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Goodwill Gives Free Car to Employee

OnlineGoodwill.Com Worker Benefits From Nonprofit’s Wheels-to-Work Program

In winter, Sharon Larocque begins her daily commute to work in the dark. 

It can get pretty cold walking the nearly two miles from her downtown Nashville apartment to the spot where she boards a Goodwill shuttle van. And there are other potential concerns — rain and snow, drivers who don’t yield to pedestrians, people experiencing homelessness sleeping on or near sidewalks. 

“I enjoy walking — it’s just not the best path,” she said. “You just never know what’s going to happen.”

Sharon knows all too well what it’s like to be homeless. The 61-year-old California native spent an extended period at the Nashville Rescue Mission after moving to Nashville in 2016. 

One of her first steps toward rebuilding her life came when the shelter sent her with a group of women to Goodwill for a “boot camp” job training program. The women were to spend two weeks in a downtown warehouse tagging donated clothing to see if they might be a good fit for employment. 

The other women dropped out of the program. But Sharon stayed and was given a permanent position. 

She walked to work every day at the warehouse for about 18 months before being transferred to a nearby retail store. She walked to a bus stop and rode the bus to the store for about a year, before transferring to Goodwill’s E-Commerce department at a warehouse in West Nashville. Since then, she has walked to the van that takes her to her job as a jewelry sorter for OnlineGoodwill.com.

She is now a five-year employee of Goodwill. Sharon likes her co-workers and managers, her hours and having health and dental insurance. She enjoys working for an organization that receives donations from the community and then gives back through its mission of changing lives through education, training and employment.

“We all benefit from it,” she said. “For me, since I was at such a low, Goodwill helped a lot. There was enough structure and a steady income to where I could pick myself up again. “

Since starting at Goodwill, Sharon has had two major goals. She achieved the first goal in 2018 — moving into her own apartment. But despite scrimping and saving, her second goal — obtaining a car — has remained elusive. 

Until now. 

On Tuesday, Sharon was presented with the keys to a used but reliable 1998 Toyota Camry during a Wheels-to-Work ceremony in downtown Nashville. Goodwill established the Wheels-to-Work program in 2013 to provide vehicles given by Goodwill donors to Goodwill employees who need reliable transportation to get to work.

“Sharon has been a dedicated and dependable team member at Goodwill for five years, and I’m thrilled that getting to work will no longer be such an obstacle to her life and career,” said Matthew Bourlakas, President and CEO of Goodwill Industries of Middle Tennessee. “Transportation is a significant barrier to employment and advancement for many people, and this program is one of many ways Goodwill’s donors are helping to change lives.”

Sharon would like to work at Goodwill until she retires, and having the car will make that possible. It will also improve her life in other ways. 

“A lot of people don’t realize how difficult it is having to take two or three buses to get anywhere or having to go to the grocery store three times a week because you can only carry so much,” she said. “This car will give me safety and independence.”

Wheels-To-Work Program

A total of 17 people have received vehicles through the Wheels-to-Work program since it was established in 2013.  A selection committee made up of Goodwill employees from various departments helps to determine who is eligible to participate. To qualify, participants must meet certain qualifications, such as being employed full-time for one year, having a valid driver’s license and a good driving record. The program is dependent on the donation of vehicles in good condition. People who choose to donate vehicles to Goodwill support not only the Wheels-to-Work program but also Goodwill’s mission of changing lives through education, training and employment.

About Goodwill Industries of Middle Tennessee, Inc.

For more than 60 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. Goodwill’s vision is that all people will have the opportunity to reach their fullest potential through the power of work. More information about Goodwill’s Career Solutions, retail stores and donation centers can be found online at www.giveit2goodwill.org or by calling 1-800-545-9231.

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