I’ve never left a Goodwill board meeting without feeling hopeful. We live in troubled times, but this ambitious non-profit organization gives me reasons to believe in the human spirit. That’s because each board meeting features a success story from someone who had to overcome significant barriers to employment. It’s a testament to what can happen when someone earns a job and uses it to build a better life.
Most folks think of Goodwill as a place to drop off used clothes and household goods. While that’s true, the real purpose of the organization is to offer a hand up to those in need of one. People like Briana Sadler, whose story was shared with a large audience of Goodwill supporters and employees at the Goodwill annual meeting earlier this month. Her tears of joy brought pause to everyone at the luncheon.
Briana’s story is like so many who find Goodwill’s services right when and where they need them. Goodwill Industries-Big Bend has nearly 900 employees across 22 counties and the majority of them have faced compounding difficulties on their path to building a career. In Briana’s case, that barrier was poverty.
She grew up in Franklin County and faced a childhood of turmoil. It’s the kind of story that often ends up with a broken home, drug problems, or jail time. But, Briana chose a different path. She found a purpose and through free training courses offered by Goodwill she is now a Certified Nursing Assistant. Next month she starts her new job earning $25 per hour.
When Briana was recognized at the Goodwill annual meeting the whole room was moved. I think it’s fair to say her tears weren’t the only ones falling. I was once again amazed at the life changing power of earning a living.
Because Briana was able to utilize Goodwill’s career training classes she is now on the verge of realizing her dreams. The only cost to discovering the career pathways that Goodwill offers is hard work and dedication. It’s not easy, but Briana is another example of why it’s worth it.
I’ve been on the Goodwill Board of Directors for a handful of years now and having the opportunity to meet and know people like Briana has made that service incredibly rewarding. It’s why I encourage everyone I know to donate to Goodwill.
Under the leadership of CEO Fred Shelfer, Goodwill Industries – Big Bend has expanded its service offerings to levels that were unimaginable when he started. Along with his talented staff, Shelfer has turned Goodwill into one of the most impactful human services organizations in our region. Over 90 cents of every dollar Goodwill makes from its stores goes back into serving our neighbors across Northwest Florida and South Georgia. Additionally, every one of those Goodwill stores is powered by team members who have stories like Briana. Over 900 of them.
What impresses me most about Goodwill’s mission is that while they operate as a non-profit, they act like a business. Fred Shelfer came from a career in the private sector as did many of his top staff members. They know business and know how to use capitalism to drive the human service work they do.
The average value of a donation to Goodwill is $50. That’s because their team finds ways to create value from those items in various ways. Amazingly, the value they create also helps people get the goods they need at affordable prices. On top of all that, Goodwill Big Bend keeps 30 million tons of material out of our landfills per year. I could go on and on.
Goodwill was founded by a minister in Boston who realized that the best way to help his community was to give people a purpose in life. Instead of just offering food, shelter, and resources, he took used goods and found a way to give people a job. Now, over 120 years later, that philosophy has reached all the corners of the globe. I’m proud to say that impact is real in our community too.
I love Goodwill because of how the organization helps change lives. They don’t just hand that help out though. They extend a hand up and when people like Briana Sadler pull themselves the change becomes long lasting. Armed with a purpose and skills, the folks who work for Goodwill are proof of what’s possible when you decide to overcome a barrier and have a support system to help you get there. If you want to see those success stories in action, just go visit any Goodwill store around.
Jay Revell is President of Revell Media – a boutique branding and marketing agency based in Tallahassee. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org