Goodwill Industries Celebrates 115 Years of Changing Lives

Goodwill Industries Celebrates 115 Years of Changing Lives

During the week of May 6, 2018 we will be celebrating Goodwill Industries Week—along with 115 years of building better futures and changing lives. Goodwill Industries Week was first celebrated in May of 1951. It is a way to encourage local Goodwill organizations to educate their communities about their missions. At Goodwill Omaha our mission is to change lives through education, training, and work—by serving individuals and businesses in eastern Nebraska and southwestern Iowa.

Hand-Up Not a Hand Out 

In 1902 Reverend Edgar J. Helms went from door to door in Boston asking not for money, but for clothing in need of repair. Helms employed people facing challenges by having them mend the clothes for a daily wage. By selling those clothes back to the community, Goodwill’s mission was born. Helms believed in giving people a chance, not charity. He also believed there is more dignity in receiving a hand-up, not a hand-out. When people learn the skills to earn their own pay checks they have the power to transform lives and communities. Goodwill has grown from humble origins into an international non-profit organization. We provide employment placement, job training services and other important services to millions of people.

Goodwill Omaha’s Programs and Services

While programs and services have changed over the years, our mission of changing lives through education, training, and work has stayed true. Below are programs and services Goodwill Omaha currently provides.

  • Ability One – Provides part-time job opportunities for individuals with disabilities in a supportive and integrated work environment at several federal properties.
  • Business Solutions – Meets the needs of local employers by connecting them with quality applicants and providing ongoing support.
  • Employment Ready – Provides free one-on-one job readiness services to anyone who is unemployed or under-employed in the Omaha metro, Council Bluffs, or Fremont areas.
  • Hire Nebraska – Puts Nebraskans to work as they transition from public assistance to life-changing employment.
  • Work Experience – Offers high school special education students, who are nearing completion of high school education, an opportunity to gain exposure to a work situation in a supportive environment.
  • Volunteer & Community Service –  We thrive on the support of our community and those who volunteer their time. Providing the opportunity to complete approved court ordered hours of service is another way we support those in our community.
  • YouthBuild Omaha – A national education, leadership, development, and occupational skill-training program for disadvantaged young adults. YouthBuild is a proud partner of the American Job Center Network.

In 2017, Goodwill Omaha served 1,797 people through our mission programs. Hosting a total of 35 hiring events—230 jobs were found by Goodwill participants. The average hourly wage of Goodwill participants placed in jobs was $12.16. Through our programs and services, we are able to continue our mission of changing lives through education, training, and work. We provide free tours to the public for a behind the scenes look at our organization, by appointment. For contact information and more details about our programs and services, click here.

Involved in Goodwill

Being involved in our community is a key component to what makes our mission programs and services so impactful. You can become involved with Goodwill Omaha through the various events we host and participate in. To find out more about our upcoming events, click here. You can also support our life-changing mission by shopping and donating at your local Goodwill retail location. When you purchase items from Goodwill, those dollars go directly to the support needs of our programs and services. Click here to view a listing of our locations.


Written by: Josh Meyer • Marketing Specialist
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Mission In Action: YouthBuild Omaha AmeriCorps Building Community

Goodwill is proud to administer the YouthBuild Omaha program in partnership with AmeriCorps. YouthBuild supports young adults as they conduct community service while pursuing their GED. Participants engage in construction skills training and have the opportunity to receive various professional certifications as they complete their community service requirements.

Members of this year’s YouthBuild class have being busy working to fulfill their AmeriCorps-required community service hours. Since joining the class this fall, the last few months have presented some opportunities outside the usual construction training volunteer opportunities.
In October several participants helped with Goodwill’s first Halloween Trunk-or-Treat community event. Those who participated did an excellent job of making the guests feel welcome while handing out Halloween candy to trick-or-treaters.

In November a group of YouthBuild participants assisted Heartland Hope Mission assembling and distributing Thanksgiving gift baskets. They were directed to gather donated food items from around the facility and prepare the basket. The volunteers were friendly and enjoyed interacting with the clients as they helped them to their vehicles.

