Goodwill’s program prepares many for jobs | OPINION

William Shatner touts Priceline.com. Brad Pitt promotes Chanel No. 5. Marie Osmond is a media voice for Nutri-Systems. But get this: The one and only Beyoncé has taken it upon herself to be an outspoken supporter of Goodwill Industries. Not for money. Not to enhance her image, but because she believes in Goodwill’s mission. She’ll be promoting Goodwill throughout her North American concert series beginning June 28 at Los Angeles’ Staples Center.

On the local scene, Seattle rapper Macklemore filmed the video for his hit, Thrift Shop, at a Seattle Goodwill. The lyrics (can’t be printed here) are his tribute to thrift shopping. To keep pace with all the celebrity support, Marysville’s Goodwill recently jazzed up its drab interior with a colorful make-over.

Thrift shopping has become cool for kids and adults alike. Check the number of cars in parked at Goodwill and Value Village against JCPenney and Kohl’s to get an idea of how they’re doing.  Monroe High School students staged a “Thrift Shop” dance as centerpiece of a donation drive. The dance committee had partnered with Monroe’s Goodwill which provided the event with furniture, rugs, pictures and discounted clothing.

The recent economic squeeze taught teens a harsh lesson in economics. Many turned to thrift shopping as a way of supporting the family budget. If only one teen shopped at Goodwill, he would have been uncool, but after fifty did it and bragged about shopping there, it became cool. It becomes way cool when scoring a pair of pricey Levis for $9.95.

The money that flows into Goodwill’s 23 regional stores cycles back into Goodwill Industries’ social services. In Marysville, a team of Goodwill educators helps hundreds of students to develop job skills and if necessary, improve fluency in English. Ninety-two of them secured jobs last year in what might be termed, Marysville’s other alternative school.

Through Worksource, a placement service, students find jobs in retail marketing, maintenance, hospitality, assembly, health care, and wherever their skills take them. A new training partnership with Boeing will add aerospace to the list.

A short sampling of employers hiring Goodwill students indicates the breadth of opportunity: Villa Italiana, Foss Marine, UPS, Fluke, Volkswagen/Dodge, Safeway, Bartells, Marysville School District, Home Depot, Port Susan Camping Club, AMT Aerospace, Alderwood Middle School, Jack in the Box, McDonalds and Starbucks.

Not everyone in Marysville knows what goes on in the low-profile school at 9315 State Ave. Enter the Goodwill retail store and veer right. The first door leads to administration and computer and language training labs. The next doors open onto two more classrooms, one with a smart board and up-to-date cash-register checkout stations. For convenience sake, think of it as the Goodwill Education Center or GEC.

Goodwill exists to better the lives of society’s economically disadvantaged. In keeping with the adage, “If you give a man a fish he will eat for a day but if you teach him how to fish he will eat every day,” Goodwill is deep into not only job training but what one must become to get and hold a job.

Marysville’s GEC opened five years ago with two teachers. Now it has six, all with Bachelor’s degrees or better. Tanya Siler heads up a staff that does more than teach. A glance at headings labeling bulletin board sectors shows Goodwill’s concern for students’ living situations; Kloz4Kids, Food Banks, Community Resources, Medical-Dental-Vision and Housing and Utilities. Notices direct students to services that enable them to keep on learning.

In uncertain times, people turn to Goodwill’s thrift shops and the programs they support. The usual line-up at Goodwill’s checkout stand testifies to that and adequate funding for the classes.  The new aerospace program is an example of how Goodwill targets needs where they occur. The Furniture Loft near the U of W where students pick up furniture items for no more than $20 is another timely service.

Much of society is learning that a $10 pair of thrift store jeans might wear just as long as a $70 pair from the mall. And for anyone nutty enough to want expensive pre-destroyed jeans, some really cheap items on Goodwill racks have a good start toward that “distressed” look so popular with the counterculture crowd.

Some shoppers frequent thrift stores from necessity, others to make a statement, as did the senior class of Monroe High school where a number of youngsters togged themselves at Goodwill for that November Ball. When girls picked up gowns from a formal-swap shop, the event actually became affordable — for those who nixed the limo.

Nationally, Goodwill makes a significant impact. Consider these numbers from 2012:

  • 6.7 million enrolled in employment and training programs.
  • 216,000 job placements in 2012.
  • $3.62 billion in earnings from those jobs.

Much of Goodwill’s education program is accomplished through the efforts of volunteer teachers. No federal programs. No tax dollars. Just people doing the right thing. Stop for a visit. I did and found the perfect picture frame for a few bucks.

Comments may be addressed to robertgraef@comcast.net.


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