Goodwill Stories

Patricia (August 2020)

Like many people recently, Patricia found herself needing to learn how to file for unemployment benefits for the first time in her life and she felt lost, unsure of where to turn next during the pandemic. This had come at a hard time in Patricia’s life, as her physical health had recently taken a turn for the worse. She was experiencing some health conditions, which made it difficult to concentrate on finding a new job. Patricia was also living in her vehicle with her two dogs, which added hardship to the daily stress of life.

Luckily, Patricia knew about Job Connections. She made an appointment at the North Bend Job Connections office for assistance with steps she could take to find employment. She had been to Job Connections before and knew from experience that she would be able to conduct her job search in a supportive environment. She was able to use the computers to file for unemployment benefits each week and received information about housing, food, and community resources. Patricia was able to update her resume so that she could begin her job search for position.

With more confidence in herself and a sense of direction, Patricia was able to represent her strengths to employers in the community. Job Connections provided tailored job leads to fit Patricia’s skills, along with the means to apply for the positions. She utilized computers to check her email, fill out applications, and print fresh resumes. As she was enrolled in the SNAP Training and Employment Program (STEP), she was provided with several gas vouchers for transportation.

It only took a couple of weeks before Patricia was offered a position at a local company. She was  thrilled to see her efforts come to fruition and finally felt like she could start looking to the future. Her goal is to save enough money to move her fifth wheel trailer out of storage to an RV park and set up a home of her own. Because of Job Connections, Patricia is well on her way to building a future with her beloved pets.

Trenton (October 2020)

When you have to ask people for rides, you begin to feel like a burden for disrupting their schedules and using their time and energy. Although Lane County is known for having a decent public transportation system, if you live outside the main area of the city, (or almost anywhere on River Road) transportation doesn’t run as often and getting somewhere takes longer. There are many factors that come with not owning a vehicle: not being able travel long distances, adjusting your schedule for longer commutes, being dependent on the bus and other people for rides, and not being able to haul anything like furniture without having a difficult bus ride or cashing in a favor from a friend.

This was Trenton’s experience: “I grew up in a cash poor household, eventually going into foster care at age 16. Through adolescence, I’ve had to rely on others, mainly my foster family and my mom, for rides.” When Trenton got his license as an adolescent, he knew that if he ever wanted to own a car, it would be from money that he saved himself.

At the age of 19, Trenton came to Goodwill for help. He learned about the Individual Development Account (IDA) and signed up in the program to save money for a car to expand his employment opportunities. Through working with the Goodwill Prosperity Planners, Trenton was able to learn valuable lessons on loans, credit, and how to successfully set and execute a savings plan, in addition to how to look for and purchase a vehicle properly for the first time in his life.

Trenton is now 20 years old and after responsibly saving money each month for a year, his savings was matched three times the amount he saved through the IDA program and he is the proud owner of his very first car! He can now apply to jobs outside of public transportation routes, having purchased a reliable vehicle. He is grateful to those who helped him with rides and their support along the way, especially his mom.

Trenton says “The Goodwill IDA is an extremely valuable service that has allowed me the opportunity to save for, and earn, something that I’ve been wanting and needing for years. To have a car means a lot of things, not the least of which is a newfound form of independence. The kind staff at Goodwill, the valuable information, the crucial and important process, and of course, the new vehicle of my dreams, all make going through this program an extremely memorable experience.”

Derick (March 2020)

Derick was looking for employment when his roommate suggested he contact Goodwill’s Job Connections program for assistance, stating it was a great program to be involved with. Derick says, “he was right.” During the SNAP Training and Employment Program (STEP) intake process, Derick talked about his background, education and goals. He revealed that at the age of 17 and just three credits shy of graduation, he became homeless and was forced to leave school to support himself. The lack of a diploma or General Educational Development (GED) was an incredible barrier for Derick. Opportunities in the job market were unattainable; in order to support himself, he accepted positions that did not require a degree or certificate while knowing he was capable of so much more.

When Derick was told about the Lane Community College (LCC) GED courses at Goodwill’s Job Connections, he decided to add them to his plan while he was job searching. The very next morning, he started the GED program at the Springfield Job Connections, and spent time looking for employment in the afternoons. He very quickly began making progress on both fronts. It was not long before he had passed the first two sections of his GED exam, created a new resume, applied for a job AND received a job offer.

