Joel’s Story

Blog_Post_Joel-215x215Joel spent 52 years in the household moving and storage business, relocating people worldwide. He was in his seventies when he finally retired, but he soon realized retirement life wasn’t for him. “It lasted about two years, and then I just decided I wanted to go back to work,” he said. “I kind of had a plan on what I wanted to do, and I thought Goodwill would just be perfect.”

So Joel’s job search started with a visit to Goodwill Career Solutions in Franklin. “I had written out my resumé, and the administrative assistant at Career Solutions graciously typed it up for me.”

During his visit, Joel expressed his interest in working for Goodwill. “They called a manager over from the store, and the manager interviewed me that day. I was really thrilled to get the job.”

That was three years ago. Today, Joel is still working as a sales associate at the Franklin store on Murfreesboro Road. He spends his days running a register and interacting with others. “Goodwill has given me a purpose for getting up every morning,” he said. “I love my co-workers and my customers.”

Joel will celebrate his 83rd birthday on April 4, and he says he will continue to work as long as he is able. “Goodwill has changed my life considerably, and I think working here has actually extended my life,” he said. “I now feel like I have a few good years left in me, and I’m happy that someone can utilize them.”

Watch Joel’s Story:

Brides Camp Out Overnight to Save on Their Dream Dress


The Wedding Gala is Goodwill’s largest event of the year. It’s also one of the most exciting. This year was no different. The first bride showed up nearly 13 hours before the sale even began.

Not only had brides come early, but some had traveled hundreds of miles to attend Goodwill’s 5th Annual Wedding Gala. Brides on a budget came from Florida, Illinois, Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky and all across Tennessee for a chance to find their dream dress at a deeply discounted price.

This year’s sale featured more than 1,500 brand new designer dresses that were donated by area bridal boutiques. More than 700 of those were wedding gowns worth as much as $6,000, all priced under $400. All other dresses including prom, bridesmaid, flower girl and mother’s dresses were priced under $30.

When the doors opened at 6 a.m. on March 15, more than 500 people were lined up outside the store. The wait definitely paid off. The first four brides in line all found their dream wedding gown.

When the four-hour sale ended, more than 500 dresses had been purchased. By close of business Sunday, 699 dresses had been sold. A large assortment of jewelry, veils, belts, shoes and other accessories were also purchased.

It is a special moment when a bride finds that perfect dress. It’s even more special when you think about how those purchases benefit Goodwill’s mission. What a huge day for all of those brides on a budget, and for Goodwill.

Youth Building Goodwill

BOA_Image_Online_215x215Goodwill Industries of Middle Tennessee just kicked off an exciting new program aimed at helping youth and young adults receive the tools they need to succeed. “Youth Building Goodwill” will provide educational, vocational and financial training to 17 to 25-year-olds who are out of school and unemployed.

This new venture began late last year when Goodwill Industries of Middle Tennessee submitted a proposal to the Bank of America Charitable Foundation for its Neighborhood Builders Award. Goodwill found out in late November it had won the regional award, which included a grant to be used to create the “Youth Building Goodwill” program.

A celebration of this award, held on February 13, 2014 on Goodwill’s corporate campus, included local business leaders, members of Goodwill’s board of directors and several Goodwill employees. John Stein, Tennessee president of Bank of America, presented a $200,000 check to Goodwill in honor of receiving the award. “We are pleased and thrilled for the Bank of America Charitable Foundation’s confidence in and support of us and this program,” said Betty Johnson, vice president and chief people officer for Goodwill. “We look forward to educating and empowering this under-served population.”

Goodwill has already started working with other agencies to make sure this program is a success. A pilot project with the YMCA Youth-Build Program has resulted in several young men obtaining employment, and they will continue to receive guidance from Goodwill staff. Johnson said, “We will assist these young adults in mapping out a life plan that allows them to accomplish their goals, earn an income and become contributing members of the community.”

“Youth Building Goodwill” is currently being offered in Davidson County. However, there are plans to extend the program to other areas including Rutherford, Wilson and Williamson Counties. For more information about the program, call Brenda Hines at (615) 346-1634.

