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What the President’s State of the Union Address Means for Goodwill Advocates

February 1, 2014

capitol hillThe White House has referred to the theme of President Obama’s State of the Union (SOTU) as “Opportunity for All.”  While watching, I was able to identify a number of opportunities for Goodwill® and the people we serve.  Our next step is to present opportunities for you – our advocates.

Depending on which news channel you follow and which papers you read, the media has noted that the President’s address showed he is unwilling to work with Congress; he is eager to work with Congress; the Members of Congress refuse to work with him; and the Members of Congress haven’t given up and want to work together.  The bottom line is that there is only so much the President can do with an Executive Order and Congress still holds the purse strings.

Goodwill’s 2014 Legislative Agenda contains a number of priorities that align with proposals put forth by the Administration and with a number of the bills that need to reauthorized by Congress including the Older Americans Act, the Workforce Investment Act, and Temporary Assistance to Needy Families.

The SOTU made reference to a number of the populations Goodwill serves including young adults, seniors, disabled veterans, immigrants, long-term unemployed, and women.   Businesses, colleges and universities, and nonprofits were called up on to work to together and Goodwill is a natural partner in these efforts.  We look forward to the continuing the work laid out at the College Opportunity Summit and supporting the efforts of Joining Forces alliance.  Goodwill will continue to work with coalition partners to expand the Earned Income Tax Credit and we were pleased to hear it referenced in the SOTU in a bipartisan way.  Finally, as a leader in providing job-training and employment programs we look forward working with Vice President Biden as he leads reforms of America’s training programs.

In another recent speech, President Obama remarked, “..this is the defining challenge of our time: making sure our economy works for every working American.”  During the SOTU, the president said, “Opportunity is who we are. And the defining project of our generation is to restore that promise.” Representative Cathy McMorris Rogers (R-WA) also alluded to “opportunity” while delivering the GOP response noting, “The president talks a lot about income inequality. But the real gap we face today is one of opportunity inequality.”

Regardless of where you fall on the political spectrum and whether you agree with the policies put forth, the opportunity is clear for Goodwill to work with all policymakers to eliminate barriers to opportunity and help people in need reach their full potential through learning and the power of work. We hope that you, as our advocates will take the opportunity to help us by lending your voice, sharing your stories, and taking action when asked.

Laura Walling is the Director of Advocacy and Legislative Affairs for Goodwill Industries International.

Upcycled Silverware Crafts

January 30, 2014

When you visit Goodwill, you are sure to find a bunch of items you wouldn’t find anywhere else. Many times I have found silverware that is mismatched. Don’t pass those by! Instead, pick up a couple of spoons and try making these fun crafts with them:

Hanging Flower Basket Holders

All you need to make these is a steel drill bit to drill a hole in the spoon so that you can screw onto the wall. A pair of pliers will come in handy for bending the spoon into shape. [Via]

spoons1

Light Bulb Décor

Another great idea for spoon crafts is to spruce up a boring light bulb. Here is an example of creativity at work! Use thick wire in the same color as the spoons to bind them together around a dangling bare bulb. They make for a great addition to the décor at special events.  [Via]

spoons2

Tea Light Holder

This simple craft can be made the same way as the hanging basket holder, just flipped. Use a drill to screw in the handles and bend up the bowl for a perfect place to rest your tea light candles. [Via]

spoons3

Coat Hooks

Last but not least is a fun and useful spoon craft. Flattening out the spoons is not necessary; it works well either way. Just screw the bowls into a sturdy and decorative piece of wood and bend up the handles to create one-of-a-kind coat hooks or towel hooks. [Via]

spoons4

As you can see, there are many great crafts you can make with silverware from Goodwill. Try one of these fun and simple crafts or see what great ideas you can come up with on your own.

Nancy Parker is a regular contributor to enannysource and she loves to write about wide range of subjects like health, parenting, child care, babysitting and nanny background check tips. You can reach her at nancy.parker015 @ gmail.com

Free Tax Help Returns

January 27, 2014

vitaTax season is here and like a Facebook relationship, “it’s complicated.” Here’s how you can get answers to your questions and free tax help from Goodwill.

Qualified individuals can use the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program to help them file their tax returns. Under this volunteer-run service, IRS-certified tax preparers will file returns for individuals or families with an adjusted gross income of $52,000 or less. For the fifth year in a row, Goodwill will operate a VITA site at its Career Development Center (2122 Freedom Drive, Charlotte) beginning Wednesday, January 29 through Tuesday, April 15. The site is open by appointment only each Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from 6:00-9:00 p.m., and each Saturday from 9:00 a.m.-2:00 p.m. for walk-ins. Review our checklist to make sure you bring the appropriate documents with you.

