Robert is a utility worker and donation attendant for Goodwill Industries of Southeastern Wisconsin and Metropolitan Chicago. He works at a store in Downers Grove, IL.

My name is Robert Frank. I’m a utility worker and donation attendant at Goodwill®. I’ve been there almost five years and loved every minute of it.

I sweep, mop, organize. I’m good at organizing and just putting things in place, and everybody I work with at the Goodwill is very supportive with me.

I have a reading and spelling disorder. The doctor said that’s all from the abuse and the damage at the back of the brain. I was badly abused growing up. I was beaten a lot. My mother couldn’t care less. She said I was her biggest mistake in life.

My biggest goal is to be someone well-respected — instead of put down. Everybody at the Goodwill never once put me down.

Before I worked at the Goodwill, I was just like a coat-check person. You have to sit there for hours with nothing to do. Something told me to go to the Goodwill. I didn’t know what it was, but I said let’s go over here and see if I can get a job.

When you have a reading disorder, it’s hard to get a job, because a lot of reading is involved. There were only a few words I could read in a child’s book. It was cat, dog…. That was it.

It’s very embarrassing, but I’m getting better thanks to Ms. Lauren James [a Goodwill Way Guide, who helps employees with childcare, transportation and other supports they need to succeed at work].

Lauren would see me every week, and we sat in the training room for a couple of hours. She started me with lettering because my writing was really bad. She brought these papers, and she taught me how to make capital letters and small letters, and how to put them together to make a sentence.

It took me three months to learn how to spell my middle name, Howard. Now I can do it and it’s fabulous! And I would say, “All right, I’m doing this!”

When I met Lauren, I had no confidence. She showed interest and wanted to help. She treated me with total respect and understanding. She was with me every step of the way. She made me feel like, “Hey, you are somebody!”

I read a book for the first time [at age 65], and I had never read a book my whole life. It was a World War II book, and, on the first page, the soldier was lost. He had amnesia and couldn’t remember anything.

I went right away to read it to Lauren, and I did it right — and it felt great! When you start doing things the proper way, it’s a totally different world!

Now I look forward to reading things. At work, I fill out the forms and the price tags better. Other managers at Goodwill have seen the difference. When you’re there, it’s just like one big family, and it’s such a wonderful thing.

Once you’re a nobody, then to become somebody… That’s an amazing feeling to have.

Goodwill Industries International has named Robert its 2019 Achiever of the Year.

When you donate and shop at your local Goodwill, you help individuals like Robert reach their full potential through the power of work. In fact, 87 cents of every dollar you spend in our retail stores and through® and other e-commerce platforms is reinvested in your community to create employment placement, job training and career support services. Find the location closest to you or make a monetary donation to show your support.