After a recent Goodwill-hosted job fair, Tonia Brown and a Goodwill career counselor were reviewing the event’s participants, discussing which ones Tonia might offer a position.
When a particular man’s name came up, the counselor was somewhat surprised. It seemed there were at least as many reasons not to hire the man as to hire him.
“I loved his personality and spirit and want to give him an opportunity,” Tonia explained.
As the human resources manager for Jones Plastics Engineering LLC in Camden since June of 2014, Tonia has relied on the same instincts and compassion while hiring dozens of Goodwill clients. In doing so, she has reduced the company’s turnover and its need for temporary labor.
“I give second chances to a lot of people who might not get them from other employers,” she explained. “A lot of them really work out well for me.”
The secret to Tonia’s success could be firsthand experience. In early 2014, things were not going well for the single mother of two and grandmother of one. The company where she had worked in human resources had relocated to Massachusetts, leaving her jobless and struggling to make ends meet.
Tonia says she interviews lots of people with barriers to employment, including single moms who don’t know where their next meal is coming from.
“I tell them, ‘I’m going to give you an opportunity. Don’t let me down and don’t let yourself down.’
I’ve been there, so I guess I know how it feels,” she said. “Because Goodwill helped me, I’m able to pay it forward and help others.” In April of 2014, she visited the Goodwill Career Solutions Center in Union City. From Goodwill, she got training in job-readiness, computer use, resume-building and more.
She quickly found a seasonal job through a placement service, but the pay was low and she was falling further behind on her bills. She applied for several different positions, got interviews and went back to Goodwill for more career counseling.
Then, one day, she got a letter in the mail. She rushed to the Goodwill Career Solutions Center, with the letter gripped tightly in her shaking hands. She asked Career Solutions District Manager Sandra Hickey what she thought the letter meant.
Did Jones Plastic and Engineering really intend to offer her a job as their human resources manager? They did.
Life changed for Tonia that day. She now has a job she loves, and she and her children have moved into a new home in Paris. Under Tonia, Jones Plastics hires directly through Goodwill and partners with the organization for regular job fairs.
“Even in that small town (Camden), she’s making a huge impact,” said Hickey. “She went from being unsure of herself and not really knowing which direction to go, to turning that completely around and hiring people who need help. It’s really amazing.”
Andy: Once, Andy had been married, with a son, a good job and a home. READ HIS STORY
Mercedes: Mercedes had never held a job before. When she came to Goodwill. READ HER STORY
Linda: Linda’s husband died in 2009, she lost more than her spouse… READ HER STORY
Kevin: For most of his life, Kevin wore his unique ability to adapt like a… READ HIS STORY
— 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.