Earlier this week, NPR highlighted the struggles of low-income people in Reading, PA, and the nonprofit agencies that serve them. The report focused on 2010 census data that shows that 41.3 percent of Reading’s population lives below the poverty line, making it the poorest city (with a population of 65,000 or more) in America.
The day after the report was released, I visited Reading while visiting Goodwill Keystone Area to tour its new facility and meet people that Goodwill® who are overcoming their employment challenges with support from Goodwill.
I met a woman who had lost an arm and who, after years of struggling to move forward, was ready to give up. She sat at her breakfast table contemplating suicide when she noticed an ad in the local paper informing readers that Goodwill helps people with disabilities to find work. Decades after she first contacted Goodwill, she is still with the agency and now helps others to overcome their employment challenges.
Reading is clearly bearing a heavy brunt of consequences stemming from the recession, and Goodwill Keystone Area is helping the city’s youth, older workers, people with disabilities and others to find jobs and advance in careers.
Last year, Goodwill’s network of self-sustaining community-based social enterprises in the U.S. and Canada raised $4.4 billion in order to provide services to 4.2 million individuals and employ 105,000 people — people in cities like Reading, where opportunities can seem few and far between.
Goodwill is a resource to more than these individuals and their communities; we are also a key resource to those tasked with solving the significant deficit-reduction challenge our nation faces.
While decreasing our nation’s debt requires cutbacks in certain areas, it also depends on key investments. Goodwill will continue to urge policymakers to support legislation that creates new job opportunities skilled workers like those in Reading are prepared to perform.