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Recent Success Stories
In The Words of Doc….
I first found out about Goodwill’s Certified Nurse Aide (CNA) training program when I was doing in-home care. At the time, my job was very inconsistent and limited because I didn’t hold any certifications. I no longer wanted to be an occasional health aide, and decided to pursue CNA training.
At Goodwill Industries of Greater Grand Rapids, I felt comfortable. I did not feel out of place, but felt like I’ve known these people for years. The instructor was great and the intake worker was very nice too. The training was challenging at times but I made it work and was assisted a lot by my instructor. It also helped that I am extremely passionate about helping others, allowing me to take this class very seriously. When it got hard, I kept pushing.
Clinicals were interesting. It was very different than learning in a classroom. They actually had you jumping in and applying your skills in real life situations. It was an adjustment, but once I did, I grew comfortable in what I was doing. Clinicals also provided an idea of the different personalities I would be working with and how to handle different circumstances.
When training was coming to an end, I was feeling nervous and lost. Where do I go? Where do I apply? That’s when everything started to happen so fast. All of a sudden I was receiving call after call from employers. The responses were so quick that it got to the point where I had to figure out where I wanted to go, not where I should apply. It was completely unexpected. Before my certification, working was a lot harder due to inconsistent work schedules and lower wages. It is completely different now. I go to work smiling knowing I’m able to help more people on a regular basis. My sister and best friend even graduated from Goodwill’s training program and I was able to come back to speak at the ceremony.
I love my job. It can be overwhelming at times, but it comes with the territory. I am going to stay in this field and plan to further my skills. I’m now considering going back to be a licensed practical nurse (LPN).Continue reading →
Community partners working together is the key to many successes in Grand Rapids, just like Casey’s story. Thresholds, a non-profit social-service agency providing assistance to Kent County residents with developmental disabilities, referred Casey to Goodwill of Greater Grand Rapids.
Casey’s goal was to obtain a job and he was willing to work hard to get it. His Goodwill employment specialist, Andrea, worked with him on interview skills, creating a resume and job shadowing. “Andrea was a great job shadow coach, she helped me with everything I wanted. She provided great skills for me to be successful,” said Casey.
With the help of his employment specialist, Casey obtained a job at the Goodwill Knapp North store. “Andrea would go to the store whenever I needed her or to check on me. She came up with a plan A and a plan B to help me be successful,” stated Casey. Casey started out cleaning, but wanted something different. He had cleaned for 15 years at previous jobs and wanted to try and be a cashier. “My supervisor gave me this opportunity. I like working for Goodwill, I’ve made a lot of good friends.” said Casey. “Now that he is working again, he has a social life at work,” his mom stated.
Andrea has been a believer in Casey along with the rest of his Goodwill teammates from the beginning. There were multiple days during training when Casey’s drawer was not perfectly balanced and he felt like giving up. Andrea and Casey’s manager worked with him and encouraged him to stay calm at the register, asking for help when needed. Over time, Casey grew into his role and has now worked at Goodwill for over two years. During these two years, he has not only maintained his position, but has also assisted in training new cashiers. Casey is known by both managers and customers as being a hardworking, consistent, and an extremely friendly team member.Continue reading →
At the age of 26, Don was sentenced to 10 years in prison. While incarcerated, Don utilized every resource available to him. When he was released a decade later, Don immediately recognized how difficult it would be to find employment. After several unsuccessful job interviews, Don requested that his parole agent refer him to Goodwill Industries’ Offender Success program.
Returning to society is multi-faceted. It’s difficult to find employment if you’re homeless. You can’t secure housing until you have a job. When you throw your criminal background in there, as well as other barriers, like addiction, poor health, etc., it can make job searching even harder.
Shortly after enrolling in the program, Don received assistance with creating a professional resume, and completing several mock interviews to improve his
interviewing skills. He was also provided job leads and support with submitting applications. In addition, Don and his career coach practiced
explaining his criminal background so Don could delicately articulate his past with confidence and ownership.
Being here (Goodwill) was great. They helped straight away with skills, right from the beginning. No judgment from them. They wanted to help and you could see that by the amount of work they do and how they interact with participants. It was great. I’ve been blessed that everything is falling into place the way that it has.
Less than a month after enrolling in Offender Success, Don obtained employment at a global, home improvement store. He received a promotion including a pay increase, and is being groomed for an advancement course,Continue reading →
as well as the opportunity for a management training program after only seven months.
At almost 60 years old, Melissa was laid off after 15 years with her previous company. With no GED, college or technical training and no cartilage between her hips causing severe health problems, Melissa was feeling down and out. After sending out over 200 applications with no success, she was desperate. Her husband was employed but with health problems of his own and no health insurance, she needed to find a position compatible with her body’s needs, paying a sustainable wage, and including health benefits.
One day, Melissa discovered Goodwill had a technical training program that could lead to employment in a call center. The wage was around $20 per hour and it included benefits. This certainly sounded like a dream come true, but could she meet the requirements? At her old job, she became pretty good with Microsoft Office but she never gave much thought to how computers work or how to troubleshoot issues. Melissa, being a tough and persistent person, was not willing to let these challenges stop her.
She was accepted into the program with Goodwill’s provided support and help with getting proof of disability. She soaked in a tremendous amount of information over the course of a 15-week training. Finally, it was time to take the first of two exams. After two attempts, she successfully passed her first exam, however, the version of exams she was working on would soon be replaced with a new one. She focused all her energy on passing the second exam before this version was retired. She took the second exam twice, but missed passing by a little bit each time. Unfortunately, before she could try again, the new exam was implemented. Melissa was devastated.
