Making things happen
Giving back feels good—especially when you know that your contribution of time and talent creates opportunities for others to improve their lives. We could not provide the services we do without all of our wonderful volunteers!
When Sally Sullivan retired she looked for a way to give back after taking a year off. When she attended a Goodwill graduation for the first time it brought tears to her eyes. “What impresses me is that the training is all free and there is such supportive services here for the students.” - Sally
For over 44 years Sally Sullivan worked in Human Resources in San Francisco and Seattle. When she retired she looked for a way to give back after taking a year off. “I love to travel and learn about different cultures so I was thinking about working with ESOL students,” she remembered. “I learned what Goodwill does and was amazed with opportunities for ESOL students so I started volunteering in the classrooms.”
When she attended a Goodwill graduation for the first time it brought tears to her eyes. “What impresses me is that the training is all free and there is such supportive services here for the students,” she said. “I was surprised by the types of classes offered at Goodwill and the breadth of these classes. I am impressed with the partnerships developed throughout the community.”
Sally thinks it is important to find the right match when you volunteer and to consider the time commitment required. “I’ve taken a lot from our community and now I can give back. I am always telling my friends about Goodwill.”
"Sally is simply the dream volunteer. She comes to Seattle Goodwill King County with a wealth of knowledge and experience to share. She's always flexible and ready to jump in wherever needed, and she's reliable,” said Scott Rice, Volunteer Supervisor and Instructor for the job training and education center in King County. “The other thing that makes Sally such a wonderful member of the Job Training & Education team is that she understands our learning community. She knows our diverse learning community comes with a magical mix of talent, dedication, and barriers--just like any learning community. Sally is always respectful and full of positive energy."
“What impresses me is that the training is all free and there is such supportive services here for the students.”
Besides volunteering in the classrooms Sally helps students with job interview skills. Currently, she is tutoring a student for the first time and really feels the connection. “The student was writing about Martin Luther King’s letter from a Birmingham jail and I had the chance to re-read the letter again and think about it from her perspective.”
One of her favorite student interactions was with a man in his 60’s from Kenya that she worked with in the classroom. Before he left for his new job he said to Sally that she “was his shining light.” It is the inspiration she receives from the students that keeps her coming back.
She is looking to continue to expand her volunteer experiences, but still wants to stay active in the classroom. “I feel very valued at Goodwill and hear that from other volunteers as well,” she added.
Community means everything to Amelia.
Amelia was blessed with many tools needed to succeed when facing adversity and recognizes she has been fortunate to have caring individuals help her persevere.
“I think of Goodwill as your aunts, uncles and cousins,” Amelia said, “and the community and family many of us have and take for granted. But if you don’t have that because you immigrated to this country or lost your spouse or family member, (Goodwill) can be your family now.”
Amelia needed community when she lost her mom at 16 years old. Her dad worked tirelessly, holding three jobs and couldn’t be around all the time. So family, friends and loving community members embraced Amelia.
Amelia feels like Goodwill offers support to students the way she received support from her extended family and church community when she was growing up, and she wants to give back to others the same way.
“There were a lot of women who stood in that gap for me and helped me in ways that I didn’t fully appreciate at the time,” Amelia said. “Without the set of community I had, my life would be totally different.”
Goodwill wraps its arms around community members, provides support and opportunity and is there for students in need. Those are the reasons Amelia, Sr. Director of Engagement & Diversity at Avalara, has been a Goodwill board member since 2007 and has volunteered countless hours serving Goodwill’s mission. Currently, Amelia serves as the board’s Vice Chair.
Besides Amelia’s board service, which began in 2007, she’s a member of Goodwill’s Glitter Gala Advisory Board and the Executive Committee and Marketing Committee. She has also volunteered on career day panels and mock interviews and has been a major advocate for Goodwill’s corporate volunteerism.
