Heather’s Story: How She Found Support, Education, and Opportunity in Goodwill’s YouthBuild Program | 4.23.2021
Trying to Stay Busy and Warm? These (Post-)Valentine’s and St. Patrick’s Day Projects Are Just What You’ve Been Looking For | 2.16.2021
By Heather Phillips, Marketing Intern, Goodwill Omaha
Lee McCormick first came to Goodwill Omaha back in March 2019, as a participant in our Employment Solutions Retail Sector Training program, which teaches job skills for retail environments. After he’d finished the program, Lee applied for a production job at Goodwill Omaha’s Benson Park Plaza location, and he has worked there since August 2019.
Before he came to Goodwill Omaha, Lee was a quiet young man. He’d always had trouble being around a lot of people and talking to them. He also struggled when he couldn’t have his hood up or a hat on — he considered covering his head a form of protection, sort of a shield from the harsh world.
“With Goodwill, I can wear a head covering of some kind,” Lee said. “It helps me stay calm when I talk to people, as the hood in high school was a coping mechanism [for me] and still is.”
When Lee came to Goodwill, he worried that he would be asked to remove his hood, taking away his protection. He was wrong! In fact, he found that, rather than discouraging him, Goodwill Omaha’s team encouraged him to do what made him feel comfortable. That’s when Lee knew he had found a workplace and people that made him feel cared about.
Lee has struggled with talking to people all his life. It was something he had been working hard to fix about himself for a long time but never really seemed to succeed at as much as he would have liked. The day Lee realized he was becoming better at talking to people was a great day for him. And, he realized, it was because of his work at Goodwill Omaha.
“I’ve used a couple of things I learned when I talked to customers to help when I see someone struggling,” Lee said. “I felt like I was getting better at talking to people outside of my job, which is what I strive to do.”
Lee remembered his interactions with customers and how he had helped them. He thought about the way they seemed happy when he did a good job. Finally, he realized that he could do the same thing with strangers outside of Goodwill. If he looked at them as customers, he could talk to them just like he does at work. When he saw a woman outside struggling with her purchases, he even had the courage to speak to her.
Lee realized that Goodwill was helping him with what used to feel like an impossible challenge. He was finding his voice. He did not want to be silent his entire life, and soon he wouldn’t have to be. And Goodwill motivated and prepared him to take the first step.
By Heather P., YouthBuild Participant & Marketing Intern, Goodwill Omaha
When I turned 18, I dropped out of high school to take care of my father as his primary caregiver. I am also the caregiver to my younger brother, who has autism and Asperger’s syndrome. I had terrible anxiety about school and teachers from my past experiences in high school, where a teacher told me I was a misfit and “not diploma material.” That drove me into a dark depression and affected my attitude negatively. I thought to myself, if my teacher doesn’t think I am good enough and doesn’t care, then why should I care about myself? So, I started skipping school and making bad decisions.
I was losing hope; my father came across information about the Youthbuild program free of charge. I started to take GED classes for YouthBuild in February 2020. YouthBuild provides me with the necessary tools to pass my GED classes. Since I have joined YouthBuild, I have gotten my NCS First Aid CPR & AED certification, OSHA 10 certification, and Home Builders Institute Pre-Apprenticeship Certificate Training (PACT). Now I am only one test away from graduating with my GED diploma.
The YouthBuild staff gave me countless life-changing opportunities: Mr. Norman Barnes, YouthBuild program mentor, and Mr. Michael Anderson, YouthBuild program manager, helped me move forward more than I can ever adequately explain. Not only did they help me discover how to use tools that I use on worksites. They also supported me in my studies.
Before I entered YouthBuild, I was lost; I went from job to job, and I felt like I was getting nowhere. The program made me feel like I was getting somewhere for the first time. I had confidence in myself! I could do this! I hadn’t felt that way in so long, it helped me feel better about myself; it helped me feel like I had a purpose. I am so grateful to them for their help.
I could not believe it when they offered me MORE help! The YouthBuild case manager called around searching for doctors to help me find a mental health practitioner who would accept me on a sliding fee scale. Recently, I was diagnosed with anxiety, depression, PTSD, and borderline personality disorder. Now, everything is under control, and I am more at ease. The case manager also assisted me in applying for medical insurance, which I did not have for a long time, and now I have insurance. Did you think that was all the help I got? No.
