When Katie Arvin walks into the Bloomington-East Goodwill Store, her smile, laugh and happy-go-lucky personality permeate the store.
“We have a lot of customers who come in just to see how Katie is doing,” said Brian Hartl, store manager. “Her laugh and smile make others laugh. It’s contagious.”
“I love the customers, and the customers love me,” Katie says proudly.
Katie has worked for Goodwill since 2008 and was placed at the store through a job coach who recommended that Goodwill would be a good fit for Katie, who has a developmental disability. At first, Katie worked with her job coach, learning how to remove items from the sales floor. Now, Katie works independently and has learned to do every job except cashiering. Store management says she works hard and is learning to be more independent in her daily duties.
Before coming to Goodwill, the Bloomington High School South graduate tried working as a cafeteria employee but said the job wasn’t right for her. Now, she enjoys coming to work, has made friends with co-workers, and describes herself as a “hard worker” and an “important worker.”
Away from work, Katie enjoys e-mailing, shopping, spending time with co-workers and friends, babysitting, bowling and watching TV.
Her future is with Goodwill, Katie says, because she enjoys her work and feels great when she gets paid.
“I’m proud to be here with all my friends,” she says. “Goodwill is awesome.”
James Wood can’t stop smiling.
"I’ve learned that I’m able to accomplish things that I never really thought I would have to do. I’ve learned a lot about myself,” he says. “Now, I go with the flow, keep the smile on my face. My kids are happier because of it"
James was hired in May 2011 as a Goodwill Guide for the Getting Ahead program, which teaches employees in Goodwill’s Retail Division how to find community resources and set personal and financial goals. He previously worked in Goodwill retail as an assistant manager and graduated from Getting Ahead in December 2010. Even before a job opportunity opened up, James volunteered weekly so he could share his experiences and help others.
“I learned that I had a passion that was down inside that I really never knew I had. I’d always grown up to be a hard worker, and when I got in my career, it was always management and restaurants. And I thought that’s what my passion was. But I quickly learned that’s what I felt comfortable with. This is completely out of my comfort zone, but it’s a blast.”
For James, taking the job as a Goodwill Guide was exciting because he can relate to participants in Getting Ahead on a “been there, done that” level. When James was enrolled in the program, he was forced to confront many struggles head-on: a painful divorce, moving back in with his parents, the foreclosure of his home, and difficulties paying bills. He says all challenges haven’t disappeared, but his attitude has changed because of what he learned.
“I still have my struggles, but I have a different outlook now. … There’s still a tremendous amount that needs to be paid. I’m getting payment arrangements set up. It’s better than looking at filing bankruptcy. I want to try to do the right thing.”
James now has new vision for his life. He has his own apartment. He spends time with his two sons and daughter regularly. He’s enrolled this fall for Ivy Tech’s Indiana Youth Development associate’s degree program so he can further pursue his passion – working with people. And he’s keeping his financial and family goals always in mind.
“You can’t change anything from the past. Rip the rearview mirror off and don’t look back anymore. It may take a while to reach what you’re wanting, but as long as you keeping plugging forward, it’s going to happen, and there is support out there.”
When Angela Viles was hired as a team leader at Goodwill’s Greenwood Store in May 2011, she didn’t anticipate becoming a high school graduate by the end of summer.
“I knew I could go and take a test for my GED, but it costs money, and quite frankly, I wanted my diploma.”
Angela was close to graduating from high school 10 years ago and still dreamed of a diploma. She heard about the public charter high school for adults early on in her experience at Goodwill.
“I always did my work, but then I met the man of my dreams when I was a senior, so I got married in high school, and I did government as homeschooling so I could finish. To make a long story short, the homeschooling lady that took my stuff misplaced my last assignment and told me that I wouldn’t be able to walk down the aisle, but I could still take my last test and get my diploma. I was really naive and pretty stupid at that age, and I was so mad that I couldn’t walk down the aisle that I just stopped. So I really hurt myself in that decision.”
When Angela met with staff at The Excel Center, she learned she needed to complete her government requirement along with a second geometry credit. After what she describes as a “long month” of working 40 hours a week, managing her household, caring for her two children and nephew, and studying, her dream came true.
“It just means everything. It was haunting me not having my diploma – for 10 years, really.”
Angela graduated from The Excel Center in July 2011. She now is enrolled in classes at Ivy Tech to help her explore her interests, and for the first time, Angela, whose career has focused on retail or being a stay-at-home mom, is weighing her future options.
“It’s just a really good feeling to progress in life and to move up and not just be that lady sitting a home with her kids – having goals. The sky’s the limit.”
Video: Meet Angela