Goodwill encourages taxpayers to ask about the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), which provides tax breaks for some working families who earn up to $52,000 and can provide refunds up to $6,044. The IRS estimates that nearly 20 percent of eligible workers do not claim the EITC each year because they lack awareness of the program, cannot afford costly tax preparation fees or fear they will lose public benefits by filing.

To educate local taxpayers about the Earned Income Tax Credit, Goodwill will host a free EITC Awareness Day on Saturday, February 1 from 9:00 a.m.-1:00 p.m. at its Career Development Center. Pre-registration is not required for this event.

To schedule an appointment for Goodwill’s VITA site, or to see if you qualify for free tax preparation, call (704) 761-VITA (8482) from 9:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m. Tuesday-Friday or schedule an appointment online. Click here for more information on local VITA sites.

Elizabeth Isenhour

Elizabeth Isenhour

The 2014 tax deadline is April 15. Don’t pay someone to do your taxes if you qualify for this free service. Help us by spreading the word about our tax assistance program with your friends and family, neighbors and co-workers.

Success Story: Nubia

January 24, 2014

nubiaNubia Velazquez was working at a local dry cleaning business when she first heard about Goodwill’s free job training programs from a customer. After meeting with a Goodwill career counselor and learning about the services available to her, Nubia opted to enroll in the seven-week Banking & Customer Service training program. Taking a leap of faith, she resigned from her job to focus solely on her career training. “I always wanted to do something just for myself,” she says. “Here was my chance.”

Nubia sums up the competitive edge that Goodwill gave her in one word: confidence. “I had plenty of work experience, but I didn’t have the confidence to sell myself to an employer, especially in another language,” says the Nicaraguan native. Strengthening her interview skills became one of Nubia’s class goals.

During class, Nubia’s instructors worked with her on practicing how to best respond to interview questions and also showed her techniques for relaxing during an interview. Before she came to Goodwill, Nubia’s husband would often have to translate for her in job-seeking situations. But with enough practice, Nubia soon felt comfortable discussing her skills and qualifications in English. The interviewing strategies she learned in class paid off when Nubia was called in to interview for a teller position with Wells Fargo.

“When I walked into the interview room at Wells Fargo, it had the same set-up as the mock interview room at Goodwill,” Nubia recalls. Her mock interview training had not only prepared her for what to expect and what to ask, but it was also useful in putting her immediately at ease. “I visualized one of my classmate’s heads on the recruiter,” she laughs.

Nubia also gained confidence with computer programs and new technologies. “I did my very first Power Point presentation at Goodwill,” she says proudly. At graduation, Nubia received the Highest Test Score award in her class.

In the short-term, Nubia’s goal is to secure a teller position at a financial institution, a goal well within her reach. She was soon called in for a second interview with Wells Fargo after her initial meeting with the recruiter. A long-term career goal for Nubia is to obtain her loan officer license and eventually move into a different bank department.

“I came to Goodwill knowing nothing about computers or job interviews, but now I feel that I can do anything asked of me,” says Nubia. “I don’t have enough words to say ‘thank you’ for what I’ve learned here.”

Elizabeth Isenhour

Elizabeth Isenhour

How do you build confidence?

Reorganize Your Closet in the New Year

January 21, 2014
image via Pinterest

There is nothing like the start of a new year to tackle home projects like cleaning out and organizing your closet.  As I was putting away my Christmas decorations, I realized my closet is full of items I hadn’t touched in over a year.  This was the motivation I needed to clean out my closet and I ended up with a ton of great donations for Goodwill!  Here are 5 tips for reorganizing your closet.

1. Decide what you really love.

There are some items that you know you really love and aren’t going to part with, and that’s okay!  Just decide what those items are and take them out of the decision making process since you know these items are here to stay.

2. Take out anything you haven’t worn in a year.

This one is really hard for me.  However, if I haven’t worn something in a year, chances are I don’t like it anymore and I probably won’t wear it again.  For me, the exception to this rule is formalwear.  I have some dresses that I still love and will definitely wear again, but did not have the opportunity to wear them this year.

3. Put away off-season clothes.

After cleaning out all the clothes you don’t want, you should have some extra room in your closet. However, I still needed to put away all of my off-season clothes.  All of my Spring and Summer clothes are folded up in plastic bins and placed on the bottom of my linen closet or on the top shelves in my closet.  This should free up even more room and also make choosing an outfit easier since all the clothes in your closet are now appropriate for the current season.