Goodwill’s YouthBuild job manager, Miss Carnetta Hardin, suggested CNA classes because of my job at Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) as a caregiver already. She saw the opportunity to help me get further, so I jumped into it! I applied and was accepted into the CNA program. I became overwhelmed by taking care of my dad while focusing on getting my diploma, so I had to quit the CNA program. I would love to enroll back into the CNA program after receiving my GED certificate, since I already have experience in the field as a caregiver. Then, knowing my interests and taking them to heart, Miss Carnetta suggested an internship for marketing.
Working as a marketing intern at Goodwill Industries has been a rather intriguing opportunity. That first day, I uncovered new things about the programs the marketing team uses and where things are, and how they do them. Learning about the new stuff and programs here is extremely exciting for me. These programs are relatively straightforward to use.
I’ve found that being involved with marketing and multimedia is part of my dream job. With Amy Goldyn, director of marketing & PR, and Jessica Bertsch, visual & graphics design, my marketing skills are increasing more each day. I never realized how much I enjoy creating graphics, figuring out media posts, and writing blog entries. It never occurred to me how enjoyable such a career could be, but now I hope to continue this work for an extended period.
By Elizabeth Grace, Goodwill Omaha Work Experience Participant
Hello, my name is Elizabeth Grace, but I go by Grace or Graci. As a junior at Tekamah-Herman High School, you could say that I was your “typical teenage girl.” I was in FBLA [Future Business Leaders of America], I played basketball, volleyball, and softball, and I also ran track. I played tenor sax in marching and concert band, and I sang alto in the school choir.
I was a devoted student who enjoyed school very much. I usually hung out with my boyfriend or friends on weekends.
My life changed drastically on the night of Jan. 25, 2017, when my car hit a patch of black ice and flipped and landed on its top. I don’t remember it, but, after my accident, I was told the details of my injuries and how I looked. Seeing me today, you would never believe my story.
The Accident That Changed Graci’s Path — and Her Life
When I was found, my ears were bleeding, my nose was broken and bleeding, I had a broken pelvis, and I had bruises everywhere because I was tossed around pretty good. One of the biggest blessings about my accident is that my temporal bone got fractured, which caused the brain fluid that was building up to be able to drain out through my ear. It turns out, this most likely saved my life while I was waiting to be rescued.
When my car flipped, I was hanging upside down inside the car by my seat belt, which caused me to have a stroke, and I had a traumatic br
ain injury from the impact. When the rescue squad arrived, because of my seat belt, they had to cut me out to release me from the vehicle. The squad took me to the hospital in Blair, and then I was sent in an ambulance to the ICU at UNMC. Rescuers couldn’t use the helicopter because of the weather conditions — it was freezing cold, snowy, and icy.
I was in a coma for 17 days. When I woke up, no one really knew what to expect. The next several months were a blur. You see, with a traumatic brain injury, your brain is severely injured, so it does not function properly, and I had memory issues. Doctors, nurses, and therapists were all working together to save my life.
As you all can see, they successfully got the job done. There were a few scary moments where they thought they were going to lose me, but I fought through it and battled my way back, and I came through it all stronger than before.
I was at UNMC from Jan. 25 until Feb. 14, and then I went straight to inpatient care at Madonna Rehabilitation Hospital in Omaha. This became my new norm: therapy, therapy, therapy. I worked so hard, but then I had a setback. I wasn’t responding like they thought I should have been, so I was sent back to UNMC for tests.
The Long Road to Recovery
Unfortunately, the UNMC test results were not in my favor. They showed several dark spots in my brain, which were blood clots. If you ever have the chance to see me in person, I have a shunt in the back right side of my head. A shunt is a flexible silicon contraption that was placed inside my head to relieve pressure on my brain caused by fluid accumulation. After that procedure, I spent 10 more days in the hospital before heading back to Madonna.
My amazing therapists pushed me very hard because they knew what I was capable of. They motivated me to walk and improve myself in the best way possible while I was there. My parents knew how to motivate me, so they hung pictures and a quote on my dresser in my room at Madonna. The quote says, “You never know how strong you are until being strong is all you have left.”
The picture that I remember most of all was of my sister and me with some friends. I know these things might seem silly, but they were my motivation to kick butt all day and every day, to get out of there, and get back home to my safe, warm, bed.
