I Change Lives: Jonathan Kelsey

A Q&A with an employee who is making a difference through the mission of Goodwill

Meet Jonathan Kelsey

Jonathan is the Transitional Case Manager for Goodwill Industries of Middle Tennessee. Based at Goodwill’s retail store in Madison, Jonathan ensures that all state regulations regarding Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities clients are met and documented. He also works closely with providers to ensure Goodwill is providing the support and services required for each client to meet the goals of his or her Individual Service Plan.  His clients include members of Goodwill’s “A-Team,” a group of about 25 people with intellectual or developmental disabilities.


Jonathan Kelsey has always had a passion for helping others — especially “at-risk” children. After earning his master’s degree in education administration and supervision from Tennessee State University, Jonathan went to Officer Candidate School, where he graduated as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Marine Corps. Upon discharge from the Marines, he taught school for five years before taking a job in the private sector as operations manager for a large trucking company. When the company went bankrupt, he was offered a job as principal of an alternative school, and he accepted. Some of those students had developmental disabilities. Jonathan worked hard to teach students how to function in society. Eventually, he wanted to expand the ways in which he helped others achieve their goals. In July of 2001, he found that opportunity in Goodwill’s mission of changing lives through education, training and employment.

What brought you to Goodwill? I responded to an ad for a job. Debbie Grant (Goodwill’s Director of Mission Integration) interviewed me for my current job.

What are some of the challenges you face? I care about my clients. Many of them are vulnerable and subject to the choices made by those around them. That can make things difficult when I see their caregivers make decisions that I do not believe to be in the client’s best interest based on my professional experience. Educating coworkers on how to best relate to — and work with — people with disabilities can also be challenging, but also extremely rewarding for all involved.

What has surprised you most in your time with Goodwill? The number of people that define an individual with a disability by that individual’s disability. For some reason, they don’t see the person, they see the disability.  

What do you enjoy most about your job? Every day, I have an opportunity to make a difference in someone’s life. Somedays, it may be something small. Other days, it may be something very serious and large. Either way, I am given an opportunity to make a difference, to help someone who otherwise could not help themselves. I have a personal relationship with each of my clients.

How do you measure success in your job? I am successful in my work when I give a person with a disability an opportunity to be successful and productive by helping that person to achieve their goals.

How do you change lives? I change lives by being a voice, advocate and supporter to those who are in need of assistance to live their life the way they want.

Who is a Goodwill client?

A Goodwill client is any person who comes to Goodwill needing help determining a job or career in which they have a probability of being successful. Goodwill does this through education, training and employment, in addition to helping individuals secure other resources they need to live successfully in the community. Goodwill employs many clients in its stores and donation centers. In fact, nearly 90 percent of employees came to Goodwill because of its mission.





No Comments

Post A Comment