Family Housing Advisory hosted various volunteer opportunities throughout December. YouthBuild decorated their Lake Point Center for the annual Christmas in the Village event. Keep Omaha Beautiful provided supplies for participants to clean up the streets before and after the event. They also stuffed envelopes for community members to learn about potential upcoming changes to the tax code.

It has become tradition for YouthBuild to model ugly holiday sweaters on The Morning Blend talk show. Several participants took the opportunity to strut their stuff for the camera. They enjoyed getting a behind-the-scenes look at the news studio and interacting with the hosts on air.

Through these special projects, daily GED classes and construction skills training, participants show professionalism and a dedication to developing themselves while helping their community. The YouthBuild team looks forward to what is to come in 2018!

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YouthBuilders Create Kid Cafe For Youth

Goodwill’s YouthBuild Omaha program was able to marvel at one of the biggest projects that they had finished throughout the year in the program yesterday.

For over a month, YouthBuild participants had been working on a children’s playhouse called Kid Cafe.  The project was a partnership between YouthBuild, The Hope Center for Kids and Builders of the Future.  YouthBuild members got the chance to hang out with some of the kids at The Hope Center and were able to talk about the team work that was put in to making the project happen.  The toy house was filled with a kids’ kitchen set and an array of toy food items and ingredients.

To see the full photo album, please visit our Facebook page here.

YouthBuild Omaha is a program for young adults ages 16 to 24 years who have struggled with school, many not having a high school diploma, and are looking to make a positive change in their lives. The YouthBuild program combines classroom learning and hands-on construction experience. Our goal is to empower YouthBuild participants to become self-sufficient.


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2017 YouthBuild Graduation

On the morning of July 13, 2017, the young men and women of YouthBuild gathered in the hallway at Goodwill Omaha headquarters to begin their walk-through for the graduation ceremony that took place that afternoon. All the graduates and YouthBuild staff had been eagerly waiting for this day. Some of the participants had dropped out of high school multiple times, others came into the program with a mindset that they could do whatever they wanted without consequences. But during their time in YouthBuild, these individuals had learned to overcome those obstacles, and they had developed a new set tools for a successful future.

The entire staff at Goodwill Omaha couldn’t be more proud of what these young individuals have accomplished! Our graduates worked extremely hard over the last ten months to reach their goals.

YouthBuild is a national educational, leadership, development and occupational skill-training program for disadvantaged young adults and is a proud partner of the American Job Center Network. The program serves adults ages 16 to 24 years who have struggled with school and are looking to make a positive change in their life.  YouthBuild combines classroom learning and hands-on construction experience, where students learn basic carpentry skills while giving back to their community through volunteering.

YouthBuild Omaha would like to thank its partners, United Way of the Midlands, ServeNebraska, Habitat for Humanity of Omaha, Abide Network and inCommon, for helping to make this year’s program a success. .

Congratulations YouthBuild Omaha 2017 Graduates! Continue to dream big and accomplish your goals!



Omaha World Herald article written about the 2017 YouthBuild Graduation



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YouthBuild/Builders of the Future — OWH — 5/13/16

Goodwill’s YouthBuild program was highlighted in an OWH article featuring the Builders of the Future mentoring program on the front page of the 5/13/16 MONEY section

Here’s the link:


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YouthBuild/Builders of the Future — WOWT — 4/20/16

Goodwill Omaha’s YouthBuild crew was highlighted during WOWT’s 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. newscasts on 4/20/16.  The segments featured the YouthBuild students’ work on a solar playhouse through the Builders of the Future mentoring program.

Here’s the link …



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Meet Michael, our YouthBuild Participant of the Quarter

Goodwill's career services helped Michael change his life.

Before YouthBuild, Michael’s life was not easy. He experienced bouts of homelessness and was a high school dropout.

“My life was horrible,” said Michael. “I was just sitting around wasting time. I couldn’t keep a job.”

