Goodwill Job Centers Help Unemployed Find Work

February, 11, 2013

By Kelly Ardis
For the
February 11, 2013

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Employed most of his life, Yancy Washington initially struggled to find work when he moved from Portland, Maine, to Eugene in August.

“You can’t knock on doors (looking for work) anymore like you could in the past,” Washington, 53, said.

He had come to the West Coast with the goal of trying salmon fishing in Alaska, after he couldn’t find a job in Maine. But he didn’t have the money to complete the trip all the way to Seattle, where he hoped to apply for salmon work. So he found himself in Eugene. And he liked it well enough to stay, although he ended up living on the streets.

“I was a respectable man in (an unfortunate) situation, moving from one state to another,” Washington said.

Yet, within a month, Washington found a job as a cook at SouthTowne Living Center, a nursing home for people with Alzheimer’s disease. By November he was earning enough to be able to move into a two-bedroom apartment, he said.

Washington credits that in part to his own determination. But he said he would be remiss to omit a big help in his success: Goodwill Industries of Lane and South Coast Counties’ Job Connections center on Seneca Road, one of three such centers in Goodwill’s territory. Washington went to Goodwill for help finding a job after seeing a sign at a local thrift store shortly after arriving in Eugene. Goodwill helped him refresh his resume and use computers and other resources.

Washington is one of 700 Goodwill clients who reported to the agency that they found work last year.

And Goodwill is hoping to boost that number further with the opening of a fourth employment center, at the Eugene Mission in west Eugene, earlier this month.

The partnership came about pretty simply, said Rick Kangail, Goodwill’s director of human resources and work force development. He said he called Mission executive director Jack Tripp about two months ago to see if there might be an interest in creating a job search center there.

“(Jack) responded with something along the lines of ‘I’d prayed for something like this and thought about calling. Can you open next week?’ ” Kangail recalled. “We understood both our groups’ abilities and expertise and saw that we could help each other.”

Kangail said the Mission’s 400 to 600 daily guests are “a huge population with needs to be served,” mentioning that it’s hard for the homeless guests to find a permanent place to live without first finding a job. Looking around the Mission facility, they decided to open the new center at the Community Service Hub, where Goodwill’s center will soon be joined by other agencies such as White Bird Clinic, St. Vincent de Paul and Catholic Community Services, Goodwill Job Connections coordinator Caitlin Whitlow said.

The project was funded completely by donations received at Goodwill, Kangail said. He’s pleased that the idea came to fruition so quickly and said that probably wouldn’t have been the case if the center had needed federal or state grants.

In addition to resources such as the ones Washington used, the job search centers offer workshops, career counseling and interview preparation. Clients also receive friendly service and support from Job Connections employees, Whitlow said.

“All the staff work very hard and are very passionate, and you can see it in their interaction with the job-seekers,” she said. “They’re eager when someone walks in the door.”

Clients aren’t required to report back to Job Connections when they secure a job, but they often want to anyway because of the relationship they form with Job Connections employees, Whitlow said.

“I worked with a gentle­man once, and I was the first person he called when he got a job,” Whitlow recalled. “Not his mom, not his girlfriend. I was touched. I’m just as excited as he is.”

To ensure that same quality service and connection with the hundreds of Mission guests, interested job seekers must make an appointment with employment specialist Ashley Blazinski, the only worker there currently. That service would be compromised if all the guests came in for help at once, Kangail said. In the upcoming months, both Job Connections and the Eugene Mission will evaluate the center’s success and see whether to add employment specialists to serve more clients at a time, Kangail said.

At the Mission job search center, male guests are invited to make an appointment on Mondays or Fridays, and female guests on Wednesdays. The center opened on Feb. 4 but will have an official ribbon-­cutting ceremony today. On the first day of opening, Blazinski said she helped 27 male clients.

Already, Blazinski has seen a wide range of clients, from those who have long struggled with unemployment to one who worked for a Fortune 500 company, she said.

Blazinski mentioned one man she met with who worked for 15 years fixing elevators before finding himself un­employed and homeless.

“Where can you go as an elevator technician?” she said. “You look for transferable skills. Well, you’re good with your hands and an independent worker.”

In addition to helping job seekers, Job Connections is there also to help employers, Kangail said. He encourages employers looking for new hires to contact one of the centers.

“If we can match them up with job seekers, we’re most happy to help,” Kangail said.

As for Washington, he thanks Goodwill for its part in his continued success.

He recently got a second job, working part-time at Togo’s Sandwiches, he said. He recommends Goodwill’s job search centers to people all the time, he said.

“You can get all kinds of assistance from Goodwill,” he said. “If they can’t help you, they can recommend where to go. It’s what the organization is about, working with low-income, abused and homeless in the area.”

A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling
Psalm 68:5