Celebrate America Recycles Day

By James Cherney, Retail Operations Director

This Sunday — in recognition of America Recycles Day — clean out your closets and donate your unwanted clothing and other household items to Goodwill.

Did you know every time you donate to Goodwill you are recycling? Recycling isn’t only separating the paper and plastic, it’s extending the life of things you no longer need.

Every item you donate or purchase at a Goodwill store, is one less item thrown into the landfill. It’s instant recycling! The fact is, Goodwill was “green” before it became the trend that it is today. It was founded on the business model of selling donated items and we are proud of our commitment to helping the environment.

All our recycling really adds up! Last year alone we reused and recycled 10,312,095 pounds of material, and that doesn’t even include our recycled and refurbished electronic waste. Last year we diverted 1,291,967 pounds of electronic waste from the waste steam.

Recycling begins when someone makes a donation. Most of the time items pass our inspection and are tagged, hung, and ready to be sold. Other times items might not meet our quality standards (stains, holes, missing buttons) and are unable to be sold in our stores. The items are then sold to various third-party recyclers. Some items will be repurposed into new items like insulation or filling for furniture like chairs and couches.

We also manufacturer industrial wipers (“GoodWipers”) from unsaleable clothing. Our cotton tee-shirts and sweatshirts are sorted and cut into rags for use in machine shops, auto garages, manufacturers and more. The wipers are made by Goodwill program participants with disabilities and are paid an hourly wage.

Most importantly your donated items fund our mission of providing work opportunities and skill development to people with disabilities and other disadvantages.

So why not help people in your community — as well as the environment — and shop at and donate to Goodwill.

Celebrating 70 years of NDEAM

By Richard Carlson, President and CEO

Each October, Goodwill Industries joins the nation in acknowledging the importance of employees with disabilities — a vital component of the U.S. labor force — during National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM).

This year’s celebration marks 70 years since President Truman authorized Congress to officially recognize workers with disabilities.

This year’s theme, developed by the U.S. Department of Labor is “My Disability Is One Part of Who I Am.” Jennifer Sheehy from the Office of Disability Employment Policy explains: “It encapsulates the important message that people with disabilities are just that — people. And like all people, we are the sum of many parts, including our work experiences.

It also underscores the fact that employees with disabilities bring a wide variety of skills to the table. They make up nearly 20 percent of America’s workforce, yet their unemployment rate is more than twice that of workers without disabilities. It is crucial that American employers continue to make efforts to hire workers of all backgrounds and abilities.

For 65 years Goodwill Industries of West Michigan has worked tirelessly to support job seekers with disabilities and specialized circumstances through training, placement, and employment efforts.

Supporting the needs of job seekers of varying needs and abilities is at the core of what we do at Goodwill every day. I am pleased to celebrate the achievements of our Goodwill program participants and graduates — and all employees with disabilities — during National Disability Employment Awareness Month. 

Support employment opportunities for people with disabilities

By Jennifer Tucker, Mission Services Director





On July 26, the country will celebrate the 25th anniversary of the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). This groundbreaking piece of legislation prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in employment, education and public accommodation, and promotes equality for all Americans.

Goodwill has been dedicated to supporting employment opportunities for all people since its founding more than 113 years ago. Goodwill believes everyone should have the opportunity to live independently, earn wages and achieve their dreams. In 2014 alone, more than 426,000 men and women with disabilities found employment with Goodwill’s help.

The revenue generated from the sale of donations in Goodwill stores goes directly to promoting education, skills training and the power of work in local communities.

“I love my job. I used to not be able to go up to people and have a conversation.”


Christopher (“CJ”) was referred to us due to difficulties he experience with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, anxiety, and depression. Previously employed, CJ lost his position due to anger and anxiety issues. One of our Goodwill case managers worked one-on-one with CJ and found him a courtesy associate position at a Walmart near his home in Ludington, that offered the positive environment for him to thrive and grow. His skills and responsibilities have advanced beyond pushing carts to driving a forklift in the warehouse. After a year on the job, CJ recently purchased his first car and is planning for college.

Stories like CJ’s reinforce the importance of the work we do every day at Goodwill. Our services include career counseling, job placement, skills development, job training programs, and more.

While the ADA has grown opportunity and access to meaningful employment for Americans with disabilities, it’s clear that the challenges are far from over. In fact, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate for men and woman with disabilities is twice that of those without disabilities.

How can you help support employees with disabilities in West Michigan? Register for the Legislative Action Center so people can speak up for the rights of people with disabilities and the program that we provide.

Thank you for your support and for celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Providing quality services to enhance lives

By Richard Carlson, President and CEO

Iam pleased to report that Goodwill Industries of West Michigan was recently awarded its 14th consecutive, three-year accreditation from CARF (Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities) International.

The accreditation award for our Goodwill includes these internationally recognized categories: Community Employment Services-Employment Supports, Community Employment Services-Job Development, Comprehensive Vocational Evaluation Services, Employee Development Services, Organizational Employment Services, and Governance Standards.