4. Organize the remaining clothes by type.

What works for me is organizing my closet by type.  I have everything divided into these categories: coats, dresses, tops, pants, and skirts.  This helps me quickly evaluate what I have to work with in the morning and decide on an outfit faster!

5. Invest in a shoe rack.

I have two shoe racks.  One that hangs in my closet for flats and sandals and one that I attached to the wall for heels and wedges.  Before was just throwing all of my shoes on the bottom of my closet… not good!  I find that when shoes are organized and displayed you don’t forget about shoes you haven’t worn in awhile and they stay in better condition.

What are your tips for cleaning out your closet and getting organized?

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

What Are You Doing for Others?

January 17, 2014
A volunteer working with a Goodwill student on a mock interview

A volunteer works with a student on a mock interview

Do you ever fall prey to the myth that one person can’t make a difference? At Goodwill, we see and hear real-life stories every day that dispel that argument. Whether it’s a teacher spending some extra time after class to talk with a student or a mentor offering words of encouragement to a teen, we know that even a small action can make a big impact to a person in need.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is: ‘What are you doing for others?’” Each year, people across the country answer that question by coming together on the MLK Day of Service, which falls on January 20 this year, to volunteer in their neighbors and communities.

Volunteers and interns play an integral part in helping Goodwill change lives through the power of work and we are always looking for new faces to provide professional advice, leadership and assistance with various programs and services. Are you a people person? Consider conducting a mock interview to help students gain the confidence they need to prepare them for both post-secondary interviews and actual job interviews. If writing is more your thing, we frequently need volunteers to work with students one-on-one in a classroom setting to provide resume feedback. Maybe you’ve got a great personal or professional story to share. As a guest speaker, you can share your education, work and life experiences with our participants to help them understand how to navigate challenges and take advantage of the many opportunities available to them. These are just a sampling of the many volunteer opportunities available through our Champions for Good program.

This Sunday, January 19 will mark what would have been the 151st birthday of Goodwill Industries’ founder, Rev. Edgar J. Helms. Helms was a strong advocate of employment, not charity, as being the key to end poverty and help the needy. Today our organization’s work continues to reflect Helms’ belief: what people need is “a chance, not a charity.” Helping someone earn the chance to prove his or her potential pays dividends in building stronger communities.

Can one person make a difference? You should certainly try. Even a small act of kindness has the power to significantly change someone’s life.

Elizabeth Isenhour

Elizabeth Isenhour

To learn more about the Champions for Good volunteer program, contact Community Engagement Manager Kilby Watson at (704) 332-0316 or kilby.watson@goodwillsp.org.

Success Story: Lajonté

January 11, 2014

DSCF2539Gaining professional skills at Goodwill has been a family affair for Lajonté Grier and some of his relatives. His grandmother completed Goodwill’s Hospitality & Tourism training a few years ago and his cousin has been employed by Goodwill. When Lajonté found himself out of a job last year, he decided to follow in their footsteps and seek assistance with his employment search at Goodwill.

Lajonté describes himself as having led a “rough life.” As a child, he floated in and out of group homes and received little encouragement to stay in school, much less identify career goals for the future. An uncle who worked in the construction business offered to help Lajonté gain some work experience by having him assist on odd jobs. “I was able to get some experience through these jobs, but I lacked the technical expertise,” explains Lajonté.

At Goodwill he learned that he could participate in a seven-week Construction Skills Training program to bolster his resume. Over the course of the program, Lajonté admits that he had to overcome certain fears of being back in a classroom and credits “being consistent and being bold” to helping him get the most out of the specialized training. A key turning point came when his class worked on a Habitat for Humanity project and installed 500 solar panels on houses to make them more energy-efficient. “That gave me confidence that I could do the work and do it well,” he says. “Now I not only knew how to use the tools properly, but I also felt comfortable as a leader in helping others learn.”

Lajonté’s leadership skills did not go unnoticed by his classmates and at graduation he received the “Team Player” award from his peers. While honored to receive the award, Lajonté says his work is far from over. He plans to take GED classes offered by Goodwill this year to continue his education. And while his short-term goal is to find permanent employment in the construction industry, his long-term goal is to work with children who, like him, are lacking a support system and mentor while growing up.

Setting clear career goals is important to Lajonté and he encourages other job seekers to do the same. “Pick a lane and if you can see the other side, stick with it,” he advises. “Don’t let anything hold you back.”

Elizabeth Isenhour

Elizabeth Isenhour

How do you help others?

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