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Sharing Her Talents: Edna’s Goodwill Story

  • Sarah Wilson |
  • | Mission

Managing behind-the-scenes at our Valley West location is Assistant Manager Edna Colon. Throughout the last four years, she has taken Goodwill of Central Iowa’s mission upon herself to make a difference in everyone’s life that she works with or serves.

Edna worked hard to get to where she is today. Originally from Guatemala, she came to the U.S. speaking little English, a barrier to employment for herself. She was offered a position at a Tyson factory to provide for her growing family in the U.S. and her parents back in Guatemala. Edna is proud to be married to her husband of 30 years from Puerto Rico and their four children. Throughout her years working for Tyson, Edna became proof of the power of having someone work to break down your barriers. While she began as a meat processor, Edna was always a hard worker. Soon thereafter, a manager recognized her work ethic and wanted to promote her. Nervous due to speaking little English, Edna was unsure about taking on a new role. However, her manager’s belief in her abilities convinced her to accept. Over the next 20 years years, Edna would continue to excel and climb the ladder. However, she would never forget what it first felt like working in the entry-level position. Recalling her time as a Supervisor at Tyson, Edna remarked, “I never forgot what it was like at the beginning. I remember how difficult it was to work with bad tools. I always remember to put myself in their shoes when making decisions.”

After her family decided to relocate to Des Moines, Edna had to search for a new job. She ended up becoming the Assistant Manager of Goodwill of Central Iowa’s Johnston location in May of 2016. Although not immediately apparent, Edna would bring her experience and insights from her years at Tyson to shape her management and teaching style at Goodwill. In fact, Edna shared how grateful she is to the leadership team at Goodwill, from District Manager DeAnne to Retail Direct Beth for their guidance and belief in her abilities to run a store.

Retail Director Beth Hanson shared her thoughts on having Edna as part of the Goodwill team, “One of the things I value most in Edna is her desire to help others. She is always there to support individuals or the Goodwill organization. She has been flexible and this has allowed her to continue to learn, grow and develop herself. I don’t think Edna thinks about what she has done for herself because she is always focused on others.”

Working as the Assistant Manager in Johnston, Edna was able to use her experience to help the store thrive. In addition, she utilized her bi-lingual abilities to create a welcoming atmosphere for customers and employees alike. Apart from the store, Edna has used her talents to help across the organization translating training materials and signage. From there, Edna held other leadership positions for Goodwill. She has managed the Outlet, Blue Label Production, and is now the Assistant Manager at the Valley West Goodwill.

When asked why she continues to remain committed to Goodwill, Edna answered “the mission.” Diving deeper, Edna shared, “Goodwill gives people opportunities.” Because she managed the Blue Label Production team within headquarters, Edna got to see each and every day the opportunities that Goodwill was providing to the community. One example she shared was, “I worked with men that were from Fort Des Moines who were in our training program. They had been in jail for 17 years. I knew that Goodwill was giving them a second chance.”

Not only did Edna see firsthand how Goodwill of Central Iowa provides opportunities to those with barriers to employment, but she took it upon herself to break down barriers for those within our own workplace. 

Recounting her time managing a Blue Label Production employee with a language barrier, Edna recounted of a co-worker, “She couldn’t speak English and she couldn’t write in Spanish. I took the time to teach her how to write in English. She contested at first saying ‘It’s too difficult, I can’t do that’.  I responded that I was once in her position and had learned along the way. I knew in that moment that I wasn’t myself, I was the face of  Goodwill. Sometimes we have to forget about ourselves and think about how that person feels when they think that they cannot do something. We can show them that they can. I taught her the differences between plastic and plastic bags, which are the signs for the gaylords of donations. Now she’s the go-to sign maker for the team.” 

Edna’s compassion and teaching didn’t stop there. She recalled working with another co-worker at both the outlet and now at the Valley West location. “She doesn’t speak English and she doesn’t speak Spanish, but I tried to help her learn the signs. So, I worked with her by teaching her what a jacket was. I would show the sign and hold up three different looking jackets. I’d say this is a jacket and this is a jacket, too. I told her I was once like you and one day you’ll be like me. I think it’s important to empower others.”

As Edna celebrates four years with Goodwill of Central Iowa this month, we couldn’t be more proud to have her on our team. From embodying the mission to helping the organization run smoothly, we hope you congratulate Edna the next time you see her around.

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