Fort Mill Times

After layoff, Goodwill training led to new job

Donna Wolfe graduates from a nine-week class offered by Goodwill Industries.
Donna Wolfe graduates from a nine-week class offered by Goodwill Industries.

Donna Wolfe's lawn business folded.

So did a job with a modeling company.

"I didn't have enough computer and typing skills," said Wolfe, who did data input work. "I was putting in applications, but they were requiring so many computer skills and software applications like Word 2007 and Excel."

The Fort Mill woman wasn't computer software savvy, so she resigned.

A year passed. Wolfe, 50, remained unemployed despite her job search. Along the unemployment trail, her car was repossessed.

And she almost lost her home to foreclosure if not for Goodwill Industries of the Southern Piedmont's job training program from which she graduated last week.

"Now, I know how to operate the software, whereas I didn't before," she said. "Goodwill was able to help me get back into the job market and that allowed me to do a loan modification."

Wolfe, unemployed for 15 months, is among 60 people who graduated April 17 from Goodwill's Charlotte-based job training programs. From the banking and customer service training program, Wolfe gained invaluable skills that made her more suitable for ever changing work dynamics.

She starts a new job this week. And she gets to keep her house.

"Every success story like Donna's begins with a donation," said Armando Barragan, a Goodwill spokesman. "A lot of people have no idea how their donations or purchases impact someone's life."

The nonprofit agency offers a job resource center and free job training programs to those who live in 18 counties, including Mecklenburg, Lancaster and York counties.

"A lot of people have barriers to employment," Barragan said. "It could be education or lack of experience. Maybe they need computer skills or help with resumes. Goodwill gives them the tools they need to get a job."

In 2007, the agency had 2,279 job placements, he said. In 2008, more than 2,700 job placements stemmed from Goodwill's job resource center or its construction, hospitality and tourism and banking and customer service job training programs.

From the banking and customer service program, Wolfe gained skills in processing checks and other such documents as well as 10-key, typing, customer service and computer skills.

"My problem before was I was computer illiterate," she said. "I didn't know nothing about computers and customer service as far as interpersonal interaction, communications and resource and self management."

But she learned.

"Now, I know how to operate the software," she said. "I also know the different formats."

And the nine-week program also helped her nurture other skills, she said.

"I'm adaptive now," she said. "Goodwill showed me a lot about listening and hearing. Now, I listen more. I pay more attention to the little things."

Students also can take the six-week hospitality and tourism training or the construction training that last four weeks, Barragan said. The people-helping agency has impacted many lives through its resource center and job training programs.

In 2007, Goodwill served 6,527 people, he said. Last year, 13,300 people were served due to the economic downtown, Barragan said.

"We doubled the number of people we served in one year's time," he said. "As more and more people lost their jobs, we were flooded with people seeking help.

"There's a lot of people laid off," he added. "I've seen factory people, a guy from DHL (a global shipping company) and people from Backyard Burgers. We have a diverse group of people coming through our doors."

From Jan. 1 to March 31, Goodwill served 5,219 people, Barragan said.

"We're on pace to serve 20,000 people by this year's end," he said.

And change lives.

"Goodwill allowed me to become a reliable, responsible worker," Wolfe said. "Now, I will be able to pay my past due bills and know that I can be independent and have the finances I need to take care of my family."