My Story: Wes Sawyer

By Rhiana Sherwood, Sr. Manager, PR Storytelling & Crisis Communications, Goodwill Industries International

When Joseph ‘Wes’ Sawyer was growing up, he was surrounded by gang activity, drug use and crime. Without positive role models, he never imagined he’d one day be working hard to support a family of his own. As a young man, he started down the only path he knew, and ultimately served time in prison.

Once Wes decided to make a change, he faced a tough road ahead. Felonies on his record and large gaps in his work history stood in the way of the jobs available in his community. Through the Washington Department of Vocational Rehabilitation, Wes discovered that Goodwill Industries of the Inland Northwest (Spokane, WA) offers work experience and training for people with justice involvement.

Wes entered the In-House Training and Assessment program through his local Goodwill career center because he expressed an interest in gaining skills and long-term employment. During the two-month program, he never missed a shift, met the standards for the work, and fostered relationships with other participants, the store staff and his assessment team. His hard work soon paid off; he was offered a full-time position with a Goodwill store. Wes was employed by Goodwill of the Inland Northwest for three years and received several promotions, beginning in production and working his way up to facility lead — a role that serves as part of the store’s leadership team.

Wes’ determination and willingness to learn has set him on a fulfilling path that allows him to set a positive example for others. His self-motivation — and the skills he learned at Goodwill — gave him the confidence to apply for a job through a local labor union. He took a leap in 2020 and became a construction labor apprentice, which led to another job with an even bigger company, WM Winkler.

His current employer provides medical benefits and an increased income to help support his growing family, including his son and newborn daughter. The stability of work has also made it possible for him to reunite with his eldest daughter, who was adopted when Wes was involved with gangs and in and out of prison. He and his wife recently bought their first home, and Wes continues to be an advocate for Goodwill and its programs.

For his hard work and determination, Wes was named Goodwill Industries International’s 2022 Kenneth Shaw Graduate of the Year. The award honors an outstanding person with a disability or disadvantage who completed a Goodwill Industries career services program and is competitively employed by a non-Goodwill employer.

Anyone looking to learn more about Goodwill job training programs or career search assistance can also contact their local Goodwill.