Finally, the day arrived when I got to go home! I was extremely excited and overwhelmed to go home. I bawled when the time came to leave. I didn’t want to leave my second family I’d gained at Madonna, but they knew I had to take the next step in my incredible journey.
Graci Finds Her Path
After some transition time at home, I got to start back at school with my senior class. I wasn’t able to be there full time yet because of outpatient
therapy three times a week at Madonna, and the stimulation was very hard on me at the beginning. As the year went on, I started doing less therapy and more school until I started going four days a week. I was blessed to be able to receive services at school, such as speech, occupational therapy, and physical therapy. I was glad to be able to keep working hard academically and physically.
One of my goals at Madonna was to be able to attend prom in the spring. Not only did I attend, but I was also elected senior attendant at prom. My class had also supported me the year before while I was recovering in the hospital by electing me junior attendant. It was an incredible experience that I’ll never forget.
For the longest time, no one thought I would ever walk, talk, eat on my own, or even graduate from high school. May 12, 2018, was an unforgettable day for everyone: I walked in my school’s graduation ceremony and received my diploma! The feeling was exceptional. I am a real-life example that if you set goals and work hard, you can get the job done if you really want it.
Tekamah-Herman schools, Vocational Rehabilitation Services, and Leslee Brenneis, one of my teachers at school, were also instrumental in setting up work-study opportunities for me at the public library and at Master’s Hand, a candle shop in Tekamah, to get experience working different jobs to prepare me for the future.
My paraprofessional, Rebecca Sheets, is my person. She always finds the best way to lift me up on my bad days, and she’s been my para for almost four years, so, she’s had to put up with all of my mood swings. She really is a star.
I was able to continue to attend school after graduation so I could transition into my new “normal.” I finished some classes I hadn’t completed because of the accident, and I worked on lots of life skills to prepare for my future. As of right now, I am working with Vocational Rehabilitation Services to find a job that is a match for me. I have also been able to work at the Subway shop in town, and I’m now in the Goodwill Work Experience program.
I love my Work Experience trainer, Aubrey Gutierrez, at Goodwill. She never fails to put a smile on my face with her upbeat, happy-go-lucky personality! One of my future goals is to grow and become a motivational speaker so I can have the opportunity to share my story with others. My hope is that they take my story and learn from it and that it will help them get through their obstacles.
I never dreamed this is where I would end up at 21 years old. When I was a little girl, I remember talking about where I wanted to be after I graduated, but I obviously didn’t plan on getting into a life-altering car accident. I’m still not exactly sure what the plan is for my life, but I know for a fact that there is a plan for me in this world. Part of my journey will be finding out what my plan is. We know God has a plan for all of us, and I believe I’m here for a reason, so, we’re just going to have to work together to figure out what that reason is.
By Jess Galvan
Local Artist, Creator & Goodwill Makeover Virtuoso
I don’t know about you, but I dang sure NEED flowers, summer, sunshine — and the ocean would be fine too.
I can’t make the sun shine or the temperature behave, but I can paint things, and I can put flowers and sea creatures wherever I want!
“You Belong Among the Wildflowers” was the inspiration behind this bookshelf makeover. The bookshelf itself was perfect in size and shape for its new spot in a baby girl’s room. But let’s be honest — the little fella was definitely not dressed and ready for that promotion!
For the dresser heading to a new baby boy’s room, the request was “under the sea but not baby-like … but not scary.” Like the bookshelf, this dresser was far from ready.
Getting Started: Prep Is Key
We’re going to use chalk paint as our base and then some watered-down acrylics for our floral art and octopus on these. On the dresser, we’ll use a mix of a few colors of acrylic paint and clear coat to make the hardware look the part as well.
A chalk- or mineral-based paint is always my go-to for wood furniture, whether it’s just solid colors or before acrylics, for quite a few reasons:
- One, very rarely do you need to sand first. (Ain’t nobody got time for that!)
- Two, it absorbs the layers of paint you put over it.
- Three, blending with other colors/sanding the perfect finish is something it’s made for.
- Four, it can be finished a with couple different top coats or sealers.
- And five, it’s nontoxic, low to no odor, and very low VOCs. So, when the weather is “Nebraska,” I can paint inside my house with no worries and no complaints of smells or making my kids loopy.
While sanding is hardly an issue, PREP IS KEY HERE, PEOPLE!