It was a radio ad for Goodwill’s YouthBuild program that encouraged him to apply. While he wasn’t completely convinced the program would be a good fit, Michael enrolled anyway. After two weeks of probationary mental toughness exercises, Michael knew YouthBuild was for him. He was finally going to receive the help and support he needed to find a better place in his life.

Shortly afterwards, Michael made some bad decisions. He was convicted of a felony and was incarcerated. For the next two months, Michael sat in his cell, thinking about how he ruined his chance of changing his life. But the YouthBuild staff didn’t give up on him. They helped Michael work through the corrections system, keeping him on track to be released on time. Michael was able to re-enroll in YouthBuild, and in just one month he passed his required GED tests.

According to YouthBuild Manager Norman Barnes, Michael continues to strive for success. “Michael has served as a role model to other Youthbuild participants in the current class. He continues to provide leadership while involved in the follow-up process.”

Currently, Michael is taking classes at Metro Community College and working a full-time job that Goodwill helped him secure. He hopes to become a counselor and work with at-risk youth.

Without Goodwill, Michael doesn’t know where he’d be.

“I wish every person who is struggling like I did could have Goodwill. They made a big impact in my life,” said Michael.

When you shop at Goodwill thrift stores and donate to Goodwill, you help us change the lives of people like Michael.

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Nebraska’s Shrinking Labor Pool; Recruiting Key — OWH — 2/8/15

Several times a week, Tim Griggs pulls into one of Omaha’s fast-food drive-thrus and places an order. He doesn’t eat the food. His quest is for potential employees, not the perfect patty. At the pickup window, he’ll quietly ask: Is anyone “looking”?

“I’ve been short-staffed for the last year,” said Griggs, co-owner of 20 Sonic Drive-Ins and Domino’s Pizza restaurants in Nebraska and Iowa.

Nebraska’s tight labor market has many employers struggling to hire and retain employees. The national unemployment rate was 5.7 percent last month. In contrast, Nebraska’s was 2.9 percent in December and Omaha wasn’t far behind at 3.2 percent.

Hiring struggles are affecting a wide range of employers, from high-tech firms and manufacturers to call centers and fast-food restaurants. But it’s often most apparent to the public at restaurants and retail shops staffed by younger or less-experienced workers.

So while the region’s labor shortage is good news for employees seeking a raise, better benefits, more hours or a new job, it’s prompted some consumers to bemoan the decline of customer service.

On her way to catch a movie at Film Streams recently, Omaha resident Rose Nied pulled up to the window of a fast-food restaurant on Dodge Street for takeout. The 10-minute wait for a chicken dinner had her, and presumably the drivers in line behind her, fuming.

“The service was terrible,” she said. “I’m never stopping there again.”

Bill Gaughan’s recent stop at a burger restaurant on Dodge Street turned into “his worst (fast-food) experience ever” when he asked a cashier to recalculate his bill for two sandwiches. “It took at least 15 minutes to get it straightened out,” he said.

Consumers aren’t alone in their frustration. Because of the shrinking labor pool, employers often find themselves just as frustrated by the help.

In a survey last month of Nebraska businesses, 21 percent expressed concern about the quality and availability of labor, the highest level since the survey began in 2012, said Eric Thompson, economist at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. “It reflects a growing concern about labor supply in the state.”

These days, if an employee isn’t working out, Griggs is less likely to part with him until he’s found a replacement. And that can take a while.

“If I had anyone that was better, I would terminate that person today,” said Griggs, 53. “We’re taking risks. I’ve actually hired people that I probably wouldn’t have interviewed two years ago.”

Why the gamble?

“I’ve never seen it this bad,” he said.

Record sales have allowed the company to offer better wages. The base pay for managers has risen, on average, $10,000 in the last two years. And except for a few, mostly the youngest workers, almost no one starts at minimum wage. New hires start at $10 to $12 an hour, Griggs said. Raises are frequent and a current employee who refers a new hire who stays on the job for 90 days is given a $50 bonus.

Still, getting applicants in the door can be difficult.

“For every 10 interviews scheduled, six or seven are no-shows,” Griggs said. And just when Griggs has found someone with experience willing to leave his current job for an offer of more pay, Monday rolls around and “you hear from a friend of a friend” that the employer counteroffered and the worker is staying put.

