When Goodwill Industries of Central Arizona (Phoenix) recognized that a lack of basic computer skills in the region was a fundamental barrier for local jobseekers and that there was an increasing demand for basic computer skills classes and instructors to teach them, the agency focused on expanding its volunteer program to meet this need.
In 2011, a small group of volunteers led training classes at two of the local Goodwill® career centers. In 2012, volunteers delivered training at five career centers and soon after the positions transformed into several full time trainers.
What began as a volunteer program to teach computer skills courses has expanded into a widespread volunteer program that meets critical needs throughout the region’s retail stores and career centers, allowing the Central Arizona Goodwill to offer more extensive services to an increasing number of people.
The volunteer program has helped meet staffing needs at Goodwill events ranging from job fairs, to grand openings of retail stores to the annual fundraiser. Volunteers also provide support by developing training materials and participating in donation drives.
In keeping with its mission of putting people to work, Goodwill looks to hire many of the volunteers.
“Volunteering at Goodwill was the first time in 11 years that I worked outside my home. I enjoyed it so much and the people I worked with, that I applied for a job there and have been employed with Goodwill since February 23, 2012. I am enjoying my job very much and it’s a great place to work,” said Patti Dobbs, a Union Hills retail volunteer.
The reach of the volunteer program has also expanded to encompass administrative needs in the corporate office and support to the agency’s commercial maintenance division.
“I have listened to volunteers tell me, in tears, how volunteering for Goodwill of Central Arizona has changed their lives, and how doing volunteer work has given them new insight into the importance of helping people in our communities become employed and self-sufficient. Our volunteer program has played an integral role in extending the knowledge of Goodwill and its services to our communities,” said Jim Teter, president and CEO of the Central Arizona Goodwill.
The agency initially set a goal in 2011 of having its volunteers contribute at least 23,617 hours of service—a goal that was surpassed, reaching more than 37,000 hours of service. At the close of 2012, the Goodwill had 384 volunteers who had contributed 43,160 total volunteer hours.
This success can be attributed to a number of deliberate and thoughtful actions. First, the Goodwill works to expand its partnerships with outside agencies to create additional volunteer opportunities. So far, they have successfully established partnerships with organizations including JCorp, the Maricopa County Adult Probation Department (MCAPD), Maximus, Adecco Staffing US, and others.
The Goodwill also works with local high schools to provide opportunities for students who need to fulfill community service hours in order to graduate. They piloted a new Store Ambassador Program, through which students from two local schools supported Goodwill’s retail operations during Sale Saturdays, leading to the Goodwill’s most successful donation drive to date.
“It’s very rewarding and satisfying to teach people how to use computers, build a resume and search for employment,” said Tom Sargent, who has been volunteering more than 20 hours a week at the 35th Avenue and Peoria Career Center. “The job market is tough and many people don’t know how to look for work. Goodwill is an excellent resource for the community. It’s free to use their Career Centers and attend their job fairs and workshops.”