Of course, you wipe down your furniture and usually at some point you use a wood polish on it to repel dust. (I’ve heard this is a real thing, but don’t tell my husband. I’ve spent years convincing him dust is healthy for the immune system.)
Old wood furniture that’s been around for decades has years of polish and sometimes a layer of crud on it. So, you’ll need to wipe it down with a dry cloth first. Then you’ll use something to clean it better and give the current finish some bite or toothiness — I don’t think that’s a real word, but it makes sense in my head. [It’s a real word! —ed.]
I really mean a bit of “stickiness” so that your paint will adhere nicely. I use Jasco brand Liquid Sander Deglosser.
Shake the bottle and pour into a clean dry cloth. Wipe down the entire area, making sure to add more deglosser to the clean areas of the cloth when it gets dirty. You’ll probably be shocked and maybe even a little grossed out at how clean you thought the piece of furniture was until you did this!
Let’s Make These Things!
When the piece is all dry, you’re ready to paint. This is where I feel the need to tell you that you absolutely need a brush made for chalk paint. The bristles and shape truly make a difference. It’s not impossible to make something look good with a regular brush, but it’s worth the money to get the correct tools. (I use both Country Chic brand and Cling On brand. Both can be found online, and, if you’re in Omaha, at a couple places locally.)
Always make sure you have a good amount of paint on the brush, and make long, straight lines. Try your best to make the paint go to each edge of the side you’re working on without “stop marks” in the middle. I wish I could tell you the exact right amount, but it’s trial and error, really.
The first coat is on, and, more than likely, it’s going to look like you let a toddler take over. Especially if you’re doing a light or white color. DO NOT PANIC. The first coat always looks like that!
You’ll be doing at least two coats for a solid finish — on a light or white you’ll need three to four — always making sure the previous coat is dry first.
Like my grandpa would say, “Patience, grasshopper.” Which now makes me wonder if grasshoppers are known for patience …
So, you’re three to four coats in. It’s dry. It looks weird in spots. Again, don’t panic. We’re going to fix that.
With a sanding sponge wrapped in 220 grit sandpaper, you’re going to LIGHTLY sand the entire thing.
If your piece just requires painting to finish it, you’ll go back over areas you might want to look more distressed or worn. Remember to distress spots that would normally have that look after years of use — corners, edges, around the handles, if there are any. Then, you’re ready to seal, so you can skip the next couple steps.
If you’re going to add artwork with acrylics, do that before you distress the final edges.
But before any art is added, take a very lightly dampened cloth and gently wipe everything down. The paint dust will make a mess to paint on and your paint won’t stick.
For adding artwork, I sometimes use a tiny piece of chalk to sketch the main area of what I’m painting, and go just inside the chalk lines so I can wipe it off later.
I use regular artist brushes and a 2-1 mix of paint and water for this step.
After I’m satisfied with my art, I decide whether I want to distress any of it or leave it bright and shiny. For the floral bookcase, I distressed the sides and then went back over them with my watered-down base color and a wet cloth. For the octopus, I just wiped off my chalk lines.
Choose a sealant depending on where the piece is going and what it will be used for. Water-based clear polyacrylic is easy to apply, and it’s easy to wipe down later. You can also use wax meant for wood finishes, but you’ll need the patience to buff and add coats for protection over the years.
If you don’t have the perfect piece of furniture to paint, head to a Goodwill Omaha store! Remember, when you’re browsing, don’t LOOK at how some of the furniture appears, consider what it can become!
If you’re thinking you’d like to do this, but you’re intimidated or scared, just remember IT’S JUST PAINT! No matter how much paint you put on it, the wood will always be under there.
If you have questions, you can always reach out to me here or on social media. When you finish your project, make sure to tag #GoodwillOmaha and send photos!
Reach out and connect with me!
Facebook: Jessica Galvan
Trying to Stay Busy and Warm? These (Post-)Valentine’s and St. Patrick’s Day Projects Are Just What You’ve Been Looking For
By Jess Galvan
Local Artist, Creator & Goodwill Décor Genius
Editor’s Note: We are positively thrilled to welcome Jessica Galvan as our guest blogger and influencer! We intended to post this before Valentine’s Day, but we blew it. However, with the severe cold and kiddos at home, you might be looking for a project to keep them busy. And you can make one in plenty of time for St. Patrick’s Day!