The job offer, while welcome news, did present a challenge as Derick had not yet taken his final two exams and the position was conditional upon his having a GED. Because everything had moved so quickly, Derick had not completed enough classroom hours to qualify for a voucher from LCC to pay the fees for his two final exams. When Derick found out the orientation for his new job was in five days, he rushed to speak to his Goodwill Job Connections Employment Specialist. While there wasn’t much time to complete his GED, Derick was hopeful. He had enrolled in STEP, attended meetings regularly and completed the requirements for assistance. After speaking with the GED instructor and being assured that he was ready for testing, the Employment Specialist was able to submit a request for funds to cover the costs for the final two exams. The request was approved, and Derick was able to schedule his exams for the very next day.

His Employment Specialist quickly received the news that Derick was now a proud GED graduate, just in time to begin his new position. His next goal is to continue to move forward with his education at LCC and look for advancement opportunities with his present employer.

Valerie (January 2020)

As comedian Amy Poehler once said, “find a group of people who challenge and inspire you, spend a lot of time with them, and it will change your life.” Everyday tasks can become routine, unless you’re working with Valerie. When she walks into the room, you can feel the energy shift, and can’t help but be drawn to her bright and brilliant presence. She seems to make connections with others effortlessly while simultaneously hitting production goals and moving product onto the sales floor. She is certainly a leader, with her focus on the team and that day’s goals.

Valerie has a bright future, but she didn’t always see herself that way. Moving around Oregon, Valerie was a stay-at-home parent while raising her three children. She eventually settled in Springfield in 2013 to be near her family for additional support. Several years later, her two eldest children were old enough to move out of the house, which left Valerie and her youngest daughter at home. In the summer of 2018 Valerie decided to try the Supported Work program at Goodwill which is for individuals receiving TANF benefits. Her Family Coach at the Department of Human Services told her about the program and though she had her doubts, she asked to start at 10 hours per week and slowly increase her hours over time. Valerie started working at the Springfield store at the busiest time of the year for Goodwill: just before Halloween. 

Valerie’s skills were a good fit for the position. She began with arranging and organizing the holiday décor, and she was so good at creating displays that it didn’t take long before she earned the nickname “Holiday Queen.” Valerie began to realize that not only was she good at her job but she actually enjoyed it. She felt excited to go to work in the morning and the connections she made with the staff were more positive and supportive than many she had experienced. Suddenly, Valerie’s outlook changed for the better and she realized how her contributions were helping. Her manager was extremely impressed with Valerie and the customer rapport she created in the retail environment. Valerie’s enthusiasm and warmth were simply infectious.

Valerie increased her volunteer hours every few weeks, with the goal of working her way into a full time job. She also led her team during Spirit Month in October, when store employees are dress up in different themes for several days each week. Every day that Valerie was scheduled to work, she participated. Valerie was hired through the JOBS Plus Program in November 2018 and successfully completed the program in May 2019. She is now a full time Cashier and Processor at the Springfield store. When asked what her future career plans are, Valerie says she intends to increase her retail skills and move up to a Supervisor position. After that, she would like to continue to develop and grow within the company with the goal of one day becoming a store manager.

Looking back, Valerie is most proud of motivating herself during a difficult time. She went from not believing in herself to feeling on top of the world. Valerie is also grateful to her manager for giving her a chance and seeing the potential within her. “I had never experienced praise like that from anybody. She lets me be me… the team here is family. We support each other. Sometimes we don’t agree, but at the end of the day, we love each other and get along.”

Bree (December 2019)

Bree is a hardworking dedicated member of an outstanding team. Bree started in November 2008 at the Goodwill North Bend Retail Training Center. At the time, Bree was 27 years old. Bree volunteers in the community often: Sunday at church, Monday with a women’s group, and Wednesday with a an after-school program. She also volunteers with Girl Guards, vacation bible school, and many other events that don’t conflict with her work schedule.

Bree experiences an intellectual/developmental disability which makes her eligible to take part in Goodwill’s Employment and Training Services Program. When Bree joined the training program, she was working on improving her hard employment skills, which are skills required for a specific job and acquired through education and training. Bree’s primary goal was to gain all the necessary skills to work independently in the community. She showed a great capacity to learn, and quickly picked up many skills while in her training position.

