06 Apr The Secret Life and Super Impact of a Cookeville Goodwill Employee
The Superman belt buckle Chaz Gothard wears is a clue.
Whether sweeping the aisles, vacuuming welcome mats or polishing windows, the 38-year-old housekeeping associate at the Cookeville Goodwill store works in an energetic, meticulous way. Pleasant but quiet, he mostly keeps to himself.
He’s mild-mannered, you might say.
But as with Superman’s alter-ego Clark Kent, there’s much more to Chaz than meets the eye. For instance, he has a laboratory. It’s in his apartment, which his mom, Heather Gothard, describes as a veritable museum — filled with globes, maps, movie memorabilia, giant stuffed toy dogs and other curiosities collected throughout his life.
Over bottles and tubes, Chaz reads about chemistry, concocts potions and dreams of discovering a cure for cancer or other diseases.
“I think I can help mankind, maybe with science,” he says.
Chaz also has extensive knowledge of ancient Egypt (the Sphinx, pharaohs and pyramids), rocks (finding and identifying them) and ceramics and drawing (he once took first place in an art competition). But he has moved on from these particular interests, except for the Sphinx.
“It’s cool,” he says.
Chaz is on the autism spectrum, and pivoting from one intense interest to another is a common characteristic of those who share this diagnosis. However, one passion has stuck with Chaz over the years — his job.
After high school, Chaz completed training in janitorial services with the Tennessee Rehabilitation Center. He then worked at a local food-packing plant until it closed, leaving him jobless. A family friend recommended he apply at Goodwill. He did and was hired.
In the 14 years since then, Chaz has never missed a day of work for any reason except vacations with his family. He takes his cleaning duties very seriously.
“I like seeing things shine,” he says.
Though they aren’t paralyzing like Kryptonite, Chaz has some challenges that he must work daily to overcome. For example, when accomplishing a series of tasks, he struggles to remember what comes next.
“Chaz has a hard time keeping things in logical order,” Heather says. “Goodwill has recognized that, which is a big step — just the recognition — but also they have helped him by providing him with written lists.”
Another challenge is socializing with people.
“Chaz has a very difficult time making friends. He wants them desperately, but the process still eludes him somewhat,” Heather adds. “He has made some friends here at Goodwill over the years, though they come and go. It’s definitely helped his ability to interact.”
Chaz’s supervisor throughout his Goodwill career, store manager Cindy Magourik, said his work ethic is an inspiration to the rest of her team. She notes that he even works a second job at a local restaurant.
“Chaz is a great employee. Our store is very successful, and a lot of it has to do with organization and cleanliness. That’s a direct result of Chaz’s efforts,” she explains.
Successful stores enable Goodwill to provide its free nonprofit mission services in Cookeville and across middle and west Tennessee — helping thousands of people each year to overcome barriers, build careers and sustain themselves and their families.
So in that respect, Chaz — like Superman — really is doing something to help mankind.