If you like people to look at you with pure confusion, tell the cashier at Goodwill that you’re buying one green plaid shirt, some books and one striped curtain for holiday decor. Then explain that, no, you didn’t mean to say a costume.
Hi, I’m Jessica Galvan. Everyone calls me Jess, and I’m used to the confused looks when people make small talk and ask what I’m buying random things for.
Like a lot of people, I grew up in a home without any “disposable income”— and with grandparents who lived through the Depression. That means a few things.
First, if you got something new, you saved it. You used it for its intended purpose and after that, if there was a way to use it for another purpose, you did it.
Second, one man’s trash is another’s man’s treasure. But let’s be real: Sometimes one man’s trash is just trash. I’m not going to reuse lightbulbs. (Although, I will straight-up wash and dry a freezer bag. What can I say; my grandma was right about that one.)
And, third, I don’t care if something is eight days old or 80 years old, with elbow grease, a few supplies and some ingenuity, you can make what you have into something you love. I’ve spent my whole life doing that. Now, I get to help other people do that every day.
OK! I will stop talking about myself now, a full intro is boring, and, as time goes by, I’ll probably overshare details, so I’m going to issue my apologies for that in advance.
How To Make a Festive Vignette
We’re going to start with a fun and totally customizable Valentine’s Day vignette using some supplies most of us have at home and those items from Goodwill that I talked about earlier. We’ll make a holiday garland and books to coordinate with our holiday for this Valentine’s Day and St. Patrick’s Day.
Like I said, this is customizable, so before you go buy anything, look around your house! That cute patterned shirt the kids outgrew, the tablecloth you used once because it’s easier to just wipe the table than to wash the cloth and still have to wipe the table. ANYTHING that has the color scheme you want. Remember also that you can use that red glitter or buffalo check from Christmas for Valentine’s. The cute lime green floral picks from Christmas can be used for St. Pat’s or even Easter.
Here’s a list of the supplies I used:
- Twine or string
- Ribbon, lace, embellishments (buttons, stickers, etc.)
- Plaid shirt in specific color (49¢ at Goodwill)
- Striped curtain (99¢ at Goodwill)
- Hardcover and softcover books (99¢ at Goodwill)
- Craft paint
- White glue or Mod Podge
To make the garland:
- Cut string or twine to fit the intended spot where you’ll hang the garland. I usually decorate my mantle, so I use about 8 ft. In this case, my husband was watching TV, so I made do by making a table for photos.
- Cut fabric (shirts, curtains, etc.) and ribbons into strips and to desired length. The shorter the length, the puffier they’ll be.
Tip: You can use one color or pattern, or seven; it’s all about what you want your project to be. I typically start with four strips.
- Approximately every 6 to 8 inches, tie the strips into knots onto the twine. If you feel like the strips are too long, you can trim them.
- Add more strips if it seems too sparse, and snip some off if it’s too full.
That’s. It. It’s super easy and fast. I use 3M strips to hang mine — they don’t mess finishes or paint, and I’m not putting nails in whatever I decorate.
To make the books:
Forewarning: If you don’t like messy hands, you’re going to want to wear gloves or get a helper for this. I like to use whichever kid has annoyed me the most that day.
- Grab some of the same fabric you used for the garland. Measure the approximate size to book — just like the good old days when we used books for school and had to put book covers on them! So, allow about an inch beyond the edges of the cover on all sides.
- Apply white glue or Mod Podge to fabric with a paintbrush or roller, then roll it onto one side of the book.
- Using your hands, smooth the fabric on the side of the book you put glue on. Open the cover and apply glue to about 1 inch of the three sides, then fold and smooth any excess fabric. Close the book cover, roll glue onto the fabric and book and smooth the fabric on the spine of book, and fold the edge over and tuck it under to hide excess fabric. This can be trimmed later, if necessary, so don’t stress if it won’t tuck!
- Repeat on the back and the inside cover.
- Leave to dry, making sure the book is on plastic or something smooth and hard so it won’t stick to whatever it’s sitting on. I’ve found it’s easiest to put the book spine-up with only the cover edges down.
On the other books, I used some ribbon and lace from the garland, and some craft paint and felt hearts. Paint right over the letters, or paint the whole book! You can even add buttons, stickers, stamps or washi tape.
Now, the two parts are all done and it’s time to put them together! Hunt for things from around your house (or that Goodwill trip) and decorate the space to create your perfect vignette.
