been a driving factor for me in providing disabled veterans with library resources.

A few years ago I was charged with developing a program that would teach some Goodwill clients, many of whom had intellectual disabilities, how to illustrate children’s books. I gathered up some picture books, passed them out to the students and they became so excited with the possibility of someday fulfilling their dreams.  From there, I gave them assignments of creating mini picture books, complete with their own illustrations.  Another local organization got involved in the process by matting and framing the artworks created by the clients.  Today, the art pieces are sold annually at an art show and the clients receive a profit from their creations.

My most memorable experience has been witnessing the clients’ commitments to artistry as they work through barriers and find solutions to fulfill their dreams.  Having an undergraduate degree in Art Design myself, I, just like these clients, have had visions of someday creating children’s book illustrations.  Partnering with Goodwill has given my life so much purpose and joy.

Goodwill and the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library share common visions of providing opportunities for personal success for everyone, including persons in need. As a result, families and our communities are enriched.

Dot Siler is an Outreach Specialist at the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library. For more information on volunteering at Goodwill, check out our available opportunities or contact Community Engagement Manager Kilby Watson at (704) 332-0316 or

Shabby Chic Weddings

July 28, 2013
Shabby chic weddings are all the rage this summer!  Fortunately for all each bride-to-bed, this is one wedding trend that won’t break the bank. Each of these ideas can pulled off with thrifted items like ones found at Goodwill stores!

Create a gallery wall using thrifted frames containing childhood photos and your favorite quotes as wedding reception decor.  Image via Style Me Pretty.

Instead of renting plain white plates from your caterer, search thrift stores to purchase assorted vintage plates for the reception.  Image via Dream Green DIY.

Use a variety of vases and bottles from vintage shops to create mismatched centerpieces.  Image via Pinterest. Save money and have a fabulous wedding by embracing the shabby chic trend!

Would you have a shabby chic wedding?

AllisonPlatteAllison Platte is a Charlotte, NC blogger & internet marketing specialist that writes a lifestyle and fashion blog, In the Queen City.

Low-Wage Women Still Struggle in Today’s Economy

July 24, 2013

homeless-motherImagine working more than 40 hours a week and still not being able to put food on the table for your family. For millions of Americans working minimum wage jobs, this harsh reality prevents them from providing basic necessities for their household, much less saving money for a rainy day. And while the economy is slowly recovering from the recession, new research shows that low-wage workers, especially women, continue to be plagued by economic instability.

A recent study from the National Employment Law Project found that while wages have dropped by an average of 2.8% across all occupations, they fell at even steeper rates—5% or more—for low-wage workers. The study also found that women are more likely to be affected by this wage decrease since they make up nearly two-thirds of all minimum wage workers and dominate the industries hit the hardest (home health aid, housekeeping services and food service).

Added to this already disturbing trend is the fact that a gender-based wage gap continues to persist for women. In the Charlotte metro area, on average, a woman who holds a full-time job is paid $37,225 per year while a man who works full-time is paid $49,131. This means that women in the Charlotte area are paid 76 cents for every dollar paid to men in the area.

If the wage gap were eliminated, a working woman in Charlotte would have enough money for approximately:

  • 104 more weeks of food (two years’ worth);
  • Nine more months of mortgage and utilities payments;
  • 15 more months of rent; or
  • 3,278 additional gallons of gas.

Goodwill believes in eliminating barriers to employment to help individuals reach their full potential by achieving family sustaining employment. To that end, we support education, training and innovative professional development opportunities as a way for women to earn more and further their career goals. Here are some ways we are helping women find family sustaining employment:

  • Accessing Support Services: Several factors can contribute to a person’s inability to find or keep a job, such as poverty, lack of childcare, limited education or substance abuse. After conducting an in-depth interview to assess each individual’s personal situation, Goodwill team members connect clients to additional support services, such as the Benefit Bank, to mitigate the effect that these risk factors can have on obtaining employment.
  • Education: Low educational attainment remains a persistent problem for low-income women. Bridging the education gap contributes to increased earning opportunities. From GED programs to higher education partnerships with Central Piedmont Community College, team members encourage and support clients through their journey of educational achievement.
  • Best-Match Work Opportunities: Using Goodwill’s vast array of job seeking tools and network of industry contacts, each client is matched to paid work opportunities best suited to their skills and interests. For women, this does not mean being shepherded towards female-dominated industries.

Take the case of Shontanette, who enrolled in Goodwill’s Workforce Development Program after facing challenges to finding work. “She was very motivated to obtain employment to be self-sufficient,” said Valerie Matthews, Career Development Specialist. When a career opportunity arose at U.S. Foods, Valerie encouraged Shontanette to apply and she got the job as a Selector in their warehouse, becoming the first Goodwill graduate to be hired by the company. One year later, she has also completed truck driving school and obtained a Class A commercial driver’s license, both of which serve as enhanced job training skills that allow for upward mobility within the company.

By reducing barriers to employment and arming women with the necessary skills to be successful at work, we can close the gender-based wage gap and help women achieve employment that will provide stable income, benefits and other resources to support the needs of a family.

Elizabeth Isenhour

Elizabeth Isenhour


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