Monday, April 23, 2012

Goodwill of Southern Nevada – It’s about Jobs

 Erika Salgado, Manager of Volunteer Services (left)
Mary Chartrand, Director of Human Services (center)
Elizabeth McDaniels, Assistant Director of Career Connections (right)
Goodwill of Southern Nevada
Most of us have seen Goodwill stores near our homes, and perhaps have donated clothes and household items to them.  We realize that at least some of these goods are then sold at the stores, and that the low prices make it easier for people to buy the things they need.  We may even realize that these stores are sometimes manned by people who especially need the job.  But what good does Goodwill really do?  We visited Goodwill of Southern Nevada to find out more about their programs.  There we met with Mary Chartrand, Director of Human Services, Elizabeth McDaniels, Assistant Director of Career Connections, and Erika Salgado, Manager of Volunteer Services.  And yes, they do MUCH more than sell used clothing and household goods!

Mary told us about several programs Goodwill runs to train and support disabled workers, including special education students from local schools.  Elizabeth explained how Goodwill supplies individualized job search help (and much more) to the general public.  And Erika described the numerous ways that volunteer workers both support Goodwill’s mission and gain job skills.   We found Goodwill of Southern Nevada to be a compassionate, inventive, nimble organization providing many people with the help they need to become employed.  As Mary said, “We just want to do the best and care for the people who live in this community.” 

Goodwill of Southern Nevada
Goodwill was founded in Boston in 1902 by Rev. Edgar J. Helms, a Methodist minister who was concerned about the immigrants he saw, starving and without employment.  He collected used household goods and clothing, then hired and trained workers to fix them to resell.  The system worked, and the Goodwill philosophy of “a hand up, not a hand out” was born.  After WWII, Goodwill concentrated on disabled returning vets, training them and  placing them in jobs.  Today, Goodwill is an international organization, with 165 district organizations in the US and Canada and 14 Goodwill-affiliated organizations in other countries.  Each of the organizations is free to develop its own methods of fulfilling the goal of “helping people reach their fullest potential through the power of work.”