Dorothy’s Story

Blog_Post_Dorothy-215x215A stay-at-home mom, Dorothy had been out of the workforce for over 30 years. “I wanted to stay home and take care of my two children,” she said. “Then, when my children were teenagers, my sister passed away, and her three year old son came to live with me.”

Dorothy chose to stay at home and raise her nephew, just as she had her own children. When her nephew turned 16, she decided it was time to return to the workforce. Despite a lack of work experience, the 55-year-old had no problem finding employment. Goodwill was the first place she applied and, just days later, she was offered a job.

That was eight years ago. Today, Dorothy spends her days processing hard goods at the Goodwill store in Shelbyville. “I’m responsible for keeping the store shelves in the hard goods section stocked and organized,” she said. “I really enjoy my job.”

For some, the transition back into the workforce can be difficult, but that wasn’t the case for Dorothy. “It was actually pretty smooth,” she said. “My managers and co-workers made it easy for me.”

Now, eight years later, Dorothy is still happy to be a part of the Goodwill family. “Working for Goodwill has changed my life,” she said. “I am independent now, and that makes me feel real good.”

Watch Dorothy’s story:

New Beginnings: The Essence of Goodwill

Matthew Bourlakas, President and CEO

Matthew Bourlakas, President and CEO

A woman barely escapes the harsh reality of living on the streets, a young man’s dream of playing soccer ends abruptly, and a mother’s son feels the desperation of a life unfulfilled. These are the stories of actual Goodwill clients, featured in Goodwill Industries of Middle Tennessee’s new television ads.

As each ad opens, their heart-breaking experiences are captured with emotional intensity and draw us into the moments when their outlooks on life change from hopelessness to happiness. At the heart of their transformations are Goodwill’s Career Solutions centers.

Offering one-on-one job readiness, job training services and job counseling for individuals with disabilities and others who have trouble finding and keeping jobs, Goodwill’s Career Solutions Centers open up doors of opportunity and provide the chance for lives to be changed.

Sometimes life throws us curve balls and takes us down unexpected roads that appear to lead to dead ends, but converting dead ends into new beginnings is the essence of Goodwill.

New beginnings start with you. I hope these new ads inspire you to generously support Goodwill by donating items in your home you no longer need or use and by shopping in one of our 35 stores.

Jose’s Story

Blog_Post_Jose-215x215Jose had big plans. He wanted to be a doctor, and he was hoping to get a soccer scholarship to Vanderbilt University. But on June 4, 2007, his life was forever changed. Jose was jogging in Mount Pleasant when a driver of an SUV pulled over and demanded money. “When I told him I didn’t have any, he pulled out a gun and started shooting,” he said.

The gunman fired three times and missed. Then the gun jammed, and Jose took off running. The fourth shot hit his spinal cord and left him paralyzed from the waist down. “I was two weeks away from graduating with my medical assistant degree,” he said. “I had something good going, but unfortunately that didn’t happen, and it was a huge change for me.”

Jose wasn’t ready to give up, but he wasn’t prepared for the obstacles he would face while looking for a job. “During job interviews, they would ask me if I could stand or lift 50 pounds,” he said. “I threw in the towel at that point. I was very depressed.”

In 2011, Jose’s mom and sister drove him to the Goodwill Career Solutions center in Spring Hill. “My sister said, ‘They help people like you.’ That visit changed my life.”

Jose was offered a full-time job at the Spring Hill Career Solutions center. As the administrative assistant, he gets to help people who are struggling to find a job, just like he was three years ago. “When I was in their shoes, Goodwill gave me strength to continue with life,” he said. “It’s nice to be able to pay it forward.”

Watch Jose’s story:

Shelley’s Story


For nearly two decades, Shelley lived a secret life. “I was a meth addict for 19 years, and then the inevitable happened,” she said.

In 2010, police arrested Shelley for the first time. The judge sentenced her to two years of supervised probation and ordered her to get a job. “During my drug addiction, I was unemployable, so I hadn’t worked in over two years.”