Bree was hired at the Salvation Army as a cashier and production helper in 2016, and although her team did not want to see her go, everyone was proud of her accomplishments. In the eight years she was with Goodwill, she blossomed and became a great worker who was ready to take the next step towards integrated community employment. After two years, the Salvation Army made some programmatic changes and unfortunately Bree was let go. Not wanting to lose her skills, she came back to Goodwill a few months later in May 2018 to stay active in her employment goals.

Once Bree was back at the North Bend Store, the Store Manager and Vocational Training Specialist coordinated goals for Bree that utilized the skills she gained at Salvation Army. It quickly became apparent to the Store Manager that Bree’s new skills coupled with her great attendance and customer interactions allowed her to be considered for hire. Bree began training on Goodwill’s cashier procedures a couple of days a month and more as time went on. After a year she was a fully independent cashier. In March 2019 Bree was hired as a part-time cashier at the Goodwill North Bend Retail Training Center. Bree happily maintains her employment and volunteer activities to date.

Brandon (October 2019)

When Brandon joined the Supported Work program at Goodwill, he wanted to become a driver for the organization. When asked why, Brandon explained that he would be able to spend more time with his daughters. Brandon is a single dad who loves his three beautiful daughters. Throughout the years, Brandon worked as a carpenter, steel fabricator, and a firefighter. Unfortunately he eventually found himself unemployed and in the depths of an addiction.

In 2017, he began his journey by entering recovery. Through soul-searching and a lot of hard work, his commitments at treatment helped him become steadier in his sobriety. While working at Goodwill’s transportation warehouse, Brandon became known for his amazing attitude, stellar work ethic, positive outlook and initiative, earning several incentive awards for perfect attendance. Brandon’s supervisor asked if he would like to apply for a position as a Landscape/Maintenance Technician. Brandon aced the interview and began working for Goodwill full time. Brandon enjoys his job and says the biggest gift he’s received through this opportunity is being able to provide for his family and spend his free time with his daughters. With two years of sobriety to his name, Brandon and his daughters are focusing on their new life ahead, which includes family time together.

David (July 2019)

Many of us have someone in our family with a story like David’s, where health problems can take a toll on the delicate balance of work and life. David lived on the beautiful Oregon coast for many years, but as a veteran with health problems, he struggled to keep a job while driving to appointments at Veterans Affairs clinics in Oregon. He would often miss an entire day of work for a 15 minute appointment in Portland or Eugene. As he prepared for arterial bypass surgery, David made the decision to move to Eugene, which wasn’t difficult as he had grown up in Springfield.

After his doctors gave him the approval to return to work in late October 2018, David began his job search in earnest. He had years of experience as a machine operator, a medical secretary and as a cook. During his search, David also had some barriers to overcome, such as his recent health problems, his unemployment history, and his age.

David visited Goodwill’s Job Connections office at Seneca where he met the Veterans Employment Specialist, Matthew. David dove in head first, treating the job search like the job it is. He went to the free workshops Goodwill offers and learned about applications, motivation, interviewing, and tailoring each resume to the job he was applying for. With help from Job Connections, David received his Food Handlers Card, which led to him receiving not just one, but two job offers.

When David came to Job Connections in April to fill out forms related to his new position, Job Connections staff were able to give him a voucher to buy clothes for the job he had just accepted as a line cook for Shari’s Café and Pies. When asked why he chose Shari’s over the other offer he received, David said “I’ve heard it’s a good company to work for.” David hopes to have a long career at Shari’s and is grateful for the assistance he received from Goodwill Job Connections that helped make his new found employment possible. 

Michelle (May 2019)

When Michelle walked into the Job Connections office at Seneca in December, she was anxious and discouraged. She had just moved to Oregon and was living with her husband’s family. She had been out of the workforce for the last four years and didn’t know what she wanted to do or how to start looking for work.  

She filled out the Welcome form and went on to find out about the services Goodwill Job Connections had to offer. She returned a few days later and attended a number of the different workshops offered, including “Effective Applications” and “ABCs of a Winning Resume.” Taking what she learned from the workshops, Michelle worked on her resume, applied for open positions, and reviewed the Job Leads Board at Job Connections each time she visited.

As part of her Order to Success Plan, Michelle was referred to the Work Experience Program. She began her Work Experience in the Goodwill E-Commerce department, which was a good fit for her. Michelle had a reserved personality and this position required her to interact with few people. As she became more comfortable at E-Commerce, she was able to grow into a position at the Seneca store, where she blossomed. Michelle completed 68 hours of Work Experience which helped her gain confidence and skills. She found she enjoyed working with the public more than she originally thought.

