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Goodwill Industries at 100: the 21st century initiative for jobs. (Op-Ed).

For 100 years, Goodwill Industries International has helped people find and keep jobs. We place someone into a good job every two minutes of every business day. In 2001, we provided training and career services to more than 540,000 people. But we know our work is not done when billions of people around the world still do not have the opportunity to provide for themselves and their families.

This year, we celebrate our centennial anniversary with a pledge to reach 20 million people by the year 2020, helping them find and keep good jobs, advance in their careers, and increase their net worth.

According to the International Labour Organization, 3 billion people worldwide are unemployed, underemployed, or unable to rise out of poverty In the United States, the National Organization on Disability reports that 70 percent of people with disabilities who want to work are unemployed.

At Goodwill, we know that "welfare to work" does not necessarily mean moving from poverty to self-sufficiency. So, we are taking our founder's vision of a "hand up, not a hand out" into the 21st century with a comprehensive approach to help people get that first job, then move up the career ladder.

The Goodwill Industries 21st Century Initiative includes alliances with corporate employers such as Bank of America, CVS/pharmacy, ADT Security Services and others. The plan focuses on several broad areas, including training people for careers in the 21st century workplace, providing services to support the whole family, increasing the use of technology in Goodwill's core curriculum, and developing business opportunities that offer good jobs to people who are often considered "unemployable."

People like Paula Barton. Paula was born with cerebral palsy, diabetes, a learning disability and a disease that causes blindness. Her struggle was compounded five years ago when a drunk driver hit the car she was riding in, leaving her permanently paralyzed. Goodwill Rochester was there to help. After receiving an array of career services, Paula was hired by ADT Security as a customer service representative. She has since earned two promotions, and today manages 15 employees.

People like Ingrid Hitchens. Ingrid grew up on welfare. After her sister died, she tried to raise her sister's five children, as well as her own five children, but quickly realized that it's nearly impossible to feed 11 people on a welfare check. Goodwill Baltimore was there to help. Ingrid received computer training and began an internship that eventually led to a job at a community law center. Today, Ingrid has a meaningful career, owns her home and is showing her children a better way.

These are the real stories behind those bags of clothes given to us after every spring cleaning. We take the things no longer needed, sell them in our Goodwill stores, and use that money to pay for career services for people like Paula and Ingrid. Last year our revenues topped $1.94 billion. We are proud to report that 86 percent of those revenues funded programs and services.

The Goodwill story began a century ago in the South End of Boston when a young Methodist minister found a way to help people in his community. Edgar j. Helms took a burlap sack, collecting household items other people didn't need anymore. But he quickly learned there is no dignity in digging through a pile of dirty clothes in a church basement. Helms hired those most in need to repair and sell the things so that they could earn a living. Edgar J. Helms saw dignity in work, in providing for yourself and for your family.

It's really quite simple, he said -- a hand up, not a handout, not charity, but a chance.

You might call our renewed efforts the "Let's Go to Work!" initiative. At Goodwill Industries International, we pledge to multiply our efforts to reach out to people everywhere. We believe that all work has dignity, and that work not only enhances individual dignity but also brings hope and a future to the entire family.

George W. Kessinger is president and chief executive officer of Goodwill Industries International, a network of 209 independent, community-based organizations in the United States, Canada and 22 other countries.
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Author:Kessinger, George W.
Publication:The Non-profit Times
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jul 1, 2002
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