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!
ANISIA PAZ, YOUNG ADULT, METRO YOUTH PROGRAM – HER STORY
Anisia Paz is on a mission.
She is 17, and that mission is to make sure her new baby boy is going to be able have a good life, where he won’t have to grow up as quickly as she did. To do this, she is working on getting her High School Diploma at Goodwill’s Metro Youth Program on 4th Ave. By taking her courses with Grad Solutions, she is able to earn her High School Diploma at her own pace, with one-on-one tutoring and work at the same time.
At 13, Anisia was hanging out with older people on the streets. While she did some things she wasn’t supposed to, she ultimately learned that it wasn’t going to get her anywhere. “I believe I was meant to have a baby at a young age. God just wanted me to grow up fast and realize the world. I think everything is a lesson…Lesson learned.”
Anisia first started with the Metro Program in February 2017 after she rotated out of 3 different high schools. She was introduced to Metro by an old friend and while it took a year to step through the doors, she’s very glad she did. With Metro’s help, she was able to find a job and connect with community resources that could help her through her pregnancy.
Anisia has since given birth to her son. She is currently getting her HS Diploma online through Grad Solutions. She takes her courses at the Metro Youth Center on 4th Ave., Tucson. She just recently did a radio interview about her experience with getting her online HS Diploma and her thoughts about her future. Watch here.
MICHAEL LEVARIO, LMSW WITH TMC GEROPSYCHIATRIC CENTER – HIS STORY
When Michael Levario started working for Goodwill in May 2013, he wasn’t quite sure how he wanted to pursue his interest in social work and mental health, but at the end of his journey with Goodwill of Southern Arizona, he found himself where he felt he always wanted to be.
After a short stint with the Navy, Michael Levario returned home to Tucson. He had been unemployed for quite some time and was encouraged by a friend to apply for a job at the Goodwill store on Speedway Blvd.
Soon after, he got involved with Goodwill’s Employee Development Program (EDP) after Michael Sicurello, EDP Manager introduced the program at a store meeting. EDP offers Goodwill employees individualized services to help individuals with career advancement, educational goals, financial literacy as well as provide support during crises.
Michael said, “[Michael Sicurello] helped me out with a lot of stuff, even as far as if I wanted to bounce something off…an idea, whether it was career-wise or even if it was just help with taxes, or even if it was something personal…something to bounce off of somebody…he would make himself available to me and I know he’s made himself available to others as well.”
Michael completed a Career Action Plan to develop his pathway to become a social worker. While working full-time with Goodwill, Michael was able to complete his prerequisites at Pima Community College and attended Arizona State University satellite classes. The tuition reimbursement benefit and Quarterly Education Grants helped him to reduce the amount of money that had to come out of his pocket for his educational expenses. “Managers were really awesome as far as working with me with my school schedule and my work schedule,” Michael stated.
On the last year of his Bachelor’s program, Michael decided to focus solely on his education. While he left his job at Goodwill, Michael was able to earn his Bachelor’s degree while interning at Tucson Medical Center’s Geropsychiatric Center. He was able to complete an accelerated Master’s degree in one year as he interned with Tucson Medical Center’s Emergency Room. He then became a Licensed Master Social Worker (LMSW). “Goodwill was definitely a huge support system for me, being able to pursue my goals.”
Michael has been working on his professional development since Goodwill. Michael is now a Social Worker at Tucson Medical Center’s Geropsychiatric Unit, assisting elders with different mental health challenges, like dementia, depression, anxiety, cognitive difficulties, and other behavioral difficulties. He is also working to become a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) which he hopes to complete in 2020.
Michael also met his future wife at Goodwill! Juggling school, work and a new relationship, “It was a hectic journey but definitely worthwhile.” Michael and his wife Erica have since had a little girl who was just promoted from preschool the day we sat down with Michael!
