An audience of around 700 people heard inspiring stories of people who overcame obstacles in life to land gainful employment and the rewards that go with it. The occasion was Tacoma Goodwill’s annual Ready to Work Breakfast, held May 7 at Greater Tacoma Convention and Trade Center.
Chad Wright, chair of Tacoma Goodwill’s Board, noted that once people attend this event, they want to return each year to hear the inspirational stories. Wright is director of Marine View Ventures, the economic development arm of Puyallup Tribe of Indians. He said all money raised from the event goes toward Tacoma Goodwill’s job training efforts. The organization places thousands of people into permanent employment in 15 counties in Washington.
Two business awards were presented to companies that are committed to hiring Goodwill clients. Fred Meyer was selected as Business Partner of the Year for identifying a need in the grocery store industry for cake decorators and helping develop a training program within Goodwill’s culinary program. Wal-Mart Foundation was chosen as Community Partner of the Year for partnering with Goodwill to expand job training placement and supporting women and veterans.
Tacoma Goodwill had 14 stores when Terry Hayes became its CEO 11 years ago. Now it has 31. Hayes spoke of how proceeds from sales of items in the stores helps the organization in its mission to provide people with second chances.
“We are doing all we can to reduce our footprint on the environment.” - Terry Hayes CEO, Tacoma Goodwill
Last year Goodwill opened Blue, an upscale boutique store, in Proctor District. It plans to open a second Blue in Olympia this summer and hopes to open a third somewhere in Pierce County this year. Its 32nd retail store will open in South Tacoma in June.
A Dalai Lama print was donated to Goodwill last year. It was sold at auction for $21,000. Extensive media coverage of the donation pushed the sale price well above the appraised value.
Hayes also spoke of Goodwill’s ongoing recycling efforts. It has launched Zero Waste Initiative, an effort to recycle just about everything that comes into a Goodwill facility. An outlet store that just opened on Pine Street in Tacoma is part of this program. “So if and when products do not sell in the stores, or if the product was not of the quality to sell, we have a way of getting that merchandise recycled and repurposed,” Hayes said. “We are doing all we can to reduce our footprint on the environment.”
Three individual awards were presented. The Michener Inspirational Award went to Patrice Porter. She used to operate a restaurant with her husband. Her life changed dramatically after he died suddenly and she found herself a single mother to five children. Porter told the audience she had not been in school for nearly 30 years before she went through the retail skills program at Goodwill. She was hired as an intern at Goodwill’s store in Puyallup. Goodwill provided her with the self-esteem, hope and skills to carry on, she remarked.
Jewel Smith was selected as Achiever of the Year. The death of her son hit her hard and she suffered from deep depression. She lost her apartment and job. A friend suggested she move from Sacramento to Tacoma. She enrolled in Goodwill’s Senior Community Service Employment Program, which is for people 55 and older. She now works as a receptionist in Goodwill’s headquarters in Tacoma.
Smith said she encounters people who walk through the doors who are broken and angry, which she can relate to. When people who have been out of work for six months speak to her, she tells them she was out of work for six years. “Angry does not get you anywhere. Positive gets you everywhere.”
Mercede Hall is Graduate of the Year. She grew up around drugs and poverty. She found herself a young single mother with a broken spirit when a stranger suggested she go to Goodwill. “It literally changed my life,” she said. Hall was trained in warehousing and logistics, then was hired for a warehouse job at Fastenal. “Reach for the stars and you may touch the moon.”