Griggs is mulling several ideas to increase staff, including hiring 15-year-olds. “Right now we only hire 16-year-olds, because of the age restrictions on younger workers,” he said. Employees often tell him they have a younger sibling or niece or nephew in need of a job. Lowering the age limit could help bring some of those referrals on board.

Greg Cutchall, president and CEO of Omaha’s Cutchall Management, said Nebraska’s situation is unique.

“Hiring restaurant staff is not a problem in our Texas, Utah and Arizona restaurants,” he said. The company operates more than 50 restaurants in five states including Nebraska and Iowa, and soon, Arizona. “We have 25 to 35 open positions right now at our Omaha restaurants.”

To retain workers or court new hires, area restaurants offer employees free or discounted meals, regular raises, tuition reimbursement and other perks.

On Jan. 1, the Little King restaurant in the Old Market gave across-the-board raises, said Dwayne Wilson, the sandwich shop’s manager. Workers also receive free meals.

“If you show up on time, have a good attitude and do what you’re supposed to do, you can earn raises fairly quickly here,” Wilson said.

Amigos/Kings Classic, which operates more than 25 restaurants in Nebraska, offers tuition reimbursement to qualifying employees. The Lincoln-based company paid $28,500 last semester to assist employees with college tuition, according to the company website.

“It’s a way to look out for our high-schoolers and college-age people,” said Amanda Taylor, assistant manager of the Papillion Amigos. “I think it does help keep people on the job. It’s an incentive.”

Employees are reimbursed for a percentage of their tuition — to a maximum of $3,300 per school year — based on the number of peak shifts they work, hours and other variables.

Amigos also offers employees free or discounted meals. And the company hires workers as young as 14, the federal minimum for non-agricultural employees.

To be sure, many consumers say they haven’t noticed a difference in service at local businesses, citing friendly staff and short wait times.

Elizabeth Null, a pre-med student, sipping coffee at a cafe while she studied, praised local chains for their service. Lines can form at a few independent coffee shops when there’s only one person behind the counter, Null said, but that’s probably “to keep costs down.”

On the plus side, the tight labor pool has coaxed many establishments to cast a wider net — whether that’s locally or 1,700 miles away on the West Coast. The Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce, for example, has conducted a campaign directed at laid-off Microsoft workers in Seattle, encouraging them to include Omaha in their job search. Part of the pitch? Omaha’s lower cost of living and greater number of sunny days.

North Omaha, where the jobless rate can rise as high as an estimated 20 percent in some neighborhoods, is drawing greater attention from employers, said Justin Dougherty, director of Workforce Services at Goodwill Omaha.

Businesses “are contacting us and we’re having higher-level conversations about what we can provide them,” Dougherty said. Employers are exhibiting a greater willingness to hire someone with a “poor work history or criminal background if they’ve come through our program.”

And to help circumvent one of the community’s major barriers — the lack of reliable transportation — local manufacturers have begun dispatching passenger vans to north Omaha sites to pick up and drop off workers.

The state should be celebrating 2.9 percent unemployment, said Randy Thelen, the chamber’s senior vice president of economic development. “This is a good thing, to see this many people working.”

But recognizing the challenges, the chamber is combining its economic and talent development under one umbrella. “We can’t have the kind of economic development we want unless we accelerate our talent development,” Thelen said.

The labor shortage is motivating many companies to evaluate their workplace culture. “They’re taking a hard look at providing an environment that is attractive to new hires,” Thelen said. “We’re seeing more and more of that.”

If an employer doesn’t want to do a self-evaluation, there are plenty of companies that will perform an assessment.

Lutz Talent, a division of the accounting firm Lutz, focuses on headhunting to fill accounting and technology jobs, two of the most in-demand professions.

“When clients approach us … we want to meet them at their office and get a feel for their culture,” said Josh Boesch, director of talent services at Lutz Talent. “If we see a deficiency, we’re not shy about giving them a recommendation about overcoming a hurdle that can help them going forward.”