The goal of CARF is to ensure that persons served remain at the center of the service delivery process. By pursuing and achieving accreditation, Goodwill Industries of West Michigan has demonstrated that it meets international standards and is committed to pursuing excellence. This accreditation decision also represents the highest level of accreditation that can be awarded to an organization and recognizes that Goodwill Industries has put itself through a rigorous peer review process and has demonstrated to a team of surveyors during an on-site visit that its programs and services are of the highest quality, measurable, and accountable.

The CARF Survey Report contains comments on numerous areas of our organization strengths.

Here are a few excerpts from their findings:

  • Goodwill Industries of West Michigan is a mission-driven organization that provides person-centered services and demonstrates a remarkable commitment to continuous quality improvement of its business functions and service delivery practices. Particularly noteworthy are the organizations community engagement efforts and dedication to providing a safe work environment for persons served and staff members.
  • The organization maintains meticulous records and documentation that support compliance with Section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act. Its attention to detail in this area demonstrates a commitment and unwavering promise to offer an array of employment choices to persons served. Parents and persons served express deep satisfaction with services they receive from Goodwill Industries of West Michigan. A common theme in their comments is the professionalism, dedication, and enthusiasm of staff members and how often they “exceed expectations.”
  • There appears to be excellent rapport and mutual respect among the management team, staff members and persons served.  The high level of professionalism among staff members and the organization’s collaborative and respectful working conditions are evident. Local funders describe Goodwill Industries of West Michigan as a strong collaborator with the flexibility to successfully navigate the changing landscape of employment for persons with significant disabilities.
  • Goodwill Industries of West Michigan invested resources in a significant event and professionally created video that highlight and celebrate successful employment outcomes of persons served. The event includes multiple persons served and broadens the organization’s reputation as a premier provider of employment support services in the community.

Attaining and maintaining our CARF-accredited status requires a significant effort, strong teamwork, and a commitment at all levels of the organization to providing quality services and enhancing the lives of the people we serve. My appreciation is extended to our Goodwill board of directors, leadership teams, and all staff members for their dedication and commitment to the never-ending story of Goodwill’s mission to enhance people’s lives through the power of work.

A DIY wedding fit for a princess

By Rachael Crevier, Internet Marketing & Events Coordinator


att and Radha met on Halloween in 2013. Radha was dressed as Sarah from the movie “The Labyrinth” in a full-length wedding dress, train and all, that she purchased for $30 at Goodwill.

The following Halloween the couple got engaged. This time dressed as Princess Buttercup and Westley from the movie “The Princess Bride.” There fairy tale didn’t stop their, the movie would actually become the theme of their wedding!

The couple chose to DIY (do it yourself) almost everything for their wedding for two main reasons:

Save money

According to wedding planning website The Knot, the average cost of a wedding last year reached a national all time high of $31,213! And that didn’t include the honeymoon! The couple just wanted to celebrate their love for one another without all the debt.

To help to keep costs down, Matt and Radha DIYed as much as possible. They shopped at each Goodwill West Michigan store, looking for unique items, like candle holders and candles to help make their reception uniquely beautiful.

Radha created the invitation, from a hand drawn picture, that was printed with black ink on iridescent card stock. The most expensive piece was the stamps to mail the invitations.

The couple also created their own music playlist for the wedding, saving thousands of dollars in DJ fees and delegating the DJ responsibility to one of their siblings.

Gifts for attendants aren’t always necessary but the couple thought chocolate covered peanuts would be the perfect way of saying “thank you.” They purchased the candy in bulk and bagged it themselves (with the help of their family and friends.) “Anybody want a peanut?” ( Another reference to the movie.)

One of a kind

Matt and Radha are both very creative people, who love knitting, sewing, and crafting. When they got engaged and began planning a wedding they couldn’t imagine someone else creating their special day. They knew it had to be DIY.

According to RuffledBlog.com “This three letter code for putting your own stamp on your wedding day goes beyond just doing-it-yourself. Handcrafted details add warmth, history and thoughtfulness to an event in a way that no store bought item can.”

The centerpieces were one of a kind, and incorporated their theme of the “Princess Bride.” There were 50 mini milk bottles that they found at our Grand Haven Goodwill store.

They decorated the bottles with ribbon  and adorned them with wildflowers. Most of the bottles also had a small vile of powdered sugar attached that resembled the ‘Iocaine Powder’ from the movie; …“it’s odorless, tasteless and highly soluble,” used by the hero Westley in his ‘battle of wits to the death’ with Vizzini.

The bride’s sister also provided her with 40 mason jars that were filled with water peals and led lights to decorate the tables.

The groom created the boutonnieres, and corsages out of silk flowers that they found from multiple Goodwill’s. The bride used the same flowers to craft her flower crown.

They had a guest book, made out of canvas that was decorated with leaves made of card stock and fabric. The leaves were cut out by hand and placed to resemble the branches of a tree.

But best of all, the bride wore the same $30 Goodwill dress she wore when she met her now husband on Halloween in 2013. Radha did all of the alterations on the wedding dress, including removing the train and the poofy sleeves, creating her perfect dress for the ball.