Goodwill of Southern Nevada was established in 1975.  In 1996, it was still a relatively small organization, with 32 team members.  Today, it has 505 team members, 8 Superstores (the 9th will open in June), and a Goodwill Select store for selling brand-name merchandise inside a local supermarket.  It also runs a huge number of programs centered around providing people with job skills, placing them in jobs, and helping them be successful in these jobs.
Why the explosive growth in Goodwill of Southern Nevada in the last 16 years?   A new CEO with a broad vision, Steve Chartrand, helped.  The fact that the population of the Las Vegas metropolitan area, the major city in southern Nevada, went from about 1 million in 1996 to almost 2 million in 2010 increased the need.  But the biggest factor increasing the need for Goodwill’s services in the last few years has been the downturn in the economy, which has hit this area especially hard.  The hospitality industry, the major employer in the area, is especially vulnerable to recession, when people are less likely to spend money on hotels, restaurants, and casinos.  Also, because the economy was booming in Las Vegas before the recession, housing  prices were inflated and speculation was rampant, making the collapse in the housing market even more pronounced here.  Nevada had the highest rate of foreclosures in the nation for 62 months.  With the recession, building in both the real estate and hospitality industries essentially stopped in Las Vegas.
All these factors mean that huge numbers of workers in the hospitality industry, real estate, and construction lost their jobs.  The unemployment rate skyrocketed, peaking at 14.0% in 2010, and has not rebounded nearly as fast as in other hard-hit states.  The unemployment rate here remains over 12%.  
Goodwill stepped in to do what it could to help unemployed people, with a well-integrated set of programs to help them update their skills in job-seeking and retention, train for new careers, and find new jobs.  What programs do they run?  Here are a few that really stood out for us.
  • Career Connections, a job placement service that provides personalized employment services to anyone in the southern Nevada area.  With two sites, they offer help to people who may never have used a computer to search for a job or applied for a job on-line.  They offer one-on-one career consultation, help with writing resumes, interview coaching, job fairs, and numerous other services to help people find jobs, all at no cost to either the job seeker or the employer.  They also follow up with job seekers to see if additional help is needed.  In 2011, they placed 1255 people in jobs, and they are on track to better that number in 2012.
  • Apolonia Diaz
    supervises Carolyn
    pricing DVDs
  • Help in finding jobs for those with disabilities.  Those with disabilities are extremely hard to place.  Goodwill is extremely skilled at assessing, training, and finding appropriate positions.  A job coach then supports each worker to help the person learn the job and keep any small problems from escalating.  In 2011, Goodwill of Southern Nevada provided community-based training to 609 people with disabilities.
  • Training workers in the Goodwill facilities.  Many people volunteer at Goodwill.  Some are individuals or corporate teams who volunteer simply to give back.  (We worked for a few hours in the processing center under the watchful eye of Apolonia Diaz pricing used DVDs, CDs, and albums for resale in the Superstores.)  But most volunteers are working to fulfill requirements for community service.  They may be required to volunteer as part of a court-mandated sentence or in order to receive SNAP benefits, utility assistance, or Catholic Charities’ senior assistance.  Volunteers are assigned to specific work hours and duties, usually in one of the Superstores or in the processing center where donations are sorted.  Their performance as a volunteer is monitored, and if they perform well, their manager will write them a positive recommendation for a job.  Often, when paid positions become available at Goodwill, they’re filled from the ranks of volunteers.  This way, their volunteer work can lead directly to a job.  Volunteers are also encouraged to use Career Connection services, and often, with this help and this positive recommendation, they are able to find a job elsewhere.  In 2011, 531 individuals donated 41,000 hours at Goodwill of Southern Nevada.
  • Youth programs.   During the summer, a program run by Nevada Partners pays youth, and places them in volunteer positions throughout the community according to their interests.  We heard that 70 youth have expressed an interest in volunteering at Goodwill this summer!  In the past, several of the youth were hired after working as a volunteer.
  • Programs to help veterans.  Las Vegas has a large population of veterans, many of whom are homeless or suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder or traumatic brain injuries.   Goodwill of Southern Nevada expects the number of disabled veterans to rise as the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan wind down.   They ran a class especially for vets on searching for a job, with rave reviews.   Goodwill is also exploring ways to coordinate the work of all the veteran’s groups in the city in order to be more helpful to the returning veterans.
Running these programs takes money, about $22 million!  Where do they get it?  Some comes from small foundation or federal grants, such as a Workforce Investment Act grant, but the biggest sources of income are their own Goodwill businesses.  These businesses also provide jobs.
  • Goodwill stores.  Everything you buy at a Goodwill store provides money for Goodwill programs and jobs.  $.91 of every $1 goes back into the Goodwill mission.  There aren’t very many non-profits that have such a successful business line to support their mission. 
  •  This on-line auction site works very similarly to eBay.  Goodwill chooses collectibles and other valuable items that they expect will sell better on-line than in a store.  We saw a donated kayak in the distribution center, and we’re betting we’ll see it on in the near future!
  •  This internet bookstore business lists 92,000 books, and every day they’re adding more titles.  We saw the book processing and shipping department when we worked in the processing center.
Each of these businesses employs people, giving them work skills that allow them to move up in the Goodwill organization or to move to jobs outside of Goodwill. 
So, do some shopping at your local Goodwill store or online.  Everything you buy helps provide economic justice and the dignity of a job to people in need.



  1. Hi! Do you happen to have any journalism education or this is just a completely natural talent? Waiting forward to hear your answer.

  2. I am doing a report on hunger in america and need to know how much it would take to provide one meal to a hungry person in america? Thank you! but I am not talking about going to a fastfood place. I am saying for the government or a charity to buy food in BULK.

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