“When you support Goodwill, you are supporting our community in a way that is tangible and real. It’s an organization that knows how to get results, that has a strong brand and that has proven their results over time.” - Amelia
Recently, Avalara had its global team in Seattle for a HR summit, and Amelia took the opportunity to introduce the group to Goodwill. The team learned about Goodwill’s mission and then spent time volunteering on Goodwill’s retail store sales floor.
“We had folks from Brazil, the UK, India, and they were all so impressed with the work that Goodwill does,” Amelia said.
There are so many ways to volunteer at Goodwill, and Amelia encourages community members to share their knowledge and insight with students who walk through Goodwill’s doors.
“You can sign up to tutor someone, you can coach someone, you can teach someone computer skills,” said Amelia of Goodwill volunteer opportunities. “It takes nothing from you to share your career story with people. It takes nothing but time.”
Amelia by nature is a giving individual and is involved with several causes she believes in. She admitted as a successful woman of color in business, there are plenty of boards she could serve on, but smiled when expressing how much she loves donating time to Goodwill.
“When you support Goodwill, you are supporting our community in a way that is tangible and real,” Amelia said. “It’s an organization that knows how to get results, that has a strong brand and that has proven their results over time.”
Margaret Gomez knows volunteering at Goodwill makes a tremendous impact. She knows because she was a Goodwill student herself at Goodwill’s King County Job Training and Education (JTE) Center.
More than two years ago, Margaret was taking Goodwill computer classes as a student. She was living in public housing, was looking for work and wanted to improve her computer literacy. Margaret’s instructor saw how well she supported classmates in their coursework and asked if she’d be interested in volunteering.
“I just enjoy it. I know how I felt when somebody stepped up and helped me. … I really like working with the people. It’s a really supportive environment.” - Margaret
More than 300 volunteer hours later, Margaret is enjoying her volunteer role as much as the day she started.
“I just enjoy it,” Margaret said, who volunteers twice a week in Goodwill’s computer class. “I know how I felt when somebody stepped up and helped me. … I really like working with the people. It’s a really supportive environment.”
Margaret loves the community feeling she gets as a Seattle Goodwill volunteer. Many of the students she works with she also sees during her job as a crossing guard for Seattle Public Schools.
“It’s kind of funny, because some of the computers students are parents and grandparents of the kids that I cross for,” Margaret said. “I see the students with their kids, and it’s kind of like a family. It’s really rewarding to see (Goodwill students) come in and watch them grow.”
Volunteering and helping students in Goodwill computer classes has sparked a desire to do more at Goodwill. Margaret soon plans to begin volunteering with King County JTE staff in case management, which plays an important role in implementing action plans to help students address and overcome barriers to economic opportunity.
“I see what other people battle with, and that is why I’d like to work in case management,” Margaret said.
Vicki Lee was enjoying her new, retired life when she received an a call from a former student she had been working with as a Goodwill Job Training and Education Center (JTEC) volunteer.
“He called me just to tell me he was doing well, so you know when that happens you’ve made a connection with somebody,” Vicki said. “That is important to me.”
Making connections and helping others is a sampling of the reward Vicki receives from being a Goodwill volunteer. For the last year, she has worked with students as a computer class assistant at Goodwill’s Whatcom County JTE Center, giving individualized help to those learning Microsoft Office programs such as Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook.
“If you are not working, it gives you a purpose. It gives you a sense of helping people, and it feeds you, particularly if you pick a place whose work you really appreciate.” - Vicki
Vicki has volunteered throughout her life at various organizations but connected with Goodwill in 2017 when she began taking classes.
“At 70, I was let go of a job,” Vicki explained. “I was a little freaked out, went to WorkSource and they suggested I volunteer. I came (to Goodwill) for classes. I took Excel, Word, PowerPoint and Outlook. I got to wondering if I really wanted to work anymore, and Goodwill said, ‘Well, you can volunteer here.’”
So instead of finding a new job, Vicki decided she was going to retire and began volunteering at Goodwill.
