Changing lives through the power of work

LBK Rotary Club’s President, Jack Rozance, Veronica Brandon Miller and Rotary Club Program Director, John Brill.

Guest Columnist

Veronica Brandon Miller, Vice President at Goodwill Manasota’s Foundation, addressed the Rotary Club of Longboat Key at its May 31 meeting. Miller outlined the ways that Goodwill Manasota works throughout Manatee, Sarasota, Hardee and DeSoto Counties to provide meaningful, long-term employment opportunities to people who have faced barriers that have kept them from entering or remaining in the workforce, such as lack of education, poor language skills, and physical or developmental disabilities. “We offer a hand up, not a hand out,” she explained, adding, “We find the ability, not the disability.” The organization’s mission: “Changing Lives Through the Power of Work.” Through the sales of donated goods, Goodwill Manasota is able to provide employment training, job placement and career services, and other services that lead to self-sufficiency and improved self-worth.

Goodwill Manasota currently employs a workforce of approximately 1,000 people in drug-free and smoke-free facilities, with a payroll of $38 million. Every worker is paid above the minimum wage level, according to Miller. Every employee is assigned a “Good Partner,” a mentor who works on a one-on-one basis with the employee to identify and overcome the individual’s particular challenges and to establish employment goals. Career counseling, interest and aptitude assessments, assistance with resume and cover letter writing skills, interview strengthening exercises and application submission guidance are all provided by Goodwill Manasota. The organization has nine Job Connection partners with whom it works to help workers transition to long-term employment in higher paying jobs.

In addition to the resale centers with which people are most familiar, Goodwill Manasota operates four bookstores in the Sarasota/Bradenton area. It also partners with local Title I schools through its Good Readers Program, providing fun and interesting books to young students. Through its Good Futures Program, Goodwill Manasota works with foster kids who are about to “foster out,” providing assistance with financial literacy, job applications, and student aid applications for higher education. Free classes are offered to the community in the Community Rooms that are attached to larger stores; currently-offered programs include “Gentle Yoga for Beginners,”, “Get Smart About Credit,” and “Home Buying 101.”

Goodwill Manasota has created a Veterans Task Force, whose mission is to “Provide a leadership role in addressing strategic issues and providing community-supported solutions facing veterans and their families on employment and transitioning into civilian life.” Miller reported that more than 1000 veterans have been assisted in getting back on their feet during the past four years. Careful to avoid duplicating services that are available elsewhere, the Goodwill Manasota partners and networks with 330 other organizations, including Resurrection House, Harvest House, and Jewish Family Services.

Goodwill Manasota is committed to opportunities for its workers to further their education. On-site GED preparation courses are available to employees while they remain on-the-clock.

Calling the 115-year old international Goodwill organization the “pioneer in the reduce, reuse, recycle movement,” Miller boasted that close to 40 million pounds of unwanted and unneeded goods that would otherwise end up in landfills are instead put to good use to benefit individuals and families who need them most.

To learn more about Goodwill Manasota and its programs and locations, visit experiencegoodwill.org. To learn more about the Rotary Club of Longboat Key, visit LongboatKeyRotary.org.

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