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GOODWILL WEEK 2016: CONNECTIONS, GROWTH AND NEW STARTS

For Liz, it brought tears of joy. For Brandon, it brought an “aha” moment. And for Diamond, Amber and more than 2,000 others, it brought opportunities and the hope of changing their lives for the better.

“It” was Goodwill Week, an annual observance the first full week of May by independent Goodwill agencies across the U.S. and Canada. Goodwill Industries of Middle Tennessee celebrated with more than 100 events supporting its mission of changing lives through education, training and employment across its territory.

Goodwill’s 28 Career Solutions centers hosted large regional job fairs and smaller hiring events which attracted about 1,800 job-seekers as well as education fairs, community resource fairs, body language and email workshops and other events that attracted hundreds more.

Liz Fugate, one of scores of attendees at a huge job fair in Cookeville, could not contain her emotions when one of the 51 participating employers asked her to come to work. Though already employed, the Sparta resident was looking for a new job because she lacked benefits and needed more hours to pay her bills.

She was so eager to land a new position, she wore safety glasses and steel-toed boots to show she could start right away. It worked. She was one of 77 people to receive on-the-spot job offers at Goodwill-hosted job fairs during Goodwill Week.

“I started crying, because I got the job,” Fugate explained. “It feels like forever that I have been struggling, living paycheck to paycheck.”

Fugate ultimately accepted a position with Ficosa, another one of the employers she met that day, and started to work on May 10.

Brandon Cogle was sitting in an Interview and Body Language Workshop at the Rivergate Career Solutions center in Madison when something the presenter said particularly caught his attention.

The Goodwill trainer was talking about the benefits of practicing an “elevator speech” — a short statement a job-seeker can deliver to potential employers that describes his or her experience, skills and goals.

Cogle, who recently completed Goodwill’s construction training course, attended the workshop in hopes of polishing his interview skills and landing a construction position.

“I was thinking about the elevator speech,” Cogle mused afterward. “Just the other day, I was having lunch in Nashville, and I saw a bunch of construction guys and went over to talk to them. I was a little nervous and unsure of what to say. If I had practiced an elevator speech, I would have been a lot better prepared.”

Cogle said next time he has the opportunity to network or interview, he will be ready thanks to what he learned at the workshop.

Diamond Muhammad had never attended a job fair before. Her first was was one with 32 employers at the Nashville library branch in Antioch.

The Nashville resident went seeking a clerical position. Muhammad, who sings professionally with a 10-piece band named Sugar & Spice, says she wants to buy a home but needs a more stable income.

More than 600 interviews were given by employers at Goodwill Week events. Muhammad got two of them. She said she felt great about the experience and might attend future Goodwill-hosted events.

“There was a great variety of employers here today,” she said. “I had the option to go around and apply for what I’m qualified for, as opposed to just applying for any job.”

Amber Johnson attended an Education Fair at one of the two Goodwill Career Solutions centers in Murfreesboro. She recently lost her job and was getting help at the center in trying to find a new position in the health care field.

But the single mom also has an interest in possibly returning to school to become a paralegal. She spent a good bit of time at the Education Fair speaking to a representative from Middle Tennessee State University.

“Today was very helpful,” she said. “I have been out of school since 2010, so a lot of this is brand new again. I’m not sure I could have figured it out without being able to talk to people about what steps I’d need to take.”

Back in Cookeville, Damon Prince, who represents another of the employers in attendance at the job fair, had come out from behind his booth so job-seekers could hear him over the hum of conversation.

Prince was telling them about opportunities with his company — Ficosa, an automotive part production company. Ficosa currently employs about 550 people but expects to have more than 1,000 employees by 2017 when its new, 270,000-foot plant in Cookeville is complete.

Later, during a quick lunch break, he summed up his experience at the event.

“This is amazing,” he said, looking around at the hundreds of people speaking with employers. “Anytime Goodwill Career Solutions is attached to a job fair, it’s always a great event.”

Goodwill Week

Happened: May 2-6, 2016
Time: 7 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Where: Career Solutions Centers
Throughout Middle & West TN

Among the dozens of employers participating in Goodwill’s job fairs were Marriott, Tyson, FedEx and Gaylord Opryland. Pay rates for jobs exceeded $60,000 per year.

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