“Very reliable.” “Picks up new skills easily.” “Likely to go far.”
Those are among the phrases Goodwill Production Supervisor Dollie Lillard uses to describe Joshua, a 31-year-old employee at one of the not-for-profit’s downtown processing facilities.
Just two years ago, Joshua wouldn’t have recognized himself in that description. He was used to hearing other phrases from employers: “Too slow.” “Doesn’t understand what he’s being asked to do.” “Can’t handle the work.”
From the time he graduated high school in 2002 until late 2013, Joshua says he applied for jobs with dozens of companies and even landed several short-lived positions. But he grew used to rejection because of his learning disability. Not being able to help his wife provide for their three young children took a heavy toll on him.
“I felt bad because all the pressure was on her and I couldn’t do anything to help her out,” he said. “I was always stressed out.”
In 2008, Joshua participated in Good Life, a program in which Goodwill clients receive guidance in skills such as budgeting and meal planning. They also get connected with resources to help them with needs such as child care, vocational education and medical bills.
In 2013, Joshua’s mother reminded him of his Goodwill experience and told him she had heard there were job openings at Goodwill in downtown Nashville.
She suggested he visit Goodwill Career Solutions to learn more. Joshua did. He took a free class in job readiness and applied for a position.
Joshua was accepted into Goodwill’s Transitional Program and he began training with a job coach to be a grading production associate. He got plenty of feedback about what he was doing right and wrong, and he thrived.
He started off grading clothing and quickly mastered those skills, but then he became interested in a machine that compacts salvage clothing. Now he runs the baler when the primary operator is off duty. He also developed an interest in the department that removes garments from hangers. Now he trains new employees in those procedures.
“Goodwill helped me learn to do stuff I thought I wasn’t able to do. I proved myself wrong with a lot of things I can do. Goodwill basically saved my life,” he explains.
A steady paycheck, health insurance and other benefits have helped Joshua’s family. They have been able to buy a second car so Joshua and his wife can each drive to their jobs.
But best of all has been the transformation in Joshua himself.
“He wasn’t very sure about himself when he first came here, and now you can see he has confidence in the things he does,” Lillard said. “He’s got all he needs to succeed.”
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— By Chris Fletcher
Prior to joining Goodwill as its PR & Communications Manager in 2014, Fletcher was a professional journalist for
more than 25 years working at media outlets in three states, including the Associated Press.