The most delicious part of their story was their wedding cake! The bride and groom both love to bake so they decided to use that love to make their wedding cake. It was a three-tier champagne cake with blackberry filling. Since the guest list was quite extensive they purchased a few sheet cakes for their guests to enjoy.

Their one suggestion: Ask for help.

There as one thing that Matt and Radha didn’t take on, and that was their photography. They were lucky enough to find an local photographer who captured their personalities perfectly. “Having a professional photographer was the best decision we ever made!” said Matt Kaminski. It allowed them to enjoy their special evening without having to worry.

The other important piece to the wedding was the food. The groom’s mother took on all of the catering and even helped serenade the bride and groom during their first dance, accompanied by the groom’s step father and the bride’s mother.

“We can’t say thank you enough!” said Radha, “Our friends and family were so much help in the planning and organizing of our wedding day!”

Each and every person that celebrated with the couple made the day special. The bride was given the gift of having her hair and makeup done for her special day by her sister-in-law. “The whole day was a celebration and we wouldn’t have wanted it any other way!” said Radha.

”DIY allowed us to make memories with the people we love, add meaning to the things that were special to us and leave out what wasn’t,” said Radha Kaminski. “We will cherish those memories and are so thankful for all the help we received.”

Brenda Hoffman Photography

Get inspired!

Matt and Radha’s story proves you don’t have to spend a fortune to have the wedding of your dreams. If you have a wedding (or party) to plan, visit Goodwill for one of a kind finds!

For more ideas and inspiration, visit our Pinterest board and stay up to date with all things Goodwill West Michigan on our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages.

First impressions … lasting impact

By Paige Paulsen, Goodwill Employment Specialist
Financial Action Services (01) - October 17, 2013_2


pril showers bring May flowers, but what does May bring? The hope for many is a new crop of job opportunities. It is the time of year when many businesses hire extra help for the busy summer months. Some people may be turned off by the prospect of seasonal work, but any work experience is a chance to show your value. Getting the proverbial foot in the door might be the opportunity you need to show your work ethic and skills.

Opportunities to demonstrate our skills and willingness work before we are hired are rare. Most of the time we do not even get to meet the people that looking at our applications. We spend hours perfecting our applications often with no response. We think “if only they could meet me, I could sell myself!” A job fair is a great opportunity to meet the people who are looking to hire the best candidates for their company. It’s your chance to shake a hand, look at a person in eye, and promote yourself. The goal is to leave a lasting impression in that one minute, so your name and face are imprinted in that person’s mind. When they review the résumé you leave behind, or pull your application from online, your positive impression gives you an advantage.

You are lying to yourself if you think showing up to a job fair, filling out applications, and handing out résumés will get you hired on the spot. Let’s pull it back to reality. Like anything in life it takes proper preparation. In advance of the fourth annual Veterans Job Fair on May 15 in Muskegon, Goodwill is hosting two résumé and interview skills workshops. Take advantage of these free and informative learning events to put your best foot forward.

Résumé and Interview Skills Workshop will be held April 30, and Résumé and Job Fair Navigation Workshop is the day before the job fair on May 14. These workshops are your chance to have your resume critiqued or to make a one from scratch. You’ll learn how to be successful in an interview and tips on how to answer common interview questions. Finally, you can learn how can utilize the opportunity of a job fair and maximize your results.

The old adage says, “Honesty is the best policy.” Be honest with yourself. If you are struggling to find employment, do not be afraid to seek help. Ask questions to the people who work and deal with hiring and getting people hired. Assess what you have done in the past and do not dismiss valid suggestions. With any luck April, will bring May flowers and May will bring, JOBS!

For more information about Goodwill workshops, click here.

For more information about the Veterans Job Fair, click here

Your change changes lives

By Drew Robinson, Resource Development Coordinator


hey say a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. As with much of life, this could also apply to the challenges many of Goodwill’s program participants face every day. This is especially true in our MoneyWorks program, which helps people with financial problems find a way to succeed – one dollar at a time. Some have faced crippling debts for years, struggling to get on top of it but never quite paying it all off. Others are nearing a retirement age, and are worried about how they will afford the next stage of their life. There are others who are trying to manage their finances in order to purchase a home or car. Regardless of the situation, the MoneyWorks team is dedicated to helping people make their goals a reality – no matter how long it takes.

And starting this month, you can be a part of their success. From March 23 to July 2, when you shop at your local Goodwill, you will have the opportunity to “round up” your purchase to the next even dollar. These donations will be used to provide MoneyWorks clients with the financial counseling they need to succeed. Financial discipline is hard. By working one-on-one with a MoneyWorks financial specialist, clients receive the support they need to stay focused and achieve their goals.

Please consider rounding up your purchase the next time you shop with us. The few cents you give will be combined with those of other shoppers who want to help, and can make a huge difference in the life of someone in your community. The journey to financial freedom can be long and lonely. Let’s help people who are struggling to take the next step to success together.

We also welcome your financial gifts at anytime. Donate online, by mail, or through your financial advisor. For more information: http://www.goodwillwm.org/donate/financial-gifts/