Rediscovering His Purpose: Keith’s Journey at Goodwill

  • Goodwill of Central Iowa |
  • | Mission

Keith is a people-person. As a Goodwill of Central Iowa store clerk, he always finds a way to connect with customers over common experiences, an interesting item being purchased, or a shared laugh over a joke. Shoppers tend to stick around for an extra minute or two after checking out, just to continue their conversation with him.

Unless he tells you his story, you wouldn’t have guessed the hardship he has gone through, or how through a combination of his hard work and support from Goodwill he was able find balance in his life once again.

Several years ago, Keith’s wife, who was their sole source of income, fell ill and was confined to their house. He wanted to find employment to support the two of them, but his wife needed him home full time. He spent the next five years tending to her needs. It was stressful, but he didn’t mind one bit.

“I loved every minute of taking care of her,” said Keith. “We laughed every morning waking up, and we were going to bed every night laughing. We always had a good time. She was the sunshine in my life.”

In May 2017, she succumbed to her illness and passed away after a long battle with congestive heart failure.

When the light in your life goes out, it can feel almost impossible to escape the darkness. Keith was struggling mentally and emotionally, but he still had to deal with the reality that he needed a job. With 30 years of retail experience, one would think that businesses would be lining up to hire him. Unfortunately, no one gave him a shot because of the long gap in employment on his resume.

As a veteran of the Army, Keith worked with the VA to obtain a job as a housekeeper, but he was still struggling immensely. In the end, he could only hold the job for four months.

“I was banging my head on the showers, I was crying all the time…I felt like a failure.”

Eventually, he had to move into the YMCA, because he couldn’t afford rent. That’s where a chance encounter turned his life around.

In January, Keith attended a presentation given by a representative from Goodwill of Central Iowa. The representative talked about all of the programs offered by Goodwill. The Retail Skills Training program stood out to him, and he approached Goodwill about joining the class. Unfortunately, the upcoming group was full, and he would have to wait until March. After sharing his situation and the need for something more immediate with the intake staff, they made room for him in the program. They also moved him into the Work Experience program, where they helped him improve his interview skills, raise his self-esteem and improve his overall workplace readiness.

As part of Keith’s training, he worked at the Johnston Goodwill retail store. That’s where he managed to impress the manager, Barb Riley.

“I noticed he did a good job, caught on pretty quick, and I liked his attitude,” recalled Barb.

As soon as Keith graduated from the program, she brought him in for an interview.

“He interviewed very well. He was very well prepared for it, and I’m assuming that came from the retail training program.”

Keith poses on the Johnston Goodwill retail store floor.

Keith was offered the position and accepted, finally having earned the job that he had worked so hard for. Shortly after, he was approached by a former employer to interview for a job that would pay nearly $50 an hour. Keith turned down the opportunity, because he felt that the department store hadn’t been there for him when he really needed it.

“Goodwill gave me the opportunity, they got me a job. Not just the training, but they actually gave me a position. And I said ‘I’m loyal to them.’ I can’t sing the praises of Goodwill enough. They literally saved my life.”

His manager has been more than impressed with his work.

“He is willing to step up and help when we ask him. Keith is a hard worker,” said Barb. “He’s one of our top Round Up cashiers. Keith has no problem telling his story to customers which allows them to directly connect their donation to our programs.”

“I make sure that I let people know exactly why they’re doing this,” explained Keith. “I say, ‘Well let me tell you what it’s done for me.’ and I let them know the whole circumstance.”

Keith can’t help but sing Goodwill’s praises. “Goodwill is a fabulous organization to work for,” Keith extols. “You’re never going to find another organization like this one. I can honestly say that this family here is just phenomenal. They’re wonderful to work with, the support system and the benefits; it’s an organization that truly helps people.”

When you donate and shop at Goodwill of Central Iowa, you make successes like Keith’s possible. In fact, 85 cents of every dollar earned in our retail stores and through 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.

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