Those “hurdles” have included few or no benefits, managers who aren’t good at selling the organization and a culture that doesn’t inspire employees to stick around long-term, Boesch said.

Lutz has been named one of the nation’s best accounting firms to work for by Accounting Today and Best Companies Group in 2010, 2011 and 2013. To build its staff, the Omaha firm fosters a culture that emphasizes teamwork, extracurricular social activities, from kickball tournaments to Friday night get-togethers, and referral bonuses — up to $10,000 — to workers for providing a new employee.

Like other firms, hoping to hook ’em while they’re young, Lutz hires a fair number of college graduates. It has added another tactic aimed at “getting in front of them earlier than other firms” and is offering internships to college sophomores rather than waiting until they’re juniors or seniors, said Boesch, who uses a network of professors and career centers for referrals.

Cosentry, a provider of data center services, also is courting younger students, hoping they’ll appear on the company’s doorstep as future job candidates. The Omaha-based company, which provides a full range of IT services to businesses — from hardware to software to cloud-based storage and data recovery services — recently visited Westside High School in Omaha.

There, Julie Lane, director of human resources and a Westside alum, talked about technology jobs with students in the technology program and invited them to visit Cosentry and job-shadow an employee.

“We’re not looking to hire any high school students,” Lane said. “We’re getting the younger generation to look at different career paths and to show them they can stay in Omaha and have a great job in Omaha.”

Cosentry also partners with the University of Nebraska at Omaha, Bellevue University, the Urban League of Nebraska and other institutions to fill open positions, including its Omaha call center and help desk, which employs about 70. The “name of the game is high retention,” Lane said. “That’s our biggest strategy.”

Mindset, based in Bellevue, offers coaching, consulting and training services to firms seeking to “build a culture that’s conducive to great talent,” said Blake Hoogeveen, the company’s co-owner.

“A company’s greatest asset is its existing staff. Training them to be both marketers and recruiters for the company is huge,” Hoogeveen said. “If you give someone a lukewarm response, you’ve missed a huge opportunity to do PR for your company.”

The firm typically begins its assessment with an anonymous online survey quizzing workers about their company’s culture. The results help Mindset “diagnose” the steps that be should taken to help to attract and retain employees.

Other companies are quick to point out that entry-level positions can be a gateway to a long and lucrative career.

Sitel, a provider of outsourced customer service, tells new hires that the company’s training programs are there to allow them “to work their way through the ranks,” said Demi Roseman, Omaha site director.

Pay at the Omaha call center starts at $9 an hour, but Sitel offers various bonus programs that can boost pay. The call center also is open to hiring “first-time jobbers,” Roseman said. “We are definitely willing to train.”

Many job seekers and currently employed workers are using the downtown library’s career center to boost their skill set, said Emily Getzschman, spokeswoman for the Omaha Public Library. The W. Dale Clark Library at 215 S. 15th St. conducts career workshops Wednesdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. “We’re seeing a lot of people obtaining certificates of proficiency in technology from Photoshop to computer-aided design — they want to advance, ” Getzschman said.

Experts hope the nation’s newly created jobs will entice people who dropped out of the workforce during the Great Recession to return. Friday’s unemployment report showed employers in the last three months added the most jobs in 17 years, and wages were up in January the most in six years.

Tim Griggs, for one, says he’s open to hiring people with a sketchy work history or someone who hasn’t had a job for two or three years. Sonic’s biggest sales season — spring — is just around the corner, he said, and with workers in short supply, “I’ll take a big risk on somebody.”

Contact the writer: 402-444-1142, [email protected]

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Ugly Christmas Sweaters — KMTV/Morning Blend — 12/17/14

A collection of Ugly Christmas sweaters found at Goodwill were modeled by YouthBuild students and staff during KMTV’s Morning Blending Show on 12/17/14!

Topics of discussion during the 7+ minute segment included Goodwill’s selection of Ugly Christmas sweaters, new goods in the stores, YouthBuild, Work Opps, the Goodwill Card, donation sites, year-end donating and the new Goodwill web site!

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