• Sarah Wilson |
  • | Mission

Our Day in the Life series takes you behind the scenes with Goodwill of Central Iowa team members. Goodwill is so much more than a thrift store. From eWaste recycling to ShopGoodwill to job coaching, there’s a lot to see. 

Our visit today is with Lizzie, who is the Job Coach Supervisor and plays the role of a Job Coach herself. Even after some job-site coaching and training programs were paused during the COVID-19 pandemic, Lizzie came back to work eager to support those who relied on her support in their daily jobs.

To prepare for her visits with program participants, Lizzie collects the schedules of each person at least a week in advance. Then, she creates her plan for the week, making sure she spends the right amount of time with each individual. While some program participants have weekly check-ins, others can go up to four weeks without an in-person visit based on their level of need. Especially during times of social distancing, check-ins have gotten more frequent through phone calls and messages. Today, Lizzie will be meeting with each person at their place of work to observe their progress and provide coaching and training. 


The first stop of the day is at Wal-Mart where we visited Craig. Working in the dairy department five days a week, he is a valued member of the Wal-Mart team. Going on nine months of employment, Craig enjoys his job but sometimes needs extra encouragement to get through some of the challenges. Throughout the hour spent with Craig, Lizzie quietly observes his work and jumps in to give reminders and motivation to do his best. 

As Craig goes to put the new case of cinnamon rolls in front of the one already on the shelf, Lizzie jumps in to remind him to rotate the newest items to the back of the shelf and pull the older ones forward. 

It’s little details like these that can be easy to overlook. However, job coaches often go through training with the employees and get expectation reports from the managers. This allows job coaches to teach participants exactly what to do in order to be most successful. 

For Craig, he says having a job coach helps him be successful by helping him with motivation. From speeding up his pace at work to focusing on the details of the job that help him stand out, Lizzie is there to assist in reaching his goals. 

After visiting Craig, we took off to meet Theresa.


As we arrived at McDonald’s, we were joyfully greeted by Theresa. Having recently been called back to work after being temporarily laid off due to the pandemic, she is thrilled to be back. Theresa thrives on having a set routine and needs extra guidance from her job coach when that routine is interrupted. As Theresa put it, “I don’t take change well.” She has been used to working at her local McDonald’s five days a week for at least six hours each day for the past eight years. So when Lizzie showed up when she resumed work, she was thankful. “It’s nice to have the support, especially when there’s something new going on,” shared Theresa.

During her on-site visit with Theresa, Lizzie is able to primarily sit back and observe. Theresa has her cleaning routine of doors, tables, and handles under control. While the location has limited dine-in customers due to the pandemic, Theresa is sure to merrily greet each and every one of them. In fact, one of her managers shares, “The customers love her and we absolutely cannot live without her. Her hospitality is spot-on. No matter what she’s doing, Theresa is always sure to greet each guest we have.”

However, the way Theresa greets customers is something that Lizzie has continued working on with her. She struggles with refraining from embracing everyone in a hug and maintaining personal distance, which has only become more important during the times of social distancing. 

After engaging in one last check-in conversation, we leave for our next stop.


When we arrive at Hy-Vee, Lizzie points out the two program participants for whom she is the job coach. She begins by waving over to Devin to show that she has arrived and steps back to watch.

Devin takes his time to bag groceries that come down the belt at his aisle. He pauses to assess which items to put together and how to effectively fit all of the groceries within the cart when finished bagging. Lizzie steps in a few times throughout her time observing Devin. She guides him by showing him which items to place together to fill a bag, otherwise he may only place one or two in. 

She is sure to refrain from instinctively jumping in to speed up the pace. Lizzie shares, “Sometimes it’s difficult to just sit back and observe, but the best way for him to learn is through practice.” Indeed, practice over the months has done wonders for Devin. Lizzie mentions that he has been able to switch from needing constant help in his position to only a weekly in-person visit. She notices his progress in not only his pace, but understanding of which items to place together. “He no longer puts heavy items with the bread.” After 30 minutes bagging groceries, Devin goes to cart duty. 

During COVID-19, Hy-Vee has ramped up their cleaning procedures to include wiping down carts with cleaning solutions throughout the day. So Devin tears off a paper towel and gets to work. Lizzie reminds him, “Let’s spray the paper towel with the cleaner so it does not get all over the floor.” Devin responds by smiling and following her direction. He continues cleaning carts with Lizzie’s reminders to check on the carts that have just come back in and to rotate to the children’s carts and motorized ones. This keeps on until an hour has passed and it’s time to meet up with Michael.


Just a few aisles down from Devin, Michael is working hard to bag groceries. Lizzie greets him with a warm smile and congratulates him on the great job he’s doing. She comments that Michael has improved a lot in his verbal communication with customers. He now asks if they’d like their milk in a bag and if they want items double-bagged. During her time with him, Lizzie rarely needs to step in to help. When she does, it’s a simple reminder to move on to help the next register when his is complete. 

Michael is a great example of a participant who should soon graduate from needing a job coach. Lizzie says, “Our goal is to not be needed anymore. We want to see participants succeed on their own.” For Michael, that could be soon.


After meeting with each participant, Lizzie takes the time to write down notes. After meeting with Michael, she heads back to the office to create a report on the progress and observations she saw with each participant she visited. This will be used to help guide their next phone conversations and to facilitate any conversations needed to be had with managers. Lizzie gets to return to the office knowing she made a difference by assisting those with barriers to employment in her community. 

Goodwill of Central Iowa is dedicated to empowering all individuals to achieve independence through gainful employment. When you donate and shop at Goodwill of Central Iowa, you make work like Lizzie’s possible. In fact, over 80 cents of every dollar earned in our retail stores and through shopgoodwill.com/desmoines goes to support our mission services. Find the location closest to you or make a monetary contribution today.

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