From Hopeless to Beaming with Pride: A Goodwill Success Story

  • Alison Cate |
  • | News

Not many people would be ecstatic to spend their 50th birthday on the job, but considering a year ago Paula doubted she would ever work again, this day marks a major accomplishment.

When her probation officer pointed her to Goodwill of Central Iowa’s skills training programs, she had no idea the journey she was bout to embark on.

“I had no motivation, and because of my health issues and disabilities, the idea of securing a job seemed impossible,” she said.

That all changed when she started in the Food Service program and then moved into Retail Skills Training at the Goodwill headquarters in Johnston. Skills training programs are a combination of paid hands-on and classroom training utilizing Goodwill facilities to train for industry specific skills and competencies. Paula credits the instructors for in-depth instruction, ensuring lessons were explained until fully grasped by each trainee. This was demonstrated by her achieving the RISE Up certification after passing the exam offered by the National Retail Federation upon completion of her skills training programming.

Paula during the retail skills training program.

“I hated computers; I didn’t want anything to do with the cash register when in training,” Paula laughs.

Today, Paula works at the East Des Moines Goodwill store where she has mastered the skill. In fact, in her first month on the job, she earned top honors for receiving the most Round Up donations at the check out counter.

Asking customers to support the Goodwill mission she claims came naturally because she is one example of the non-profit’s initiative of providing a hand up to those in need.

“I have a job now because of these programs,” said Paula. “I am living proof that it works.”

Paula shared she had zero nerves when going into her job interview. She felt fully prepared from her work with Skills Trainer Rodney Tomlinson and Career Counselor Kayleigh Duff. She was confident it was a job she could handle.

Store Manager Misty said that onboarding a Goodwill graduate was a much easier process than other new hires. “Paula started with foundational knowledge of retail and customer service. We have to train all new employees, but on her first day, she already knew how to sort and display clothing, interact with customers and run the register. That was a big difference because most new hires are especially scared of the register, but she was very focused.”

Culinary Manager Joe Cross trained Paula in the kitchen during the food service skills training and said she had a “go get ’em” attitude from the start.

“I could tell early on that it was going to be a challenge to keep her busy,” he said. “She enjoyed get the task done and then asking, ‘What now?'”

That tenacity remains true today. Paula isn’t resting on her laurels in her employment. She recently tackled the forklift in the production area and is determined to master the machine. Her manager Misty said she is doing a phenomenal job, especially in greeting customers and remaining upbeat and positive. She stays so active that a customer recently asked if she was the store manager since she was attending to several things across the sales floor.

“That felt really good,” she said. “People don’t understand, when you change your life, it impacts your soul.”

“It has been such a reward to have worked with Paula,” said Kayleigh Duff, Goodwill career specialist. “I have had the pleasure of working with her for over six months and the amount of growth I have seen in her is indescribable. Paula has not just grown, but she has prospered. She has truly blossomed. To think even three months ago, Paula wanted nothing more than to quit, give up, walk away. Paula believed in herself, but did not give herself enough credit. Through six months of skills training and working on her own self-esteem, Paula is now happy, stress-free, organized, independent, a leader, a team player, and successful. I am beyond proud to say that I have had the honor of working with her.”

Her Goodwill Job Coach Hannah Laabs shared, “Paula’s energy is contagious and she is a leader for her colleagues in that she knows what is expected of her, no matter if her work goes noticed or unnoticed. Her customer service is filled with enthusiasm and you can tell she genuinely cares about the store’s patrons.”

Today, Paula sites hard work as one of her core values and says there are days she can’t wait to clock in.

“I’ve come a long way. I know now that you can do anything you put your mind to. I’m evolving in life,” she said, beaming as she wiped away tears of joy. “I feel better about myself. My sisters are proud of me, my children are proud of me, and you know what, I am proud of me!”

When you donate and shop at Goodwill of Central Iowa, you help change lives just like Paula’s. The non-profit’s business model earns revenue from its 19 retail stores to help fund skills training and employment services for individuals with barriers. In fact, 86 cents of every dollar earned goes to support this mission. Find the closest location to make a contribution today or make a monetary donation through our website.

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