Success Stories

Kendra Hathaway – Franklin Rd. Graduate Featured on RTV6

At age 17, Franklin Rd. graduate, Kendra Hathaway, dropped out of high school after she had gotten pregnant with her now two-year-old daughter, Emilia (Emma) Davis. In September of 2014, Kendra enrolled with The Excel Center Franklin Rd. in hopes of earning her high school diploma. Little did she know that during this time she would also be receiving her pharmaceutical tech certification that would later lead her to her current Pharmacy Tech position with Community East Hospital.

“The Excel Center changed me in the way that I thought about things,” said Kendra. “It helped me grow up.”

Kendra graduated from The Excel Center on April 30th, 2015 and is enrolled for the fall at Ivy Tech where she will be studying to become a nurse. Her biggest dream is life is to be able to take care of herself and her child independently.

In addition to her success at The Excel Center, Kendra was also featured on RTV6 on July 21 for her involvement with Nurse-Family Partnership, a nationally recognized, home-visitation program that increases health care access and improves health outcomes for first-time mothers and their babies.

Jamilah Abdulaziz

Jamilah Abdulaziz

For GW Commercial Services team leader Jamilah Abdulaziz, cleaning at a federal contract site is more than just a job. It’s a passion.

Muhammad Maaita

Muhammad Maaita

Field technician for Goodwill Technology Solutions (information technology), describes his journey the past 2½ years as “a big wow.”

Earl Hunt

Earl Hunt

If you had asked Earl Edward Hunt 20 years ago where he’d be today, he couldn’t have imagined the vast changes he would make in his life.

“I love my job,” she says. “Even when I’m off, I talk about my job. Goodwill just is a good place to be.”
“I love my job,” she says. “Even when I’m off, I talk about my job. Goodwill just is a good place to be.” Jamilah came to GW Commercial Services, an AbilityOne Authorized Provider, seven months ago through the help of a job coach. She had been unemployed for three years, staying home to take care of her grandchildren. “I wanted to change all of it. I got tired of waiting on a (disability) check every month,” she says. The job that Jamilah now loves started part-time and was a learning experience in endurance. Cleaning a large federal building requires walking, bending, stooping and constant physical labor. At the time Jamilah started, she was 75 pounds heavier, and the job was physically challenging. “When I first started, it was kind of stressful. My body hurt a lot,” she says. But Jamilah, who utilized the medical insurance that came with employment, worked with doctors to receive treatment for her knees and ankles and soon was employed full-time. She enjoyed her job, and her work ethic, determination, aptitude and self-confidence helped Jamilah advance quickly. She saw an opportunity available for team leader and was determined to advance. She asked her supervisor not once, but twice, for an opportunity to try out for the position. Soon, she was given a 2-week trial period that led to her promotion to team leader, a first in GW Commercial Services. GW Commercial Service’s promotional program, called Steps to Success, has six levels of achievement and tests an employee’s competency in janitorial tasks and soft skills that include an employee’s knowledge of Goodwill values and leadership. Generally, supervisors say that most employees can advance about one level a year. Jamilah is the first person ever to advance directly from the first level, which is an entry-level position, to the sixth level, which is team leader, in less than a year. “She knows what the customer expects and what’s required of us. She proved herself, not only in competency of janitorial tasks but the way she is with her team and the way she makes them feel,” said Breeanna Bongayan, employee resource and development specialist for GW Commercial Services. “It’s not that she settles because she pushes her team. But she knows their potential, and she does it in a way that’s nurturing. It makes the work environment so lovely.” Jamilah, who has bipolar disorder, says her determination and drive to succeed come from the strength she has gained from facing adversity in life. “I had no self-esteem years ago. And I have built my self-esteem back up to be the person I am. When somebody gives you a chance in life, you’re able to do what you really want to do and succeed,” she says. “God’s the one who woke me up for what I’ve been through,” she adds. “I was in a wheelchair back in 2007. I was living with my dad. My dad kicked me out, and I had nowhere to go. I wound up in a shelter, and I was crying – boo hoo – and feeling sorry for myself. I was very suicidal, and I was in and out of the hospital. And one day, I stopped complaining and started thanking God more for everything, and things started changing. I got my apartment that I didn’t have. At the apartment, they had furniture in the basement that other people had left. You know, God will bless you if you stop complaining. Allow Him to bless you, and watch what happens.” Jamilah now is reconciled with her father and describes herself as energetic and happy all the time. She’s set her sights on a new goal – achieving her high school diploma at Goodwill’s Excel Center, a public high school for adults. And she knows that her life has changed permanently. “I feel on top of the world. For once in my life, somebody gave me a chance to prove myself, who I am, what I’m capable of doing, and it feels good to actually have people listen to me,” she says. “I’m proud of myself; I’m proud of my team members; I’m proud of my job; I’m proud of what I do. I’m proud of getting up every morning to be responsible.” See her video

