A major charitable organization in Iowa is also a major employer. Mike Townsend is a vice-president at Goodwill of southeast Iowa, one of five districts in the state. He says in addition to operating thrift shops in many Iowa towns, Goodwill provides jobs for hundreds of workers who face challenges finding work. Townsend says they’re folks who may have a disability or some other barrier to independence, like being in the corrections system, being homeless or on welfare. The mission of Goodwill, he says, is to help those people get jobs and keep them. Townsend explains the retail stores operated by Goodwill are just one important part of its work. He says the stores are essential to Goodwill’s work because they provide places to work, and to train workers. But he says the mission statement of the organization talks about helping clients become more independent and become working members of the community. The Goodwill organizations do that with work –offering jobs and helping people learn to do them. He says they begin by teaching people how to approach a job interview, and land a job that’s a good match for them. And it’s also important to help people keep that job, since some who haven’t worked in a while, or ever worked, need training in things as basic as good work habits, getting there on time and getting along with co-workers. Goodwill also teaches the skills for specific jobs, be those in computers, driving a forklift, housekeeping, food service or some other area. He says they help people figure out what they want to do and what they’re good at, since we all do better at jobs we like. Many people are referred to Goodwill’s job-training programs by welfare, other government agencies, or vocational-rehabilitation counselors, but Townsend says some come in on their own. And their jobs are important, running retail stores for the charity and contributing to another unexpected benefit.During the last year they counted, Goodwill got donations totaling 64-Million pounds of goods and he notes that diverted about 40-Million pounds from local landfills. The charity also sold more than 21-Million pounds of clothing to developing nations in 2003, some for clothing and some for use as salvage, thereby helping the poor communities and raising money for Goodwill programs.
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