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Goodwill Helps Jewelry Associate Polish Her Skills

As a child with wide-ranging interests, Sherry Arnold envisioned a multi-faceted future.

“I wanted to be a famous author, own a horse ranch and more,” she recalls. “It depended on the day of the week and the book I was reading.”

Goodwill provided Sherry the opportunity to shine.

Excelling in school, she graduated ninth in her high school class in Clinton, Ky., but couldn’t attend college due to life circumstances. Instead, she worked a series of factory and retail jobs. At one point she started a photography business but it failed to provide enough income. 

In 2008, she moved to Nashville, working in a retail position until her company went into bankruptcy. Urgently needing work, she applied with Goodwill’s then-fledgling eCommerce operation — OnlineGoodwill.com. Recognizing a diamond in the rough, they hired her on the spot.

Sherry loved working with all the interesting, donated items Goodwill sells online, and she quickly proved to be a valuable team member. One day while peering into a box of books marked for recycling, she saw something intriguing and decided to investigate. It turned out to be a first-edition copy of Jack London’s “Call of the Wild.” 

That and other rare books from the same box auctioned for more than $10,000 — a significant boost for Goodwill’s nonprofit mission of changing lives through education, training and employment.

Over the years, Sherry gained new skills, eventually being promoted to Jewelry Lead Associate, giving her supervisory responsibilities. But Sherry didn’t feel confident about her new role.

Her manager nominated her for GoodPaths, a 12-week training and development program for Goodwill employees.

“GoodPaths really helped me to figure out who I am as a person and what my strengths and weaknesses were,” she says.

By 2021, Sherry and her team were handling thousands of pieces of jewelry each week. More expertise was needed to identify gemstones.

“There are all kinds of unusual stones that people don’t even realize are in jewelry, and sometimes stones look similar — like green turquoise, gaspeite and connemara marble,” Sherry explains. “Since our auctions are online and people can’t hold the gems in their hand, we need to be able to tell customers as much about them as possible.”

Sherry’s manager asked if she’d be interested in becoming a gemologist, and she said yes. They researched possibilities and found an online program offered by the International Gem Association. Goodwill paid Sherry’s tuition and allowed her to take her classes while at work. 

Sherry said the course was extremely difficult but rewarding. After a year of study, she received her certification in the mail. Her new expertise has repeatedly been a boon to Goodwill — such as the time she discovered a 3½-carat diamond in a box of cheap jewelry. 

Sherry appreciates Goodwill’s commitment to employee development.

“I think that’s a major benefit,” she says. “Education is at your fingertips, because you are employed with Goodwill.”

Did You Know?

In 2023, Goodwill Industries of Middle Tennessee served 6,850 people across middle and west Tennessee with free career services ranging from construction and call center training to computer classes and job fairs.

And while Goodwill provides career services for its 1,400 employees, more than 70% of people placed into jobs by Goodwill go to work for other employers.

1 Comment
  • Amy Dasher
    Posted at 07:23h, 28 March Reply

    Truly inspiring story! So happy I decided to read

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