“It started when I decided to move to the States, and before, I had my job back home. I was living my life,” said the native of Jordan. “In late 2008, I was approved to move to the United States and become a permanent resident.
Muhammad said work experience, advanced educational opportunities, and family influenced his decision. He left behind an information technology job at an international company, family, friends, and familiarity and arrived in Indianapolis in January 2009 to move in with family members already here. “I’m looking for a job – second day, second morning. The first thing I go for is online application, and I’m just submitting applications anywhere. I need someone to talk to. Of course, that was one of the barriers, which is the language. At the very beginning, it was too hard to communicate that, ‘I can do this, but I don’t know the meaning of that word,’ ” says Muhammad, who spoke English but had a limited vocabulary when he arrived. Muhammad’s job search took 7 months. “It was the time where the economic crisis had hit the top. Everyone was worried. Imagine me thinking, ‘What am I going to do? What did I do to myself? I lost – I gave away – a very nice job at an international company.’ ” But, as Muhammad describes his journey, “Everything comes just in time. There’s a blessing somewhere, right?” His brother, a former Goodwill employee, thought he should apply at a store. “Literally, he grabbed my hand, put me in his car, drove me to the Keystone Store.” Muhammad was hired as a store cashier a week later. From day one, he planned to advance. “I’m working, keeping my job, saying, ‘I love what I do right now, and I’m doing my best, but that’s not what I’m planning to keep doing.’ ” Meanwhile, Muhammad’s family, which owns a restaurant and a trucking business, routinely offered him jobs. But Muhammad stuck with his dream to get back into the information technology field. “I didn’t want to walk the same path (as my family),” he says. “I needed to go back to, ‘Why did you decide to move to the States? To better myself, to better my skills, to better my education.’ ” After he was hired at Goodwill, Muhammad persistently reminded his manager that he could do more. They worked on a development plan, and he was eventually promoted to team leader. He also took a Goodwill class where individuals learn to find community resources and set personal and financial goals. Through the class, Muhammad met Goodwill staff who connected him with his current job, providing information technology support for Goodwill’s stores, and he transferred in September 2010. Muhammad now has his own apartment and is excited about his future. “I have a good job, a career. Sometimes when I think about it, I don’t believe it.” “That’s Goodwill’s whole mission – working together to help people find jobs – find life. I wouldn’t have a life here without a job.”

“I thought drugs was my life,” he says. “But it always turned out wrong. Police work three shifts. You sleep one. You can’t get away. But those are the things that you ignore.”
During his third incarceration for selling drugs, Earl decided to change. He participated in a prison program to help him get off drugs and take other steps to change his life. When he was released in March 2009, he began searching for a job. Eventually, he was referred to Goodwill through Indiana Vocational Rehabilitation. He remembers arriving at the interview with his criminal record and his packet of achievement certificates from the programs he completed in prison – just hoping the case manager would believe in him. “Society don’t take a chance on ex-felons because they did wrong. They don’t understand that once the person does wrong and they paid for that, let them move on. But a lot of times, they don’t let you.” Earl was hired in January 2010 for his first job in 20-plus years – as a GW Commercial Services janitor for a service contract. He worked 9 months in that position, and soon he was promoted to team leader. “I was very glad to get a job. Because a lot of people come from prison – especially if they hear lot of no’s – and you go back and do what you used to do. But I wasn’t willing to go back and do that. This is a blessing just to come to work every day.” Earl said his biggest challenge on the job has been developing his communication skills. “People on the streets, you deal with them in a different type of way. It was a challenge at first. I just talk straight, and I expect people to talk straight, too. … I realize now that they’re not street people. Treat people like you want to be treated, and you’ll be better off. I work on it.” Earl’s supervisor Michael Bell said that Earl is a hard worker who has built relationships quickly and gained respect from his colleagues, earning him an endearing nickname. “Everyone looks to Earl like a father figure. We call him our ‘Goodwill Dad,’ ” Michael says. “It’s hard for me to believe that he’s the same person that I’ve heard stories about the things he used to do, compared to the person that I know now.” The nickname of “Goodwill Dad” makes Earl laugh heartily. “I care about the people that work for me. I always look out for them.” Earl just purchased a two-bedroom, full-basement home – the first one he’s ever owned by himself. He says he’s proud of his accomplishments and learned from his past. “First thing I gotta do is put God upfront, and the next thing is come to work everyday.” Meet Earl

Mike Pennycuff

Mike Pennycuff

Born with cerebral palsy, Mike Pennycuff’s doctors told his parents that he probably would never walk or work. He’s proved them wrong over and over again.

Dawn Baxter

Dawn Baxter

In 2005, Dawn Baxter enrolled in Goodwill’s janitorial training program, desiring more flexibility in the workplace than she had found previously.

Daniel Lucad

Daniel Lucad

Daniel Luca zips through the bustling Plainfield Goodwill Store placing donated merchandise on the sales floor. Always smiling, his enthusiasm for work is contagious.

“I’m really proud,” Mike said with a big smile on his face. “I like my life and can do so much.”
Since 1986, Mike has been a steady and dependable employee in Goodwill’s retail stores. Now working as a backroom employee at the Muncie Store, Mike plays an important role in making sure custodial jobs are completed and purging wares and clothing from the sales floor in a timely manner. Mike’s supervisors praise his hard work and say his positive attitude and upbeat personality inspire other employees. Mike says his colleagues inspire him, too.

