(SAVANNAH, Ga.) – Goodwill Industries of the Coastal Empire has already placed more people with disabilities in employment by July of this year than it did in all 2011. And anyone with a disability who has faced serious challenges to getting a job knows that work opens doors to independence, confidence and a new life.
Kathy Wynn, 52, has worked in the production area of the Goodwill in Hinesville, hanging clothes, for eight years.
“It’s my first job in my life,” said Wynn, a person without sight. She tried to get jobs before without any luck. But training from Goodwill prepared her for work, and then she landed her job.
“I used to be at home, always relying on other folks,” Wynn said. “There was a point in time when I felt down and out. I wanted to work, and I kept trying and trying and finally I got hired. I wanted a paycheck of my own and I wanted to be on my own.
“I feel good I’m out in the world and I’m working,” Wynn said. “I love what I do. I’m getting a house by working,” said Wynn, who is planning to buy her own home soon.
Goodwill store manager Melvina Deverger has been at the Hinesville Goodwill since before Wynn came to work there, so she’s seen how having a job changed her.
“I see she’s happier,” Deverger said. “Since she’s gotten this job and this independence, I feel she’s gotten more confident. It’s been a great, massive change. You can see it.”
Goodwill Industries International reports that 80 percent of people with disabilities are not in the work force, said Brenda Pollen, director of Workforce Development Services for Goodwill Industries of the Coastal Empire.
“The job market is highly competitive,” Pollen said. “This is one of the reasons why our work training programs is a necessary tool. Work training provides a realistic hands-on approach to job readiness.”
In July 2012, Goodwill of the Coastal Empire placed 117 people into competitive employment. So far this year, 13,099 individuals have received training services and 763 entered employment. That’s up from last year, when 18,916 people were trained and 644 were placed in competitive employment in all of 2011.
“Over 45 years of service, Goodwill Industries is the largest employer and trainer of persons with disabilities in Chatham County,” said Pollen, who has worked with Goodwill for 26 years. Out of the 550 area Goodwill workers, 367 are disabled, Pollen said.
“We train people to work because jobs change lives,” Pollen said. “We help create a better community through the power of work.”
Paul Click, who had worked for years as a restaurant general manager, started losing his eyesight in 2004. He found it hard to get another job.
“I was dying without a job, not just financially but emotionally,” Click said. “I had worked all my life.”
Goodwill training showed him what he could do, taught him how to go to work again, learn about accommodations for vision problems and blindness. He got a job with Goodwill’s G-Force in 2006, purchasing materials and planning work.
“It made me feel normal again,” said Click, who was grateful that the job made it possible for his daughter to have senior pictures and go to her prom. “It was getting my life back in place.”
About Goodwill Industries of the Coastal Empire
Goodwill Industries of the Coastal Empire, Inc. is dedicated to the mission of assisting people with disabilities and other barriers to employment to live independently and become employed. The not-for-profit organization employs nearly 600 people, provided services to approximately 18,916 people and placed 644 people in jobs in our community this year. Goodwill Industries of the Coastal Empire serves 33 counties in Georgia and South Carolina and operates 13 retail locations in the region. Goodwill accepts tax deductable car donations and operates an online store at shopgoodwill.com. For more information on Goodwill Industries of the Coastal Empire, please visit www.goodwillsavannah.org.