Why Giving Matters… Athiana Lerma
When Athiana Lerma came to Goodwill in 2014 she needed someone to help her find some traction and a plan for the future. She started with GoodFutures as a high school dropout with limited options. She lacked confidence in herself and felt the system owed her. The Goodwill staff, helped Athiana begin looking at her situation differently. She just needed a little guidance and perspective. “Eric, Cassie, and Jason were just so fun and open and I felt like I didn’t need to hide anything from them, and I could be honest about what I needed and what I was struggling with here which helped them to help me to succeed.”
By working with GoodFutures, Athiana started to understand that getting the things she wanted in life was going to take hard work and persistence. She started to learn to set goals and budget her expenses so she could plan down the road. With a growing confidence and work ethic, Athiana went back to school and was able to attain her high school diploma and she did not stop there. Athiana continued her education and became certified as a caregiver. She is still working fulltime as a caregiver and is now in a position to give back and help others in a community that once helped her.
“Things have always been pretty bad at home, up until I joined GoodFutures. GoodFutures actually gave me the independence to live on my own and get myself out of that situation and I’ve been living on my own ever since.” Athiana now has a place to call home, a steady fulltime job, a few cuddly cats and a solid relationship. She has stable income, a stable home life and she is happy. Her future is looking good.
It is always rewarding to see a young person turn their life around and even more so when they devote themselves to helping others in the community. When asked, Cassie Valenzuela GoodFutures Mentor and Service Learning Coordinator said “We are incredibly proud of her. She continues to be in contact with us, she works and lives on her own, owns several cats, and has been in a long-term relationship. So I would say she has been very successful!”
Athiana is just one of the many thousands of youth in Southern Arizona that have received services from Goodwill’s six local youth programs.
LANCE MEEKS, METRO/REC PROGRAM MANAGER
Lance Meeks connects communities. As Goodwill’s Metro/REC Youth Program Manager he believes in collaboration and customization of service for each individual. He is willing to meet young people where they are – committing to outreach and long conversations so each person knows that they won’t be put in a “one size fits all” programming. Even after being away for a few years, young people find their way back to Metro because of its caring staff, led by Lance.
See Lance’s acceptance of his 2018-2019 Goodwill Ambassador of the Year on our facebook page.
ILA CIPRIANI, VICE PRESIDENT EMPLOYEE SERVICES & SUPPORT (HR)
In 1980, Ila Cipriani was working three jobs to support herself and her daughter in Alaska. In an effort to give her family a more stable footing, Ila enlisted in the Air Force. She served in Air Force for 15 years (1980-1995) in administrative roles and personnel management, Ila took full advantage of the training, mentoring, and life skills her Air Force career offered. In the last five years of her military career, she used her GI Bill and attended school part-time. She earned her Associate’s degree in Psychology and Bachelor’s degree in Human Resource Management.
After retiring from the Air Force, she committed herself to continuing to serve the community in the non-profit sector and did so in the areas of healthcare, deaf and blind services and currently in workforce development at Goodwill Industries of Southern Arizona.
What made you want to work with Goodwill?
I felt passionate about the mission and vision and wanted to be part of it. I worked for other non-profits prior to coming to Goodwill but none of those missions spoke to me the way Goodwill’s did. I practically stalked the President/CEO until she finally gave in and invited me for a conversation. That was over 10 years ago.
You’ve seen Goodwill grow in the past 10 years. Tell me what your experience was like.
There were slightly more than 200 employees when I arrived and it felt like we were a little “Mom and Pop” company that was figuring out how to carry out our mission. We had a few programs but nothing fresh or highly impactful for the community. There were many “chopportunities” (where challenge meets opportunity). Over the years, we have experienced explosive growth.
Since my arrival we have opened 13 stores, several Attended Donation Centers, increased our employee base to over 500 team members and currently deliver several relevant programs that make a difference for those we serve. Our community has been fantastic in supporting us. It is because of our community members’ donations, shopping and overall support we are able to generate the revenue to support our mission and vision to make a positive difference in our community. The transformation of this organization is like nothing else I have seen in my professional life…. And we’re not done yet.