“I learned how to clean. I’d never cleaned anything,” Dawn says. “Goodwill helped me learn what the proper protocol is, what the proper chemicals are and what not to mix together.”
Dawn, who has no use of her legs and uses a motorized wheelchair, worked a few months in the program with staff who trained her in basic janitorial tasks and worked with her to focus on areas that she could master. In March 2006, Dawn completed her training and interviewed with the GW Commercial Services supervisor at the Major General Emmett J. Bean Federal Center. GW Commercial Services provides employment, job training and skills development for people who have severe disabilities primarily through janitorial and other service contracts with the federal government under Ability One, a program established by Congress to increase employment opportunities for people with severe disabilities. Now, Dawn travels quickly around the 1.6 million-square-foot building during her daily routine. Over time, Dawn’s supervisor has made special arrangements to help her add more tasks to her workday. She adapted a tool typically used to wash windows to aid Dawn while washing tables and chairs throughout the building. Dawn says Goodwill has not only taught her additional skills but has built her confidence. “I like working with the customers and the other Goodwill workers. I try to give my all,” she says. “With Goodwill, they treat you like a regular individual. They don’t treat you like you have limitations. They encourage you to better yourself and go the extra mile and reach for that next step so you can improve yourself. They were willing to make adaptations for me so I can be a success.”

“I like to come to work and help people,” says Daniel, who works in almost every area of the store.
Daniel, who is mentally challenged and faces physical limitations that affect his walking, has worked at the store since 2004. Supervisors say his positive attitude and constant smile make him a good worker. He lives with two roommates in a rented house and does his own shopping. He says his work makes him happy and allows him to pay bills, take trips, and take his mom out. Daniel says his future goals include learning to run a cash register and becoming part of the store’s management team. “Goodwill is my favorite place to work,” Daniel says.

Esse Wanuki

Esse Wanuki

After much physical therapy, Esse started to work with Goodwill’s Disability Services to find a job that would accommodate her new restrictions.

Charles Turman

Charles Turman

Charles Turman, a janitor trainee at Goodwill’s Tremont facility, recently earned his Custodial Technician Certification from the Cleaning Management Institute (CMI).

Angela Viles

Angela Viles

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 had gone on a lot of interviews that didn’t work out,” Esse said. “The Goodwill staff worked with me on my resume and on interviewing skills. I’m where I am now because of what I learned from them. They didn’t give up.
Originally from Mozambique, when Esse Wanuki moved to Indiana, she worked as a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) until an unfortunate back injury left her with a disability that made it impossible for her to continue working.  Disability Services helped place Esse at a part-time home health companion position that did not require lifting and could work for her back injuries. Esse’s employment advisor coached her on disclosing her disability, so she could be successful in her new role. Unfortunately, the employer was unable to employ Esse for enough hours per week, so her Disability Services employment advisor continued to work with her as she developed her interview skills and referred her to Goodwill’s TalentSource. A close partnership between TalentSource and Eskenazi Health resulted in connecting Esse to a patient service assistant position at Eskenazi’s Forest Manor Clinic. Esse is working successfully in her position at Forest Manor and has plans to move forward with more education. She also aims to move up within her company and continue to advance her career.

“I did complete. I did all the work. I answered 99% of the questions. I was like, ‘This is amazing stuff,’ ” he says.
Ask him what he learned in the class, and he proudly lists many lessons, including working a room clockwise, knowing the difference between chemical levels 1-3 and when to use them, emphasizing the importance of wearing gloves, and explaining how to strip and buff floors safely. For Charles, earning his certification was not only a great mark in his professional career – it was a tremendous personal accomplishment. For several years of his childhood, he was in foster care and bounced from school to school, missing out on some of his education. As a result, Charles has trouble reading, and students in the Custodial Technician Certification course must study five areas of custodial work and then pass a written end-of-course examination to receive their certification. “I didn’t think I would be able to pass it at first,” Charles says. “It was just like coming from out of state and going somewhere. You don’t know anything or how it’s going to go. It was hard.” But Charles never gave up. He worked with his instructor Phil Douglas, supervisor of the GW Commercial Services Janitorial Training Program and a certified CMI trainer, who helped him slow down in order to really understand the course material. He even learned to sound out words that were unfamiliar. “He showed me that it’s not a real problem that I have,” Charles says. “Some people – they get it once, but for me, it took me two or three times.” Charles took the written examination for his certification in two hours and passed – something he describes as “a real plus.” “I’m glad I only had to take it once, instead of having to take the class twice or maybe three times,” he says. Now, Charles has his sights set on new goals: taking computer classes, learning to write a letter, paying off his home, and looking for a full-time job. He came to Goodwill through the Senior Community Service Employment Program, which provides adults age 55 and older paid, part-time on-the-job training at a community service organization like Goodwill while they look for full-time employment. Charles says his new certification will give him an edge in the job market, and he says the class was advantageous for him. “They show you how to do stuff,” he says. “They help you, take you by the hand.” Video: Meet Charles

“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