In 2019, Goodwill® Industries of Southern Arizona is celebrating its 50th Anniversary! Since 1969, Goodwill® has provided a “hand up” for any person who wants to achieve independence through jobs, education and skills training. This means helping individuals realize their potential, see and achieve their steps in the career pathways they set while providing support along the way. In the past 5 years alone, Goodwill® has served over 50,000 individuals.
Goodwill ® was originally named Goodwill Industries of Tucson, founded in 1967 by minister Dale Dunbar, also Goodwill ® gained its non-profit status as well as becoming a corporation on September 19, 1969. The organization officially became Goodwill® Industries of Southern Arizona on September 27th, 1994. Goodwill® moved to its Cherrybell facility in 1975, where it still operates today.
The first Goodwill store was located in a former Safeway store building on the corner of S 6th Ave. and W. 23rd St. Goodwill’s first participants were adults with physical disabilities in a sheltered workshop where they would be trained for competitive employment by repairing and reconditioning clothing and other household items. Today, Goodwill operates the Youth Restoration Project, a program whose operational activities center around the repair, refurbishing and upcycling of mostly donated furniture while young adult participants work towards their career and educational goals – by getting their GED or HS Diploma, gaining industry experience through internships, while also learning the carpentry trade.
Goodwill also continues to serve adults with disabilities through its Supported Employment program. Participants now work within retail operations and thrift stores for a more integrated setting as they train to work towards competitive employment.
The People Who Make the Mission Worth Doing
“Every individual Goodwill serves makes our mission worth doing,” said Liz Gulick, Co-President/CEO. “When a 43-year old employee gets her GED; when a young adult gains employment so he can provide for his young family; when a person earns a better wage because of new skills that makes him more valuable in an organization…all of them.”
MEL CHAMBERS, RETIRED GOODWILL EMPLOYEE AFTER 28 YEARS
“I enjoyed working for Goodwill…I’m going to miss the people…that’s why I’ve been here for as long as I had. I never even considered getting another job after I got the job at Goodwill.”
KAIDEN WOLFLEY, GOODFUTURES YOUTH SEES A GOOD FUTURE AHEAD
KEVIN CUNNINGHAM, RETAIL DIRECTOR – HIS STORY
Goodwill® Industries of Southern Arizona is an organization that helps individuals at all levels in their career or education, gain skills and take advantage of opportunities available to them outside of Goodwill® and also within. After 15 years established in the construction industry and looking for a career change, Kevin Cunningham was able to restart his career with Goodwill®. He currently serves as the Retail Director and it will be nine years this May that he’s been with the organization.
Kevin shares his story…
Kevin started looking for work after getting out of the construction industry in 2010. The problem at the time was the economy was not doing well. “When I started looking for jobs, I couldn’t get hired anyplace,” Kevin said. “No one would even respond to you because they were getting so many applicants.”
“I’d fill out applications and you’d call someplace and they would say, ‘you know I have 300 applications, I don’t know who you are, that you think you’re so special, and that I would pull yours out.’ That is what I was hearing.”
He met Goodwill’s Ina Road store manager who encouraged him to apply. At first, Kevin was hesitant because of the pay, but being someone who was used to always being busy, he said, “I was going crazy sitting at home…”
Kevin did apply and he called the manager and asked if he could make sure this application was at least looked at by HR. The store manager agreed to make that call.
He was out of town when he received the phone call for an interview – the first call for an interview that he had received during all the time he was looking for employment! In addition, Goodwill® was willing to wait until he got back to schedule the interview with him.
Kevin was hired on as an Assistant Manager. “I needed this job but, for the first two weeks, I still went home and filled out applications looking for something that paid a little more.”
“Three weeks into it, I told myself, ‘this is an amazing company…I think this is a company I can grow with and help make a difference in our community. They care about their employees.’ To feel that, I was like, OK, I can stop looking for another job.
When asked what happened in those three weeks that made him change his mind, Kevin answered, “They cared about their employees. Our first value – we value the people we employ and serve. I’ve worked for other companies, my kids have also worked for companies where employees do not feel valued.”
When Kevin initially applied for the job, he did not know about Goodwill’s mission. Now after nine years, he is fully invested. The biggest reason he stays is the way Goodwill® operates with its values. There is respect and compassion; and open communication. “I was here for a month and I was invited to a Stakeholder’s Meeting and I listened to them talk about, with everybody, our sales – and I thought, wow, that’s pretty great that they openly communicate with their employees.”
Even now, Kevin shares this story with new employees during Orientation about why he applied with Goodwill® despite his initial uncertainty. “When I first took the job, I took the job because I needed a job.” His income was not going to be what he was used to making. “I tell people in NEO (New Employee Orientation) you might have started today at a lower wage than what you wanted, but with this company, you can grow. The opportunities are there…”
We value the people we employ and serve. “When I started nine years ago, there were people working at GISA doing their community service,” Kevin said. “It’s good to see them in good jobs, get promoted and growing in their careers. Some were associates and they are now a Management team member…and it doesn’t have to be in Retail for them to grow.”
“Working in stores and seeing where people were at in their lives, I just thought, this is a place that helps people…It’s a great feeling to give back to the community every day you come to work.”
Kevin also acknowledges that what we do today, as an organization will set up the next generation of leaders to succeed for the next 50 years.
Thank you Southern Arizona for your support!