Chris has been working at Goodwill for almost nine years. He came to work for Goodwill after graduating from Ave Maria Prep School, a local school that serves students with learning challenges. Chris is in Goodwill’s Supported Jobs Plus program and works as a greeter.
Goodwill’s Supported Jobs Plus program helps people with physical, psychiatric or developmental disabilities gain positive personal and workplace behaviors and skills while earning a paycheck. Chris says that he knows his skills have improved since coming to Goodwill. One of the mangers at his store noted that when Chris first came to work at Goodwill, he was very shy and did not very often speak to others – he was an introvert. Now he socializes every day with his co-workers.
His family has noticed a difference, too. His grandmother recalled the day she and Chris went to the grocery store. It was a busy day, they had a long list of purchases to make, and Grandma was feeling a bit overwhelmed. Chris calmed her down and told her, “Grandma, I’ve got this,” then proceeded very confidently with the grocery shopping.
His grandmother expressed her deepest appreciation for Goodwill. She could see the great changes in Chris – he was no longer the shy and reserved boy she raised but had an independent and confident young man. When Chris’ grandmother passed away, his father moved back to Florida to help Chris. Since then, Chris has become even more independent and now lives in a group home. He works to support himself and augment his Supplemental Security Income. He uses public transportation to and from work, never missing a day while also never coming in late or leaving early.
Chris takes his job very seriously and is meticulous about keeping the store’s entryway clean and neat. He is also always willing to help others. In fact, his manager recently assigned him additional tasks such as sorting inventory and arranging hangers—a task he feels is very important because, as he says, “They need a lot of help back there.”
Goodwill provides every employee with a life coach, called a GoodPartner Coach. Chris recently met his new GoodPartner Coach, Yolanda, and the two spent some time getting to know each other. Chris told Yolanda that Goodwill is his first and only job and that he wants to work there until he retires. He enjoys what he does and he likes the people he works with.
Chris also loves NASCAR racing – his favorite driver is Aric Almirola, the “Cuban Missile.” He goes to the Daytona 500 race every year. He always carries a plastic baggy with pictures of Almirola and is thrilled when anyone wants to see the pictures.
Chris loves to dance and sometimes he dances at work. Yolanda learned this about Chris one Friday afternoon when she saw Chris and his manager, Alexa, dancing in the production area. Yolanda and some other employees joined in and it was a joyous few minutes. Yolanda says the friendship and solidarity were palpable. She asked Alexa how all this dancing in the production room got started. Alexa said she noticed that Chris had been jumping up and down all day one Friday. Alexa asked him why he was so happy and Chris said it was because he was going to have a good weekend – it was a NASCAR weekend. Alexa asked him if dancing makes his weekends better and Chris answered “Yes!”
That Friday, Alexa and Chris stared the first of many two-minute dance parties that day. The next Friday, Chris asked if they could dance again because he’d had such a good weekend – he said all that dancing was good luck! The team continued having “dance parties” every Friday at 3 p.m. Not only is this the highlight of Chris’ week, it has proven to be a morale booster for the entire production team. Clearly, Alexa believes in having fun at work – and so does Chris!
Becoming more independent at home, feeling more confident, being more social and being able to have fun at work are just a few of the reasons Chris notes Goodwill is helping him grow. He also appreciates the fact that he has the opportunity to work and earn a paycheck, and he loves the camaraderie he shares with his co-workers as well as the kindness they show him. He truly feels that he is part of a team. It’s what we do …