If you have a project you want to try, a piece of furniture that needs new life or want to recreate something you saw on Pinterest or TV, let me know! We’re just getting started here so, don’t be shy!
Reach out and connect with me!
Facebook: Jessica Galvan
Fans of our Goodwill stores in Omaha, Bellevue, Blair, Council Bluffs, Fremont, Gretna and Papillion will find some exciting changes starting on March 1. And, if the Goodwill Wearhouse is your favorite Goodwill location, you’ll also find even more reasons to shop there.
Changes at Regular Goodwill Omaha Retail Stores
Most of our customers know about our color-of-the-week (COTW) sale — we reduce the prices on two tag colors of clothing that we’re moving out of rotation and leaving our racks. Starting March 1, we’ll still have two colors of the week, but they’ll feature our Last Chance items and Fresh Finds. You’ll find fantastic deals on clothing and textiles with our Last Chance tag color — those items will be a whopping 50% off! Items tagged with the Last Chance color will leave our racks and shelves the following week, so you’ll want to grab those items while you can.
Want to make a beeline for the clothing and textiles we just added in the store? Look for items tagged with the Fresh Finds color. They’ll be items you haven’t seen on our racks or shelves yet. To find out what our Last Chance and Fresh Finds colors are each week, look for the COTW sign stand near the front of the store.
(Psssst … here’s something else to look forward to: We’ll add houseware items to the COTW sale later this year! Watch our social media pages and this blog to find out when that happens.)
Changes at the Goodwill
Wearhouse Outlet Store
We want to satisfy our shoppers looking for the ultimate bargain something to get excited about, too. On March 1, we’re changing the name of our Wearhouse location to the Goodwill Outlet. We want to give shoppers a better idea of what to expect at this location, and “Outlet” better describes what kind of specialty store this is. But that’s just changing the sign on the building.
What’s really exciting are the changes you’ll find inside the new Goodwill Outlet — like 21 more bins on the Goodwill Outlet floor! “More bins” means more great deals on more items that you’ll be able to pick up at a set low price per pound. Goodwill Outlet shoppers also will notice that we’re adding more clothing to our bins, and, for the first time, we’ll include shoes in our bins.
Employees at our Goodwill Retail Store & Donation Center near 78th and Dodge in Omaha had an unusual encounter on Monday, Dec. 21: A gentleman entered the store and said he wanted to purchase $500 of clothing. Now, while it’s true that we don’t often see a single purchase of hundreds of dollars, the amount wasn’t even the most spectacular part of this story.
The man added that he wanted to anonymously donate the clothing to the Open Door Mission in Omaha. What’s more, he asked our 78th & Dodge retail team to select the items, explaining that they know better than he does what types of clothing people need and purchase most often. So, our team went to work — shopping!
Once they’d selected a variety of clothing in a range of men’s, women’s and children’s sizes, members of the retail team loaded up all the bags of clothing and brought them to the Open Door Mission.
The best part of this story? This generous donor’s gift benefited TWO nonprofit organizations: Proceeds from his (and all) purchases at Goodwill Omaha stores support our organization’s employment programs and services for people in our community with disabilities and other disadvantages, and his donation to the Open Door Mission provides much-needed clothing for unhoused people in our community. Now, that’s what we call holiday magic!
Now through Dec. 31, Goodwill Omaha shoppers can donate their change to help others in the community who are experiencing hardship due to COVID-19. That’s right — it’s our annual “Round It Up for United Way” campaign, which is raising awareness and money to support United Way of the Midlands (UWM) and the Fremont Area United Way in their efforts to help people in Omaha and surrounding communities.
The campaign kicked off on Nov. 1 and allows shoppers at Goodwill retail stores to choose to “round up” their purchase totals to the next dollar at the checkout. We’ll donate round-it-up raised at our stores in Fremont and Blair to the Fremont Area United Way, and we’re donating money raised at our other locations to United Way of the Midlands.
“This year has been tough for most people, but it’s been especially difficult for those who have been impacted by COVID-19,” said Tobi Mathouser, president and CEO of Goodwill Omaha. “So many people lost jobs, either permanently or temporarily, in March, when many businesses had to close due to COVID. Several months later, some people who were furloughed or expected their layoffs to be temporary learned their positions were eliminated because employers experienced financial and economic losses due to COVID.”