How do you feel about Goodwill turning 50 years old?
It is extraordinary! We have accomplished so much in that span of time and we look forward to the amazing things we will do in the next 50 years.
We just completed our most successful year yet and I believe that success results in large part from the advancement of leadership skills, our values based culture and the talented and compassionate staff we have who work every day with our community to provide our programs. When we live our value of continuous improvement, everyone benefits.
What advice would you give someone who hasn’t yet taken their first steps to achieve their career/educational goals?
Be brave. Adopt a positive mindset that you can do whatever you set out to do. The first step is always the hardest and most frightening. Conquering that fear is life altering.
Ila loves sailing and golfing; and her passion is spending time with family and especially her granddaughter. She also served as President of the Society of Human Resource Management of Greater Tucson (SHRM-GT) in 2016-2017.
Bruce Munroe and Marilyn Dunbar
As you may have guessed, Goodwill of Southern Arizona is turning 50 years old this year. A few weeks ago, Bruce Munroe our Systems Administrator, walked into our office and said he knew the original founder of Goodwill of Southern Arizona, Dale Dunbar and his wife Marilyn. After speaking more with Bruce, he let us know that Dale’s devoted widow, Marilyn Dunbar, was still in town and would be willing to speak with us. As a result, we had the honor of sitting down with Marilyn and Bruce in the Dunbar’s home to share and discuss Goodwill’s local history, present and future.
Bruce grew up in central Tucson and was close friends with the Dunbar’s boys. He spent time with the family and even got to visit the Goodwill store downtown and play on, in his words “a mountain of clothing in the back.” Bruce expressed “I don’t think Marilyn knows this but Dale was very much a father figure for me. He was such a gentle, gentle man. I would say, he influenced my idea of what being a good parent is, probably more than anything. He could always relate to people without talking down to them, some people have to try at that but for him, it just came naturally. He saw value in people and that is an ideal that has persisted through 50 years. These are people that may be overlooked as part of our working culture, he just felt that natively and was able to help them.”
Since our founding, Goodwill of Southern Arizona has grown from that one downtown store, to over 40 locations including stores, donation centers, job centers, youth centers and we have workforce development staff in offices across Southern Arizona. In 1969, we served around 30 people a year. Now that number is closer to 10,000, with more than 50,000 adults served in the last five years and around 1,500 youth served each year. We also employ around 500 people full time. That is a lot of change for an organization and more importantly, that is a lot of lives changed in the community. As a kid playing in the toy aisle at Goodwill, Bruce had no idea that many years later he would grow up to work for that same company and have the chance to see the impact of Dale’s vision.
“Dale was very enthusiastic about Goodwill. He believed firmly in people having a chance to learn a skill that they could use, not to stay at Goodwill forever, that wasn’t the idea but that they can learn a skill and move onto something else. It would give them a chance to improve their quality of life and make change in the community. Goodwill had a lot of things that they did. At first, there was the collection, the collection was done in trucks. Then the clothes and such were washed. All kinds of things lamps, couches and more,” Marilyn Dunbar.
Dale and Marilyn originally met at the University of Arizona. Marilyn was a student there and Dale was a Reverend at a small Methodist Church in the Sonoita area. When asked about how they met, Marilyn lit up. “Dale was very patient, he loved people and he certainly loved his family. He would do all kinds of things with our sons (laughs)…we had a lot of fun!” Dale Dunbar’s first opportunity leading a Goodwill was out in Ohio, at that time he left the Methodist Church to serve his community through Goodwill. The Dunbar family eventually moved back to Tucson from Zanesville, OH in the late 60’s to start the Goodwill here.
In Tucson, what skills were taught? “In the furniture, they were taught to repair and reupholster. The training that went into was a value because people learned how to repair tables and chairs and then do the refinishing. The skills that were needed were not necessarily being taught to people, especially individuals with disabilities. This was a deal for people with a disability to learn a skill to be able to support themselves, that was really the goal.” Marilyn went on, “The practicality of it is amazing to me. It didn’t take going outside and hunting for people that are experts. The practical part of someone with a skill teaching someone else is extremely effective. It is hard to read a book and learn to re-stuff a chair, it’s easier if someone can show you. Dale liked to work with his hands, he was always building something. I think because he had those skills it made it easier.”