In March, a full-time cashier position opened at the Seneca store and the store manager asked Michelle to apply. She came to Job Connections to fill out her application for the position knowing she had the support of Goodwill behind her. For her application, Michelle needed to provide identification for the State of Oregon. Goodwill’s STEP program paid for and assisted with an appointment at the Department of Motor Vehicles. At the appointment, Michelle turned in her out-of-state identification and took the Class C Knowledge Test, which she passed the test with flying colors. In addition to receiving her new license, she was hired as a Goodwill cashier.

Michelle is now on her own and has a new life, and a new career goal: She wants to be a DJ. It’s hard to imagine the shy, soft-spoken, discouraged person we first met in December would dream of being the center of attention and performing on stage for crowds of people. It just goes to show, a little support and encouragement can make a world of difference for someone looking for a way forward, and Goodwill is proud to be that support for Michelle.

Sophie (March 2019)

Sophie was struggling when she came to Goodwill’s Job Connections. She had recently been let go from a position and didn’t understand why. While the job hadn’t been a perfect fit for her, she did not see the termination coming. After thinking through the situation for a week, she decided to come to Goodwill for assistance.

When she first visited Job Connections, it felt like a breath of hope. Through the workshops and trainings offered by the Job Connections Employment Specialists, she learned how to discuss her work history in an interview. Goodwill was also able to provide bus passes which allowed her to get to interviews, clothing vouchers, and assistance with salon services for a haircut. These tools are what Sophie credits with helping her believe in herself again.

In only three days after her first visit to Job Connections, Sophie was offered part time positions with RISE, Inc. and Walmart. In addition, she interviewed for, and accepted, a full time Supervisor position at Goodwill’s Seneca retail store and donation center.

The mission of providing vocational opportunities to individuals with barriers to employment is the reason Sophie is excited to work for Goodwill. She has past experience working for non-profits and is hoping to one day start her own organization. Her love of helping kids from low-income families achieve their dreams is what drives her passion in working for Goodwill. She is excited to learn more about Goodwill’s mission and is proud that she is working to help individuals in the community. She plans to participate in the Prosperity Center’s Transportation to Work Individual Development Account. Once she has completed her savings, she will be able to purchase reliable transportation, which is just one of the goals Goodwill is here to support her with on her path forward.


Jenny (January 2019)

Jenny was a recently divorced unemployed mother of seven who needed a job. She was referred to Goodwill by a local employer on October 29th, 2018 who knew how Job Connections helps job seekers find gainful employment. Jenny had been out of work for a while and she needed to find something as soon as possible. Even though she didn’t graduate from high school, which was potentially due to her learning disability, and had a criminal history, she knew she could earn more than minimum wage with the right employer.

Jenny made almost 20 visits to the North Bend Job Connections location and was motivated to get a good job to set an example for her children. The Job Connections staff assisted her with the Master Application so she could fill out job applications accurately. Jenny expressed an interest in being a Flagger and saw this as a position where earnings would be more than minimum wage. Goodwill was able to assist her with her certification through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) Training and Employment Program (STEP). Jenny attended the Flagger Certification at Southwestern Oregon Community College, missed only one question and passed with 98% on the certification test!

Within a month of her first visit to Job Connections, Jenny was offered a job. However, the company didn’t have enough work to start her right away. Eventually Jenny’s patience paid off and she was hired as a temp-to-hire Flagger/Laborer for Coos County Roads Department in Coquille, Oregon. Job Connections assisted her in ordering and purchasing the necessary flagging equipment required, including the Stop/Caution sign, safety vest, two-way radios, hard hat and rain gear. She is currently making $12.00 per hour and once hired on permanently she will be a part of the union and begin earning $14.75 per hour with benefits. 

From start to finish, Jenny maintained focus on the job search and kept a positive attitude. Jenny says, “I am so excited because I am making this happen!”

Just like the 186 other people who found jobs through Oregon and Alaska Job Connections in the last quarter of 2018, Jenny is a valuable member of her community who is energized by her new opportunities. She is an inspiration to Job Connections staff and other individuals, and is now on the path to being able to support her family and be a positive role model for her children, while contributing to her community.