Friday Focus: Rappahannock Goodwill Industries

Driven by a mission to provide opportunities and resources to those with barriers to employment, Rappahannock Goodwill Industries is an organizRGI Logoation that is making a difference in Fredericksburg and the surrounding counties! We caught up with Megan Bergen, Vice President, Mission Services for Goodwill, who chatted with us about Goodwill’s mission, shared some personal favorite moments and gave us a preview of the Goodwill Collaboration Zone: an exciting new space and vision for the organization.

Q: Tell us about your organization (who you serve, what you do, etc.)

A: A Methodist minister named Edgar Helms founded Goodwill in 1902. More than a hundred years later, his vision of an “industrial program as well as a social service enterprise” lives on in 165 member agencies around the country that focus on the power and dignity of work. At Rappahannock Goodwill (a member agency), we serve the City of Fredericksburg and a 12-county region. We provide work opportunities and job training to people with barriers to employment, particularly those with disabilities. Operations include a commercial laundry, off-site custodial and administrative services, four Job Help Centers—and, of course, we operate twelve Goodwill stores, a Goodwill Outlet, and numerous Attended Donation Centers. In 2013, we served 3,898 people. 596 individuals were helped in our Job Help Centers, and 369 people were placed into jobs.

Q: What is your favorite “moment” (example of how your organization helped)?

A: At RGI, we celebrate the successes of our program participants—and we are in the lucky position of having lots of successes to celebrate. Daily, we support people in our Job Help Centers who have not been able to find jobs—a veteran transitioning to the civilian workforce, an ex-offender trying to get that much-needed second chance, or someone who has a disability that has gotten in the way. The greatest moment is when we are able to help that person find a job, so they can experience the power of work which leads to independence and a positive future.

Here’s a recent favorite moment: One of our current program participants—diagnosed in the fifth grade with an intellectual disability and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder—was referred to RGI after she graduated from high school in 2007. A previous vocational evaluation had indicated she demonstrated distractibility, inappropriate interpersonal interactions, negative and uncooperative attitude and a slow work pace. Evaluators asked that she participate in a community based assessment/training program to improve these behaviors before being accepted into their programming.

RGI filled this role and has proudly and successfully served her ever since, providing her with the necessary supports to grow both personally and vocationally. She has served as a valuable member of all work teams she has been assigned, and has transformed into a capable and confident young woman with endless potential. If that isn’t a great illustration of the power of work, I don’t know what is.

My recent favorite moment was finding out that starting next week, she will graduate from a high support program to a more independent position, working on an RGI mobile crew that does custodial jobs at another location.

Q: What is your biggest challenge?

A: Mission awareness has long been a fundamental challenge for Goodwill. Research conducted ten years ago found that while 90 percent of people surveyed know Goodwill, only 26 percent know the mission behind the donation centers and stores. This is an issue both nationally and locally—to our surprise, last year someone told us that our Job Help Centers (which provide free assistance to individuals looking to upgrade their job readiness and job search skills) were our best kept secret! We are working hard to increase mission awareness, to let people know that by donating and shopping they are creating jobs for people with barriers to employment. In our stores, we’ve begun asking shoppers if they wish to round up to support the mission—it’s another way to start a conversation with individuals in the community about how our stores help us put people to work. The tagline of a national ad campaign launched in 2013 says it all: “Donate Stuff. Create Jobs.”

Q: Are there any upcoming events?

A: In November, we will celebrate the opening of the Goodwill Collaboration Zone: nearly 10,000 square feet of space set aside to be rented by nonprofits whose visions align with ours. Co-location of RGI staff and the staffs of other agencies will facilitate working together to better serve the people we all serve. The vision is that this collaborative environment will allow us all to help people with a variety of barriers reach their full potential, both on and off the job.

Q: How can people get involved with your organization?

A: We are always seeking volunteers to help us further our mission! We have many volunteer positions, from Goodwill mentor (working one-on-one with a particular person in the Job Help Center to achieve certain goals) to literacy tutor to Goodwill ambassador (increasing the general public’s awareness of RGI and its services). We even offer a virtual career volunteer opportunity to accommodate volunteers who are unable to be physically present during Job Help Center hours. People interested in volunteering should visit our website (www.fredgoodwill.org) for details.

Community Bank of the Chesapeake is proud to support Rappahannock Goodwill Industries through its annual Casual for a Cause program. If you would like to donate to Goodwill directly, visit their website at http://www.fredgoodwill.org/donate.

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