In the basement of the Des Moines Federal Courthouse sits Rick Christenson. He’s surrounded by hunting trophies, taxidermied animals and other outdoor pieces. Underneath his strong exterior and thick beard lies a caring man who enriches the lives of his workers on a daily basis through the kindness of his actions and the immensity of his efforts.
Rick is the project manager for Goodwill Solutions, a division of Goodwill of Central Iowa. Goodwill Solutions manages five contracts for the federal government that bring in $1.2 million in revenue to help fund Goodwill’s mission. The program enlists people who have significant disabilities, allowing them to enjoy full participation in their community and can market their skills into other public and private sector jobs.
Rick started with the program in 2007 as the night-time supervisor for the janitorial contract at the Neal Smith Federal Building. Almost six months later, the project manager left his position. Dave Parr, Goodwill’s vice president of operations, knew exactly who to hire. Rick had already made himself known for the compassion he showed the participants in the program and the quality of work he oversaw.
“It was a no-brainer,” Dave shared. “I knew that he was the perfect match for the job.”
Through the next decade, Rick has gone above and beyond for his trainees. A former trainee would call him every night on her break at 8 p.m. simply to tell him how her day was going. Keep in mind that Rick usually starts his day before 4 am. She would share what she had accomplished that day and how she was doing. Talking with him was what empowered her to get through the day. Actions like these are why his workers have such a strong sense of family.
“When they have personal problems, they call me,” he said. “I’m here for them no matter what.”
When one of his participants experienced the death of their mother, it was evident that she had no family or friends who would take her to the funeral services. Rick, on his own time, took her and accompanied her through that difficult time.
“A lot of these people have nobody else. I was raised to help people.” said Rick.
On top of this, Rick has done a fantastic job maintaining the federal contracts.
“The buildings are spotless, “said Dave. “It’s immaculate seeing the work they do alongside the training, coaching, guidance and leadership that he provides his crew. It is second to none.”
In recognition of his efforts, Rick was recently nominated for Goodwill Industries International’s Edgar J. Helms Award for Staff. The award is given to Goodwill employees who have exemplified the mission of Goodwill Industries of unselfish service to people with disabilities or other disadvantaging conditions. In her nominating letter, Goodwill of Central Iowa CEO Jackie Norris shared:
“Rick is a quiet leader and embodies the values our organization has placed in high regard – he’s positive, he’s a man of integrity and he shows compassion. He is flexible and adapts his management style to the needs of his trainees. He’s an all-in leader who gives his time freely both during and outside of his work hours.”
When you donate and shop at Goodwill of Central Iowa, you make work like Rick’s possible. In fact, 85 cents of every dollar earned in our retail stores and through Shopgoodwill.com goes to support our mission of improving the quality of life for all individuals by providing skills training and helping people find jobs. Find the location closest to you or make a monetary contribution today.