By: Larry Hames, interim president and CEO of Goodwill Industries of Central Florida
Thrifting is booming, and that’s something we all can celebrate. As more shoppers visit their local Goodwill in search of style and home essentials, they’re helping to create benefits for the community. It’s no wonder why: Thrifting at Goodwill is eco-friendly, ethically sound, and financially smart.
And for many Floridians, it creates a second chance.
Lyneida moved to Apopka from Puerto Rico with a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration and hopes of continuing her career in banking. She had qualifications and experience in the industry. What she didn’t have was confidence in her English language abilities. As her job search met with rejection after rejection, she took an hourly position in a school cafeteria to make ends meet.
If that sounds familiar, it’s because stories like Lyneida’s are all too common. Lack of support and resources can prevent skilled workers from fulfilling their potential, which in turn contributes to economic and social inequality. That’s where Goodwill steps in.
The international legacy of Goodwill began in 1902, when a Methodist minister collected used clothing and goods from the wealthy residents of Boston. But he added a novel twist: Instead of distributing the donations, he trained and hired unskilled workers to repair them. This became the foundation of Goodwill’s true mission: creating jobs for those facing barriers to employment.
A job for anyone who wants one. It’s an ambitious mission, but one Goodwill meets with vigor. The challenges are diverse: Veterans who lack an employment history. Vision- and hearing-impaired individuals, or those with other disabilities. Adults who never finished high school and survivors of chronic illness. Those who have never used a computer, or who, like Lyneida, speak languages other than English.
Some of these people find employment at Goodwill, but many receive other help. GoodSource serves the community and local employers by finding and training job candidates to fill temporary vacant positions with the goal of being hired permanently. Project COMPASS provides academic and personal support for children who are at risk of dropping out of high school. Job Connection Centers across the state provide computer training, ESOL and GED classes, onsite interviews, and personal career counseling to those facing barriers to employment.
Behind the outreach is the belief that a job is a chance for dignity, that there’s pride in supporting oneself, providing for one’s family and living independently, and that giving people the opportunity and resources to grow will make a difference.
That was Lyneida’s experience, after she visited Goodwill’s Job Connections Center in Apopka. Four months of language classes, interview practice and career counseling prepared her for interviewing, and when she connected with an employer at a job fair, it paid off. Now, she’s employed at a local credit union doing the work she loves.
This year is the 60th birthday of Goodwill Industries of Central Florida. What better time to recognize how much this organization has benefited our community? For shoppers seeking affordable alternatives to fast fashion, it’s a chance to save money without sacrificing style. Environmental sustainability is more pressing than ever, and Goodwill diverts more than 18 million pounds of reusable goods from landfills each year while reducing the demand for apparel manufacture. And in creating jobs, Goodwill gives Floridians the opportunity to live purposeful, independent lives.
When we celebrate Goodwill’s 60th, let’s remember everything the organization stands for, as it works on behalf of the most vulnerable in our community. And if you’d like to give Goodwill a birthday present, consider making a visit to your local location, donating items or just volunteering. You’ll be helping to change lives.