Stories of Success, Determination Celebrated at Jackson Impact Luncheon
(West Tenn.) — A laid-off, single mom who became a high school teacher. A painfully shy housekeeper who found her voice and her independence. These are just a few of the stories of hard work, support and redemption celebrated by Goodwill Industries of Middle Tennessee at its Impact Luncheon awards ceremony in Jackson Friday, November 7.
WBBJ-TV’s Bart Barker emceed the well-attended event at the DoubleTree Hotel, where 11 clients, employer partners and community partners of Goodwill Career Solutions were honored.
In his opening remarks, Goodwill President and CEO Matthew Bourlakas announced that Goodwill’s 28 Career Solutions centers have already surpassed their 2014 goals of providing employment assistance to more than 20,000 people and finding jobs for 6,000. So far this year, nearly 25,000 people have been served and 7,600 of those landed jobs.
MEET THIS YEAR’S AWARD-WINNERS
This award is given to a Career Solutions client who has succeeded beyond all expectations in their new job.
When Tiffany Thompson first enrolled in Goodwill’s transitional employment training program to be a housekeeper in October of 2012, she was so shy, quiet and withdrawn she was all but invisible. Though she had a daughter of her own, Tiffany lived with her mother and depended on her mom for transportation.
At first, she would not initiate conversations with co-workers and was deeply insecure about her skills. But as her training continued and she was hired as a housekeeper at the North Jackson Career Solutions Center, Tiffany began to blossom. She helped out at job fairs, strengthening her communication and customer service skills.
Tiffany completed the Basic Computer course and Microsoft Office classes. It wasn’t easy — Tiffany often came into the Career Solutions center early to complete her class assignments before starting work. But she earned her certification in Word, Excel and PowerPoint. With the encouragement of Career Solutions employees, Tiffany studied for her driving test and passed it. Then she bought herself a car.
Since then Tiffany has enrolled in the West Tennessee Business College Medical Billing Specialist program. She has maintained a “B” average since June of 2014, and she recently began house-hunting so she and her daughter can have a place of their own. Tiffany says she loves being independent and self-sufficient.
Graduates of the Year
The recipients of this award have achieved great success since enrolling in Goodwill Career Solutions.
Latorria Hennings-Drake was laid off from her job as an administrative assistant in May. The single mom quickly realized that she needed help finding a new and better job to support herself and her 6-year-old son.
Though she has a chemistry degree and had occasionally worked as a substitute teacher, her resume, her computer skills and her job-hunting skills all needed refreshing. She could barely afford the gas to drive her son to twice-weekly speech therapy sessions.
Then she met career counselor Casey Coatney at a local baseball game. They talked, and Latorria came into the South Jackson Career Solutions Center, where she got training in job readiness and digital literacy.
With updated interviewing skills and a fresh resume, she got her foot in the door at Jackson Central-Merry High School as a substitute teacher in August. One month later, the school offered her a permanent position teaching math to eleventh- and twelfth-graders. Laborria says she loves her job, and she gives much of the credit to Goodwill.
When Lisa Turner walked into the Career Solutions Center in South Jackson, her life was at a crossroads. A rocky divorce had left her with few resources. She had not worked for several months and needed to find a new place to live.
At 55, she thought employers might overlook her because of her age. But Lisa came armed with a familiarity with computers, a professional, courteous demeanor and a determination to find a job quickly.
She arrived each day when the office opened and spent hours filling out online applications. She completed Goodwill’s job readiness, digital literacy and Microsoft Office training. But she says the boost to her self-esteem from the staff’s encouragement was just as important as refreshing her computer skills.
Her diligence paid off. In just a few weeks, she received multiple job offers. She accepted a position as an administrative assistant with Hamilton-Ryker staffing company and has never looked back.
Jeffery Jackson was living in St. Louis when his work hours were slashed, forcing him to move to Jackson to live with his son. He looked high and low for work without success.
Then, in October of 2013, he came to Goodwill for help. He completed digital literacy and job readiness programs, which led to several interviews.
In December of 2013, he was hired as a part-time crew member by Krystal Restaurant. In the months since, he has been walking to work every day — two miles there, and two miles back. He has saved every penny he can.
Jeffery recently moved into his own two-bedroom apartment and says he has never been happier. Jeffrey was so grateful for Goodwill’s help and so proud of his progress, he asked his career counselor to visit him so he could show her the job that has restored his independence.
When the letter of offer finally came, Tonia Brown couldn’t believe it. She rushed over to the Union City Career Solutions Center, with the letter gripped tightly in her shaking hands, to ask District Manager Sandy Hickey what she thought. Did Jones Plastic and Engineering really intend to offer her a job as their human resources manager? They did.
The world changed for Tonia on that day. When the single mother of two and grandmother of one first came into the Career Solutions Center in April, things were not going well. The company where she had worked in human resources had relocated to Massachusetts, leaving her jobless.
At Goodwill, she got training in job-readiness, computer use, resume-building and more. She quickly found a seasonal job through a placement service, but the pay was low and she was falling behind on her bills. She applied for several different positions, got interviews and went back to Goodwill for more career counseling.
After four months in her new position, Tonia is excelling, and she and her children have moved into a new home in Paris. Now, Tonia is paying her good fortune forward. Her employer has partnered with Goodwill to host three job fairs. And the new HR director now hires directly through Career Solutions to give others the same opportunities she received.
Community Partner Award
Bethel University has embraced Goodwill’s mission, partnering with Goodwill for three job fairs in two West Tennessee counties, assisting 295 job-seekers and 23 local employers. Bethel serves as a referral point for Goodwill’s resources, routinely directing university students and others to Career Solutions Centers, and has invited Goodwill counselors into its classrooms.
Goodwill has found an enthusiastic partner in the Obion County Joint Economic Development Council. The council routinely shares job notices and information about new and expanding companies with Career Solutions, and it has invited Goodwill representatives to speak at meetings of business leaders and the public.
Regional Partner Award
The Tennessee College of Applied Technology has welcomed Goodwill career counselors into its classrooms across West Tennessee and it has sent its students to Goodwill locations for training and certification in skills such as forklift operation. After receiving Goodwill job readiness training, every student in the college’s welding class was placed in a job prior to graduation.
Employer Partner Award
Three employers were honored during the awards luncheon. Advantage Staffing, Cox Oil and Max Trans have significantly contributed to the success of Career Solutions by hiring many of its clients this year.
About Goodwill Industries of Middle Tennessee, Inc.
For more than 55 years Goodwill Industries of Middle Tennessee has provided job training and job placement free of charge to people with disabilities or other barriers to employment through the sale of donated items. In 2013, Goodwill served 17,498 people in Middle and West Tennessee and placed 5,615 people in jobs. For more information about Goodwill’s Career Solutions, retail stores and donation centers, please visit www.giveit2goodwill.org or call 1-800-545-9231.