PLYMOUTH — Goodwill Store 23 - Plymouth will be celebrating their grand opening on Thursday, Oct. 14. Goodwill is well known as a thrift store, but the mission is so much more. The core of the mission at Goodwill is to help people get back to work. The three pillars of Goodwill programming are education, training and job placement. 

Vice President of Community Engagement Guy Fisher stated, “Eighty-nine cents of every dollar that we spend at Goodwill goes right back to mission.” 

The retail stores create job opportunities, fund programming and provide a link to the community. “We are different from many retail operations because of the purpose of what we do.” 

Fisher addressed the tension of running a business and a non-profit organization. The organization itself is over 120 years old with the local retail model in effect for over 80 of those years. 

Goodwill was founded in 1902 in Boston by Reverend Edgar J. Helms. Helms and his wife had their hearts set on going overseas to serve as missionaries but the church couldn’t afford to send them. They were asked to respond to an opportunity in Boston. Fisher said, “The church is in the heartbeat of Boston in one of the poorest neighborhoods. It really was a mission field.” 

They saw tremendous immediate need for food, clothing and shelter. They sought donations from the community and saw positive response. “What he found out pretty quickly was that he was enabling people to stay right where they were at.” 

What he discovered was people needed the means to take care of themselves. “He realized that jobs were at the heartbeat of this thing but they had barriers. They had addictions and they had lack of education.” He redefined his mission to help people learn how to take care of themselves. 

He sought experts in their field including carpenters, seamstresses, business owners and tradesmen and asked them to train people at his church to make a living. They refurbished the items that were donated and sold them. “They used these as training tools. He created paychecks. He created jobs. He created hope. The Goodwill model sprung out of that,” said Fisher.

Church leaders and other advocates adopted the model and started Goodwill organizations across the United States in their communities. 

When asked why the organization didn’t purchase an already existing building in Plymouth, Fisher explained that each building is structured with a purpose. “We own all of our stores. We own it. We control it. We can do what we need to do.”

Each store is tailored to the needs of the community they serve. The Plymouth store will have a Career Center that will serve as a satellite site to connect individuals with other community leaders and organizations. Fisher said, “We are part of the bigger team.” 

Goodwill offers educational opportunities and skills training. Over 2,000 adult Hoosiers in this region are without a High School Diploma. There are four regional Excel Centers facilitated through Goodwill to help adult learners obtain their Indiana Core 40 High School Diploma. Not to be confused with a General Education Degree or a High School Equivalency, the center provides face to face education provided by high school educators. Free child care and pre-school is provided to student parents. Free transportation is provided. 

Each student also graduates with a certification in a high demand job skill including but not limited to Health Technologies, Logistics, Commercial Drivers License and Welding. Approximately 500 adults are currently enrolled. Those numbers were higher before COVID. 

Goodwill offers employment opportunities. “We believe in the power of work. We know employment can change a life, right? Many of the people who come through our doors get a chance to work.” 

Fisher stated that Goodwill is often a first employment opportunity for people who are in transition. 

Entry level retail employees are celebrated when they have mastered their entry level skill set and find opportunities for growth either within or beyond the company. 

Goodwill embraces and encourages a growth mindset. Fisher said, “If we can help somebody start with us and move on to a different job we actually have done our job. Our biggest product we sell at Goodwill is not the stuff in retail — it’s the people who are coming through our program.” 

He clarified that the center is not an unemployment or staffing agency, but will help with resume writing, interview skills and employment application completion. 

Goodwill is hiring full and part time employees. High school seniors and individuals who are looking for work as they re-enter society are all welcome to apply. “There is a place and space for everyone,” said Fisher. 

Fisher has been in touch with several local entities including David’s Courage, Serenity House, the HOPE Consortium and Community Corrections. “We want to be part of the great work that’s already going on in Marshall County.” 

Featured coverage will print in future editions of the Pilot News on additional programming offered by Goodwill locally and in surrounding counties including certification training in Bridges Out of Poverty by Ruby K. Payne.

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