Shelley spent the next several months focused on conquering her addiction. She underwent seven months of treatment and attended two AA meetings every day. “Getting sober was about the hardest thing I had ever done in my life,” she said. “I don’t think I could go through that again, and that’s what keeps me sober.”

Shortly after treatment, Shelley accepted a job at Goodwill. The first few months were challenging. “My self-confidence was just devastated, but the store staff knew what I was going through and would push me that extra bit,” she said. “I never had to hide my past, and to have that support at a place of employment is invaluable.”

In two and a half years, Shelley has received several promotions. She is currently the lead processor at the Union City Goodwill store, and she very happy. “Oh, I absolutely love my job, and I love Goodwill,” she said with a smile. “It’s a place for second chances, and when I see someone like me given a second chance, it makes me love Goodwill even more.”

When asked about the future, Shelley said she hopes to continue her journey through life right here at Goodwill. “Working for Goodwill has changed my life. There’s no place I’d rather be.”

Watch Shelley’s story:

‘Tis the Season for Donations and Deductions

With the house about to fill up with gifts and decorations, there is no better time to clear out unused or unwanted items while making the holidays brighter for everyone by donating to Goodwill. While you’re cleaning out your closet, make room on your tax return for a bigger deduction, because every Goodwill donation made before December 31 is tax-deductible.

During the final six days of 2012, donation attendants assisted 38,073 donors. That’s double the number of donors who ordinarily visit a Goodwill donation site during the course of a week.

Here are a few things to keep in mind when donating to Goodwill:

  • If helps if you remove all hangers from clothing.
  • Have an inventory of your items ready before your trip to Goodwill.
  • If you wish to claim a tax deduction should request a receipt from the attendant when you drop off your donations. The IRS allows a deduction for each item, but it is up to the donor to estimate each item’s value.
  • If you have a single donation worth more than $500, you will need to complete IRS Form 8283.
  • If you have a single donation worth more than $5,000, you will need a qualified written appraisal.

There are more than 78 Donation Express Centers located throughout the 48 counties served by Goodwill Industries of Middle Tennessee.  Find yours.

As always, thank you for thinking of Goodwill and supporting our mission to serve those who have disabilities or other barriers to employment. Because of your generosity, Goodwill’s Career Solutions is on target to serve more than 18,000 clients in 2013.

Shenita’s Story

Shenita_Dec_215pxlShenita is always in a good mood. “I like to make people laugh,” she says.

Shenita worked at Goodwill years ago when she was in school. Then she worked on many different projects through another local organization that helps adults who have disabilities find work. In 2010, Shenita returned to Goodwill as a hanger associate, and she couldn’t be happier.

Like many others, Shenita spends her days hanging clothes that will be sent to the stores, but her supervisor, Kirk, says her willingness to help others sets her apart from everyone else. “If there is a co-worker who needs assistance, Shenita always wants to help them,” he says.

Shenita has even helped some of her co-workers learn new tasks. “We had an employee that couldn’t clock in, so I had Shenita show him how to do it,” says Kirk. “After about a week, he was clocking in on his own, and that’s because Shenita had helped him.”

It has been two and a half years since Shenita came to Goodwill, and she still looks forward to coming in to work every day.   ”It’s a good job, and I love the people I work with,” she says.

With the holidays coming up, Shenita has some big plans: “I want to make some big money and buy Christmas gifts.”

Watch Shenita’s story:

Lam’s Story

Lam_Nov_215pxlLam had a successful career in Vietnam as a machinist, but when he made the move to America in 2001 he couldn’t find a job.

“I applied at several different places, but no one would hire me because I am disabled and I don’t speak English,” he says.

After looking for work for seven years, a friend told him about Goodwill. Lam filled out an application and, a week later, he was offered a job as a hanger associate.

“Without Goodwill, I would be at home collecting food stamps and asking for money from my family,” he says. “Because of Goodwill, I can send money to my wife in Vietnam and I can pay my own bills.”

Watch Lam’s story: