Goodwill Manasota names its 2018 Team Member of the Year

Suzanne Ottomanelli has overcome numerous challenges - with Goodwill's support - to rebuild her life and career

Published Monday, October 15, 2018

Ottomanelli is one of five children born to a loving, close-knit family in New Jersey. She graduated from college with a teaching degree then earned her Masters of Education. She worked as a teacher in New York and loved what she did. A seven-year marriage to someone who was into drugs changed everything. Influenced by her husband’s behavior, she became addicted to cocaine and was eventually arrested. Over time, her connections to her family, her community, and her spiritual life were disrupted.

 She suffered two drug overdoses. While recovering in the hospital from the second one, her parents told her that her sister – who struggled with an addiction to prescription medication – had overdosed and died. It was then that Ottomanelli decided it was time to get her life back on track.

Ottomanelli found her way to Bradenton, where she enrolled in Learn to Fish Recovery, a faith-based nonprofit residential recovery center for women and children. She needed a job and drew on her previous experience doing office work in her father’s butcher shop and as a server in his restaurant to seek employment as a cashier at Goodwill Manasota’s corporate campus.

It has been nearly a year since Ottomanelli began her employment with Goodwill. In that time she has excelled, earning recognition as a hard worker who can learn any new skill, and been promoted to a store management position. Her GoodPartner Coach, Career Development Facilitator, and others have provided valuable guidance and support, helping her to find her way back to financial and physical well-being, and regain her self-esteem.

“Goodwill has helped me to support my natural skills and talents, and allowed me to reconnect to the things I cared about before drugs took them away,” said Ottomanelli. “Thanks to Learn to Fish and Goodwill, I have my life back. Goodwill is an amazing company – I hope to work here for a long time.”

 “With the programs and opportunities she’s received through the partnership between Goodwill Manasota and Learn to Fish Recovery, Suzanne is building a solid foundation for her future, based on the things she values the most: a strong connection to her faith, a sense of family and security, and a supportive work environment where she can learn, thrive and be acknowledged for her accomplishments,” said Goodwill’s community outreach manager Pavitra Ciavardone. “It’s seeing the results of our community partnerships in someone like Suzanne that makes us realize how much more we can accomplish and contribute to the lives of others.”

Goodwill Manasota is proud to give individuals with barriers to employment – including those who have struggled with addiction, ex-offenders, individuals with disabilities, veterans, senior citizens and more – a chance to change their lives through the power of work.

For more information, go to or call (941) 355-2721.


PHOTO ID: (From l-r) Pavitra Ciavardone, community outreach manager for Goodwill Manasota; Suzanne Ottomanelli, Goodwill’s 2018 Team Member of the Year; and Sabrina Crain-Sweeney, executive director/CEO of Learn to Fish 


About Goodwill Manasota

Goodwill Manasota is an industry-leading, 501(c)(3), not-for-profit organization that changes lives through the power of work. With the sales of donated goods and philanthropic donations, Goodwill is able to assist people with disabilities and other barriers to employment by providing job skills training and employment opportunities. In 2017, Goodwill Manasota served 11,672 people, placed 555 people in jobs, assisted 360 veterans as they reintegrated back into the civilian workforce, and provided 19,540 hours of on-the-clock training for its employees. Goodwill Manasota’s economic impact back to the community is worth $92.1 million. Goodwill is one of the pioneers of the reduce-reuse-recycle movement and this past year diverted more than 41 million pounds out of the landfill. Goodwill Manasota is accountable to a local Board of Directors. Goodwill Manasota, in essence, belongs to this community and is not owned by any individual or company. For more information, visit