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Goodwill Brings Life-Changing Mission, Pocketbook-Saving Bargains to Bellevue

By 8:15 a.m., when the doors officially opened on the first full-service Goodwill in Nashville’s Bellevue community, Betty Sowell had been waiting outside for five hours. The 72-year-old was sitting on her walker at the head of a line that included hundreds of people and stretched around the building.

“I’ve been coming by here for a long time thinking, ‘When are they going to open?’” Sowell said. ‘“Then I read about all this happening today, and I’m just real excited about it because I go to Goodwill all the time.”

Bellevue Harpeth Chamber of Commerce President Jad Duncan echoed her enthusiasm during introductory remarks before the June 18 ribbon-cutting on the remodeled former Toys “R” Us building at 7663 U.S. Highway 70 South.

“We couldn’t be happier to have an employer like Goodwill come here to Bellevue, as committed as they are to giving back to our community,” he said. “And it certainly doesn’t hurt to have this gorgeous space, which they’ve renovated and done an absolutely phenomenal job of. The place looks top-notch.”

Sowell, a Bellevue resident used to have to travel to Franklin, Spring Hill or elsewhere to shop at Goodwill and to donate her used clothing and household items. She said she was “tickled to death,” when she learned there would be one so close to home. And there was another reason for her enthusiasm: She wanted a job.

“I need to be around people, and I want to help people worse off than me. I like to stay busy,” she explained.

Sowell had been unemployed for six or seven months since breaking several ribs in a fall and having to give up her caregiving job. After her shopping trip, she planned to go next door to the new Goodwill Career Solutions center to investigate the different types of free job training offered there.

Inside the center, Career Counselor Glenn Brown was busily preparing for a 12-employer job fair to be held later that morning. Brown has worked in several positions and locations for Goodwill, most recently as career counselor in Lebanon, but he moved to Bellevue and the not-for-profit decided it made sense for him open it’s newest Goodwill Career Solutions center there.

“It’s a dream come true,” he said. “It’s just such an exciting challenge and adventure. I’ve told people that helping people get jobs is my drug of choice. When I put someone to work — especially someone who’s got a significant barrier to employment — you have to slap the smile off my face.”

One example of why Goodwill’s career counselors take so much satisfaction in their jobs could be found that very morning in the processing area at the back of the new Bellevue store.

Desiree was taking purses and other accessories from boxes and hanging them on racks to be sold. Though no one might have guessed it, she was also turning over a new leaf.

Desiree, 31, got out of prison on April 21. After years of doing drugs, mistreating family members and letting others care for her two children, she found religion while behind bars and now attends addiction recovery meetings, she said.

After spending some time in a halfway house, she and her young son now live with her grandparents in Greenbriar. Every day she travels several hours both ways to get to work, catching multiple buses. She gets by on very little sleep so she can spend time with her son and her 11-year-old daughter, who visits on weekends.

Desiree cried when asked whether all the sacrifices were worth it.

“I want to prove to everybody that I can and that I’m not the person I used to be,” she said. “Goodwill has given me faith that I can be something better.”

Out on the sales floor — Goodwill’s second largest in 48 counties — shoppers with carts full of bargains crowded the aisles. Many lined up to show their unique finds to Mary Hance, also known as Ms. Cheap, a columnist on thrifty living for the Tennessean newspaper. Hance was giving Goodwill gift cards to those she felt made the best purchases.

A man showed off the large original landscape painting he bought for $5. Another had paid $2 for a pair of stereo speakers worth $40. Several women brought up Vera Bradley purses and attractive blouses with the tags still attached.

Barbara Powell, a 43-year resident of Bellevue, proudly displayed an antique Japanese ginger jar she bought for 99 cents. She said she’d been shopping at Goodwill stores for decades, and her children are also “Goodwill fanatics.”

“I’ve always said I could hit the Powerball and I’d still be digging at Goodwill,” she said.

After the event, Sheri Weiner, who represents Bellevue on the Nashville’s Metropolitan Council, said she believes the new Goodwill will be an important asset for the community.

“I am impressed with the opportunity and scope of the job center,” she said. “Not only will area residents benefit from help in securing employment, our area businesses have a resource for employment outreach and on-boarding. It is a win-win for everyone.”

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