Helen Petersen learned the value of work growing up on a farm near Mesa, Arizona. Today she supports Seattle Goodwill because the organization helps people get training and find jobs.
“Work is important. You might not get the job you want right away, but there are things out there you could be doing,” Helen said.
The 90-year-old Silverdale resident has been a monthly Goodwill financial donor since 2011. Her high regard for Goodwill was reinforced last year when a family friend became a displaced homemaker who suddenly needed to work. Through Goodwill she overcame her fear of computers and is now a successful college student.
Helen is pleased to see people seek help from Goodwill to take computer classes, become more fluent in English or get specific job training to improve their personal situation.
“Learning the language of where you’re working is important,” she said. “You have to understand what’s being asked of you.”
Language and culture were hurdles for her parents, immigrants from Croatia. They worked hard and valued the freedom they enjoyed in America, Helen said.
Her late husband Lawrence had similar respect for hard work, which he learned from his parents who emigrated from Norway.
“Lawrence and I both loved to work. That was one thing we never argued about,” Helen said.
She met Lawrence at a USO dance near Mesa, and they married in 1944 when she was 18. The Petersens raised two daughters and lived in California and LaConner, Wash. They moved to the CRISTA Shores retirement community in Silverdale in 2005.
Returning to her theme about the value of work, Helen noted the strong work ethic of the CRISTA Shores staff. “Even the young people in the dining room here work hard,” she said. “They’re fast and they’ve been trained how to do a good job.”
Catherine McConnell, Goodwill vice president of Development and Communications, met Helen when they toured the Job Training & Education Center in Bremerton a few years ago.
“Helen believes in working and has a passion to help those less fortunate,” Catherine said. “Her monthly financial donation is a reflection of her immense commitment to Goodwill.”
Having a job means more than being able to buy groceries and pay rent. You gain independence, learn new skills and are contributing to the larger community.
At Goodwill we truly believe that jobs change lives. To get more people ready to work we continually refine and add to our array of job training classes and programs.
Our employment specialists help students identify transferrable skills from previous experiences, even if they have gaps in their work history. An example is Ellena Burke, the featured student in this issue of the Goodwill Ambassador. Ellena’s beading and jewelry-making talent had been a source of income for her. The experience helped Ellena learn how to meet customers’ expectations, monitor inventory and promote her crafts. Through our Retail & Customer Service Program, Ellena polished her professionalism, learned teamwork skills and gained selfconfidence.
We help people like Ellena move past barriers and take the first step toward a better future. Over 8,700 people connected in some way with our Job Training and Education Centers last year. They are learning computer skills, being certified as forklift drivers, getting help in their job search and so much more.
With your support we can increase the opportunities at our nine Job Training Centers from Bellingham to Burien to Silverdale. Please continue to donate items, shop in our stores and volunteer with a Goodwill program. Putting people to work changes lives everywhere.
Daryl J. Campbell, President & CEO
Tired of being sick from her drug and alcohol addiction, Ellena Burke was ready to change.
“But I had burned bridges with people. I didn’t know who to ask for help,” Ellena said.
One day she was walking through a Goodwill store and realized she might be able to get a job there. Ellena talked with an employee about her situation and her desire to get help. “You’ve come to the right place,” the employee said.
After committing to sobriety, Ellena was accepted into Seattle Goodwill’s job training program for cashiering and customer service. It was the first phase of an amazing transformation.
“I almost gave up a couple times. I didn’t think I could do it,” she said of the nine-week training program. “But the people at Goodwill were happy to see me, and that made a difference. That had never happened to me before.”
After graduating from the Goodwill program in March 2014, Ellena worked as a cashier at the Goodwill store in Renton. She later joined Walgreens and now works at the store on 4th Street in Renton.
The Goodwill program taught Ellena the practical skills of teamwork, timeliness and finishing tasks. Perhaps more importantly, she also learned to change her outlook on life. “I learned how to be assertive without being aggressive, and how not to deal with things in a negative manner,” Ellena said. “I gained humility and how to keep my composure.”
That sense of calm and a ready smile have helped Ellena build positive work experiences. She regularly works in the Walgreens photo department and also helps with inventory, merchandising and customer interaction—skills she learned in the Goodwill program.
“I like being greeted and helped when I’m at a store, so I try to do the same for our customers,” she said. “People recognize me as a hard worker and a good communicator. That’s nice to hear.”Away from work Ellena enjoys road trips and hiking, especially around Mount Baker. This summer she and her 15-year-old son visited Browning, Montana, her hometown on the Blackfeet Reservation. Beading and jewelry making are Ellena’s longtime hobbies.
“When I graduated from the Goodwill program, I made earrings, dreamcatchers and other things for the staff. They were surprised; no other students had done that before!”
Ellena appreciates the quality of the Goodwill job training program, and she has advice for others.
“Don’t give up on yourself. The Goodwill staff will help you set goals, check them off, and make more.”
Next up for Ellena: This September she plans to start classes to become a medical coder. She envisions a future where she can stay spiritually connected to people and make a difference in the lives of others.
Jacqueline Armstrong, Seattle Goodwill senior employment specialist, uses a speeddating format to coordinate mock interviews for Goodwill job training students.
The students have 15 minutes each to talk with about 15 employers from various industries. A mock interview event is scheduled at the end of every nine-week program.
“We all need to feel comfortable talking about ourselves, and mock interviews are a good way to practice,” Jacqueline said. “We also teach people to expand on oneword answers: Say ‘Yes, and …’ then offer more details.”
Goodwill’s employment specialists like Jacqueline provide support for graduates for one year after they gain employment. Each of Seattle Goodwill’s nine Job Training Centers has an assigned employment specialist. Jacqueline’s commitment to the students is clear as she talks about her role, helping training program graduates look for job opportunities and rehearse interview questions.
Employment specialists can even provide Goodwill store vouchers so the students can buy professional clothes. “Your whole demeanor changes when you put on a nice blouse and jacket,” Jacqueline said.
She saw that kind of transformation with program graduate Ellena Burke. After just a few weeks of recovery from drugs and alcohol, Ellena was committed to starting a Goodwill job training program.
“Everything Ellena learned here she applied during her mock interviews,” Jacqueline said. “Ellena had a firm handshake, talked confidently about herself and knew how to address her unstable work history. I’ve seen tremendous growth in her.”
Programs and classes at each Goodwill Job Training Center vary depending on the needs of the students and the community. “We’re also including more digital literacy as we prepare people to get jobs,” Jacqueline said.
Employer connections were just getting started when Jacqueline joined Goodwill 13 years ago. Through her spunky personality and lots of hard work, she has helped build a strong network of partners—and now employers call her when they have jobs to fill.