From the hard work, vision and compassion of one man, great things can happen. We are very proud to work for Goodwill and to continue the mission that Dale started so many years ago. As an organization, we are committed to empowering our neighbors and friends through our mission of training and workforce development. Thank you Southern Arizona for making all of this growth and change possible. Without your loyal support we could not do what we do.
Nancy Hunt – Goodwill Supported Employment Job Coach
FIDELIS LOPEZ – Goodwill Adult Re-Entry Participant
Goodwill’s Adult Re-entry Program first met Fidelis at an informational session in May of 2019. Fidelis was staying at a federal halfway house and had only been out of prison for about a month. As he describes it, in his lifetime, at the age of 52, he has been behind bars much longer than he’s lived outside of incarceration. Fidelis had his sights set high and wanted to attend Gap Kitchen, a local culinary program that is an intense, 10-week, 40 hours per week certification class; the course includes life skills and financial literacy training, in addition to top-level culinary training by a highly acclaimed former Tucson Iron Chef champion John Hohn. There is no cost to the program but the intensity of the training does not permit much opportunity for someone to work while attending. Fidelis rode three buses each way, for two and a half months.
Our Adult Re-Entry team was able to provide Fidelis with bus passes, a stipend throughout the course of the training and emotional support when there were struggles. Staff works to support individuals by building self-reliance skills and by connecting them to additional resources in the community. For example, our Adult Re-Entry team worked to ensure Fidelis had transportation and the ability to obtain bus passes once the program’s support ended. Fidelis was initially unable to acquire a low-income bus pass (which reduces the cost of a trip by half) as he did not receive state benefits and did not have documentation proving he was of low- income. Goodwill was able to connect with a local partner agency who helped obtain his approval for a low-income bus pass.
Fidelis saved up enough of his stipend funds and was able to find stable housing for himself. It is an incredible accomplishment, he is now living in his own home for the first time in many, many years. To further support and celebrate, Goodwill obtained a “Starting Over Kit”, a basket of items provided through the Tucson Assistance League, which includes basic household items like a shower curtain, plates, cups, and utensils to help get his home started. He has now graduated from Gap Kitchen with his ServeSafe Manager’s Certification, a nationally recognized certification that is required for at least one employee to hold in every food establishment in Pima County. Fidelis currently works at a local Thai restaurant where he enjoys learning new dishes and keeping busy.
Fidelis’ integrity shines through in his performance. He wants to work and he wants to work hard. Since enrolling in Goodwill Adult Re-Entry we have also known him to volunteer his time with another non-profit. Fidelis also makes it a point to distribute food to people who are experiencing homelessness that he sees on his way home from work
We have learned from our participants that for many, re-entering society after incarceration is not an easy path. Fidelis’ journey definitely reflects those struggles. He has shared that he even considered that incarceration is easier, perhaps even an appealing choice as he faced a mountain of barriers. Navigating every-day tasks like basic choices (since there are such few opportunities to make choices once within incarceration), understanding the bus routes, as well as other more difficult situations can often be an emotional struggle that can defeat an individual. Fidelis was even frustrated and overwhelmed with the Re-Entry enrollment process but he pushed through and was able to benefit from the program. In his application to Goodwill, Fidelis wrote that he would like to be accepted into the program because he wanted “people who believe in [him] and that are willing to help [him] along the way”. We hold the belief that everyone can be successful and that each individual’s value is defined by more than their mistakes. At Goodwill, we’re here to help if someone stumbles or gets stuck and that can be essential to their long term success.
We are thrilled Fidelis has met his goals and accomplished so much in such a short amount of time. We look forward to celebrating all of Fidelis’ future success.