I Change Lives: Tim E. Kahn

A Q&A with an employee who is making a difference through the mission of Goodwill

About Tim

Tim Kahn manages Goodwill’s Construction Training program — a six-week course providing clients with a solid foundation in the trade, including hands-on experience with blueprints and a wide variety of tools. Tim’s program is among Goodwill’s most successful, graduating 94 clients last year, 85 percent of whom landed jobs.

Tim was born in Burbank, Calif., and adopted as an infant, never knowing his birth parents. By age 13 he had fallen in with a bad crowd. After getting caught stealing a car, he was sent to a home for delinquent boys in Calhoun, Tenn., where he turned his life around. At 19 he attended Tennessee Temple University, where he planned to study theology. Instead, he discovered a passion for construction and real estate and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in business administration. He made an $18,000 profit on the first home he bought, repaired and sold in Nashville. It launched a career that made him wealthy — as a builder completing 60 homes per year — before he lost everything in the real estate market crash of 2008 and had to rebuild his life.

What brought you to Goodwill? After 2008, I continued working as a self-employed contractor, but the industry dried up. I knew my experience would open a door somewhere, and I started teaching construction at Springfield High School. When I found the opportunity at Goodwill, I jumped. Goodwill has been the best thing that has happened to me in a long time.

What are the duties of your position? I teach about 10 students per class. As a master trainer for the National Council  for Construction Education and Research, I am responsible for its requirements in certifying my students. My days are busy and long, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. Our program builds many of the things Goodwill needs, like bookshelves, staircases and tables.

What are some of the challenges you face? I would love to grow our program into a complete training center also offering welding, plumbing and automotive training. All of our challenges revolve around money! It would be nice to add additional staff and build this program to meet its potential. We currently turn away an average of three potential students each day.

What has surprised you most in your time with Goodwill? The volume of people Goodwill helps! I was blown away when I first toured the facilities in Nashville and was introduced to the many programs Goodwill offers. I have also been surprised at the dedication and commitment of the folks working here. This is not just a job for most people here — it’s a mission.

What do you enjoy most about your job? Seeing my students succeed! There is no better feeling than a phone call from a former student telling you how their life has been changed. I have trained well over 200 students here, and I am still friends with most of them. They have helped me more than I helped them. It’s awesome to have a job doing what you love!

Why is your job important to Goodwill’s mission? This is not just a job to me. Someone cared enough about me when I was 13 years old to teach me a better way. They poured their wisdom into me and changed my entire view on life. No student will ever leave my class thinking I do this just for the money. If I truly care, they will know Goodwill cares, too.

How do you change lives? I believe people only change their lives when they decide it’s time. What I do is offer my students alternatives. I teach a message of hope — a pathway of hard work and an uphill climb. Most importantly, today is a new start. Yesterday means nothing unless you let it hinder you.

For more stories like this read the Fall 2016 edition of The Ambassador – Goodwill’s quarterly magazine which provides readers with stories of events, activities and the inspiring changes Goodwill is making in the lives of others.

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3 Comments
  • Greg Pierce
    Posted at 22:14h, 20 October Reply

    I am a student of Tim’s and must say, what a super nice guy. I gave him a nice suit coat with sentimental value as I really enjoyed all his help he gave me. Enjoy keeping in touch with him. Thanks Tim and Goodwill, Greg Pierce.

  • Griselda Contreras Stein
    Posted at 17:45h, 20 October Reply

    Great work you are doing, Tim! I would be willing to help if I know where the classes are being held. I did corporate training for over 20 years and now have my own tutoring center!

  • Griselda Contreras Stein
    Posted at 17:44h, 20 October Reply

    Great work you are doing, Jim! I would be willing to help if I know where the classes are being held. I did corporate training for over 20 years and now have my own tutoring center!

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