UWM reports that, since March, the Nebraska/Iowa 211 Helpline has experienced a 142% increase in call volumes over last year, despite the high volumes the Helpline saw during the floods in spring 2019. As you likely know, COVID-19 has created an entirely new set of challenges, which United Way organizations are trying to keep up with.
For example, UWM modified its community investment process to quickly move dollars to programs that meet the community’s most pressing needs and to better respond to the community’s rapidly evolving needs.
“Goodwill holds campaigns like this throughout the year to benefit other nonprofits in our communities. It’s a way we can give back to the communities and partners who show so much support for Goodwill and our employment programs,” Mathouser continued. “Our shoppers tend to be very generous, and our round-it-up campaigns can raise a surprising amount of money. We love doing it. To us, giving back is just part of what it means to be a good steward of the community.”
By Jessica Bertsch, Marketing Assistant, Goodwill Omaha
Need a fun idea for the holidays? A white elephant gift exchange is sure to please — it’s fun, festive, inexpensive and unique. These events are also referred to as a Yankee Swap or a Dirty Santa.
My personal favorite thing about white elephant gift exchanges is that they never have the same outcome. Our family always uses a couple themes to make it even more fun. Last year, we had three themes: Goodwill Finds, Something Shiny and International. You could just use one theme or try to include all three.
The basic rules are as follows:
- Each person brings one wrapped gift to add to the gift pool.
- Players draw numbers to determine the order they will choose gifts.
- Everyone sits so that they can see all of the gifts.
- The first player selects a gift from the pool and opens it.
- The next person and all subsequent people can choose to either pick and unwrap a gift from the pool or steal an open gift from someone who has already chosen.
There is usually a rule that a gift can only be stolen a certain number of times. We usually do a limit of three times. Otherwise, this game could go on for a long time. The possibilities are endless and you can easily put your own twist on the game.
By Tara Sandle, Director of Contracts, Goodwill Omaha
This year marks not only the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), but also the 75th anniversary of National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM), which offers people, organizations and legislators an opportunity to raise awareness about disability employment issues and to recognize the impact of individuals with disabilities across the country.
The history of NDEAM traces back to 1945, when Congress enacted a law declaring the first week in October each year “National Employ the Physically Handicapped Week.” In 1962, the word “physically” was removed to acknowledge the employment needs and contributions of individuals with all types of disabilities. In 1988, Congress expanded the week to a month and changed the name to National Disability Employment Awareness Month.
Goodwill Omaha continues to educate the communities we serve on disability employment issues and our commitment to an inclusive work environment. To contribute to this monthlong national campaign, we’re highlighting our AbilityOne program and participants on our social media pages.
We Focus on Abilities
Goodwill Omaha has been providing job opportunities to individuals with disabilities since 1989. Currently, we have 110 individuals employed in the AbilityOne program, with 85 who have identified as having a disability.
AbilityOne is a federally mandated program that uses set-aside funds to provide employment opportunities to individuals with disabilities. Per the program requirements, 75% of our AbilityOne labor hours need to be completed by these individuals. As a member nonprofit within the AbilityOne program, Goodwill Omaha works with SourceAmerica to provide these employment opportunities.
Under the AbilityOne program, employees are paid the federal wage determination rate. Oftentimes, these rates are higher than minimum wage. In addition, every AbilityOne employee receives health and welfare fringe benefits for every hour they work on the contract.
Goodwill Omaha is a proud supporter of the AbilityOne program and continues to contribute to the program by employing individuals with disabilities. We’re also committed to creating an inclusive work environment that includes people of all races, gender identity, culture and ability.
“Ensuring that America’s workplaces continue to include and accommodate people with disabilities will be an important part of our economic rebound,” U.S. Secretary of Labor Eugene Scalia said in a June 2020 U.S. Department of Labor news release. “Looking ahead, the Department will remain focused on the policies that led to a strong economy and record-low unemployment rates for persons with disabilities prior to the pandemic. A vigorous economic rebound and job growth will, alongside the Americans with Disabilities Act, increase access and opportunity for Americans with disabilities.”
Our Employees Are Essential
This year, SourceAmerica’s theme for NDEAM is “Always Essential.” From performing custodial services at federal buildings to providing postal services at Offutt Air Force Base, Goodwill Omaha’s AbilityOne employees have demonstrated their dedication and commitment during COVID-19. Their work is a reminder that people with disabilities are always essential.