Goodwill contacted Melissa and encouraged her to go through the class again. The environment at Goodwill was very supportive and provided multiple tools to help her succeed. Once she learned the new concepts, it was time for her to take the exams again.
She not only passed the first exam after one try, but she passed the second exam on the first try as well. It was a very emotional moment, which included the biggest smile imaginable, tears of joy, and utter relief.
When I was feeling like I wasn’t doing good enough, they pumped me up and told me you can do it. And by golly, I did!
Soon after, she was hired into the call center position for which she had been striving. The work was challenging but she studied very hard in preparation for this position, which prepared her to handle all the tasks that were designated to her.
Melissa is now able to work from home 4 days a week, which helps limit movement and pain for her disability. Both her and her husband now have health insurance. Melissa loves her job, they care about her as a person and she has great co-workers. Melissa is so thankful with how much her family’s lives have improved since discovering the training program at Goodwill, she never would have guessed things could have turned out so well.Continue reading →
- Technology Training Success Story
In 2009, this individual finished an overseas career that included time in the U.S. Marine Corps and work as a government contractor. As a result of his service, he found himself challenged by PTSD and tinnitus. These two barriers made an already difficult transition into civilian employment even more difficult. Initially, he found work teaching English as a second language but his true passion was technology. An online training program improved his technology skills but unfortunately did not lead to a job.
In December 2015, he learned of a Goodwill program focused on giving people with significant disabilities the skills they need to pass the CompTIA A+ certification and find sustainable employment. He knew this was the stepping stone he needed to get into IT and was not going to let it slip away. After completing the 15 week training, he passed both of the required exams. Not only did he pass the exams, his scores on each ranked them in the top five scores for all of 2016.
Some people would have stopped and rested, content with what they had accomplished. Not him. He had his sights set higher. Soon, he had finished a previously uncompleted Bachelor’s degree. Still not satisfied, he also studied for additional certifications. He did all of this in his spare time while he gained experience in a new IT related job he had earned.
In a recent e-mail he said, “I appreciate everything you and the rest of the Goodwill team did for me and I enjoy seeing others head down the path of success as well.”Continue reading →
- Technology Training Success Story
The participant finished his service in the Coast Guard and planned on staying in Alabama, but a visit home to Michigan reminded him and his wife how much they missed it. They packed up their family and returned to Michigan. They hoped to get employment immediately, but the participant was only able to find temp work and his wife learned her CNA license was not valid in Michigan.
He discovered the CompTIA A+ training program at Goodwill and knew this was a great fit for his love of technology. He started the training while continuing to work temp jobs. Soon, summer was over. His family was still living in a camper and the nights were starting to get chilly. He and his wife made the difficult decision to return to Alabama, where jobs were waiting for them. The participant vowed to study on his own and be certified by the end of his kids’ school year.
True to his word, he finished his A+ training on his own and passed both exams. He and his family returned to Grand Rapids where he accepted a job with Peckham. Now, he makes a wage that will truly support his family. Plus, his wife has returned to work. A lot has changed since they were living in a camper.Continue reading →
- Prisoner Reentry Success Story
Participant success doesn’t just impact the participant, but those working with them as well. Here’s one Employment Specialist’s story…
I’ve had this participant since June. He enthusiastically embraced every single opportunity that Goodwill offered him. At the end of the summer he was hired directly at a great company. He stated that all of the skills obtained through our program were definitely utilized during the job search and interviewing process. He verbalizes appreciation for our help and support each time we speak. One day, I stopped by his home to drop off paperwork and it started raining, so I offered to drive him to work instead of him walking 4 miles to the bus stop. While driving, he told me that he probably would have found employment on his own, but all of the additional support, empathy, willingness to listen, care, concern, time spent individually looking for jobs, going above and beyond, career coaching, etc made it easier to just focus on obtaining employment. As he was getting out of my car he said, “This has meant the world to me, that you helped me get back on track. You’re going to change the lives of many, many people.” I got all emotional when he got out. That’s why I love my job so much. And also, the taco bar.Continue reading →
- Achieve Program Success Story
When this individual entered Achieve programming, it was evident that he felt weighed down by a history of making poor choices. Lack of education, lack of work history, and a criminal background were making it hard for him to move forward and causing him to question whether choosing a different lifestyle would even be possible. While in Achieve, he found a new start as he learned not only about job searching and employer expectations but also how to be responsible, accountable, and to persevere. Though initially skeptical, he consistently demonstrated a positive attitude, willingness to learn, and commitment to his future. The more he was surrounded by people who believed in him and the more steps he took in the right direction, the more he began to believe in himself. With the program’s help, he participated in a transitional work experience first with the Kent County Recycle Center to establish a stable work history and then with one of our employer contacts where he was hired in for demonstrating good attendance and a strong work ethic. This individual will reach one year on his job this month and has not missed a day since starting. He is proud to be employed and to be the positive role model he had hoped to be for his children.Continue reading →
- Success Story
In June 2015, two Goodwill staff met a man at the Kentwood Community Church Job Fair. The man had been searching for work without success for 5 years, had gotten discouraged by lack of results, and was starting to apply for disability. He mentioned that he had worked with computers for many years and would like to continue to do so. The staff explained services available and connected him with the Goodwill Achieve program and the Technology training program.
While in Achieve, he was able to improve his resume, cover letter, and interview skills. Most importantly, he found the motivation to move forward and began to believe in himself again. Due to his interest in computers and eligibility, he joined the Technology training program and successfully earned his A+ certification. In November, he started working full time for Goodwill’s partner organization, Peckham, as a help desk technician!
Goodwill is thankful for the partnership with Kentwood Community Church that allows us to make life changing connections with job seekers.