By LISA M. HOFFMANN
IRON MOUNTAIN - More people are turning to Goodwill Industries of Northern Wisconsin and Upper Michigan for a bargain at the retail store - and for help finding a job.
Kathy Larson of Iron Mountain, a processor at the Iron Mountain Goodwill store, sorts through donations
For the first six months of 2008, Goodwill store sales nationally were up more than 6 percent as compared to the same time last year, officials reported. Anecdotal evidence suggests the number of people benefiting from Goodwill job training programs will also likely match or exceed last year's 20 percent growth rate.
"Goodwill is helping people most impacted by economic challenges - people with disabilities, low-wage workers and people who lack education and work experience," said Jim Borowski, CEO of Goodwill Industries of Northern Wisconsin and Upper Michigan Inc. "Our nation can and should do more to help people find and keep good jobs and move up the career ladder."
The Iron Mountain Goodwill store has even seen an increase in donations since opening its new store in May.
Jill Rochon, store manager, said donations are up.
"I think going into a bigger store, there is a larger presence being here in the community, which could possibly be it. It makes people feel good," she said.
"Donating to Goodwill is doing community service," she said. "That could be another reason why donations are up."
Every 53 seconds of every business day, Goodwill places someone into a good job, officials said.
The organization does that by selling donations of clothing and household items in Goodwill stores and using the revenue to fund job training programs that benefit hundreds of thousands of people each year.
Vocational Strategies, a Goodwill Upper Peninsula work center is helping people like Michael in Houghton, who had no job, no income and no home.
After high school graduation, Michael found himself in a position that was not conducive to an independent life-style with challenges caused by not being able to afford medication for his ADHD and tremors.
This made it difficult for him to learn new tasks. He was assessed and provided the help he needed to work toward his goals.
Through perseverance, he has acquired a driver's license, his own apartment and has achieved his goal of becoming a carpenter. Today he is poised for long-term employment, Goodwill officials said.
Leanne Wilcox, workforce development specialist for the Iron Mountain store said Goodwill helps people with disabilities gain skills for the workforce.
"If they never worked before in their lives, they need to know how to apply for a job," Wilcox said. "What we do is we help people with disabilities gain skills for the workforce."
Types of services offered include help filling out an application, typing a resume, interview skills and job coaching.
Applicants in the job force gain skills, learn how to be on time and take direction.
Wilcox said the applicant is placed in area businesses willing to work with the Goodwill program.
"It is a temporary thing to help them understand the workforce and work," Wilcox said. "The program started this spring and does help place qualified job applicants in business."
Businesses who would like to know more about the service can call 774-4757.
"We are reminded this Labor Day that a good paying job and workplace success not only opens doors and other opportunities in life, but also drives our nation's economy," Borowski said. "When you donate to Goodwill or shop in Goodwill stores, you are investing in the American worker so that people like Michael can earn a paycheck and contribute to the economic health of our country."
Goodwill of Northern Wisconsin and Upper Michigan, with its 16 locations, serves the entire Upper Peninsula of Michigan and Marinette and Oconto counties in Wisconsin.
Lisa M. Hoffmann's e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.