Vicki explained her role as “in-class tutoring.” She works with students with language barriers, disabilities or those who struggle with reading and helps them keep up with lesson plans. She sits next to students, providing one-on-one support.
Before Vicki retired, she worked nearly 40 years in the mental health field. She gets similar satisfaction by helping others at Goodwill. Most recently, the Whatcom County JTEC staff worked with Vicki to create a class on office workplace skills. Vicki explained some students take computer classes because they have suffered a physical injury and now need to work in an office setting in which they hadn’t done before.
“Goodwill will find something that you are good at,” Vicki said. “They are such an appreciative staff."
“A lot of places couldn’t do what they do without volunteers,” Vicki said. “If you are not working, it gives you a purpose. It gives you a sense of helping people, and it feeds you, particularly if you pick a place whose work you really appreciate.”
The opportunity to make life easier for new Americans learning English is one Florence Katz Burstein relishes.
Florence, throughout her life, hoped to at some point pursue adult education work, and she shares a special connection with new English learners.
“My parents were refugees from Nazi Germany,” Florence explained. “My mother came as a teenager, so she had an easier time learning English. But when my dad came, he was already in his 30s. He needed to learn, and it was a struggle. When I was born, several years after they got married, he was still working on reading newspapers.”
Florence recalled stories of her father’s commute to and from work on New York subways where he would keep a dictionary in his pocket and commit to learning 10 new words a day.
“I was really appreciative of how hard it was for people to learn,” Florence said.
As a Seattle Goodwill volunteer since March 2016, Florence is making a major impact at Seattle’s Job Training and Education (JTE) Center and in the lives of attending students. She’s dedicated 384.25 hours working in the Reading Skills Building Lab, the Cashiering and Customer Service Program classroom and in Writing classes. She’s also spent time tutoring and assisting Job Skills Lab participants with resume development and interviewing skills.
“Everybody just seems to appreciate me being here. The students regularly thank me for volunteering. It couldn’t be better.” - Florence
She works closely with Goodwill students to help them overcome language barriers and ultimately improve their lives, and takes great satisfaction from that work.
Florence has always donated to Goodwill and knew of the free job training programs. Newly retired from a career in employer-sponsored health insurance and retirement benefits, Florence had a friend who’d volunteered at Goodwill, heard rave reviews and decided to begin donating her time.
“Everybody just seems to appreciate me being here,” said Florence, when asked what keeps her coming back. “The students regularly thank me for volunteering. It couldn’t be better.”
And JTE Instructors in Seattle empower Florence to play an active teaching role. She enjoys bringing in pages from favorite books and methodically breaking down vocabulary. Florence alerts students to written jokes and slang and enjoys providing one-on-one instruction and teaching new Americans about our culture.
Florence admitted, like most new volunteers, she was hesitant at first. She didn’t know how much support she’d get from Seattle Goodwill staff, but she’s come to learn how much she’s valued.
“I came in thinking, ‘What kind of help would Goodwill give me so that I would become an asset?”’ Florence said. “There have been trainings I’ve been invited to. There are also internal classes that are offered. The teachers I’ve worked with have been so collaborative. They give you opportunity in front of the class and give you suggestions. It’s been wonderful.
“This has been a really good opportunity for me. I really enjoy doing it, and I feel appreciated. It’s just terrific and fun.”
For years, Myra Stallworth-Dawson heard rave reviews about Seattle Goodwill’s famed Glitter Sale – an annual fundraiser drawing shoppers from across the country. But Myra never attended until several years ago.
As a volunteer, she quickly learned what all the buzz was about.
“I had so much fun!” Myra exclaimed. “I was like, ‘What have I been missing all these years?’ It was great. It was fun meeting the people who came to shop and seeing each person looking for their special find. Working with the other volunteers, there was a lot of energy, and I learned the buzz was real.”
Myra also takes pride in the fact her volunteerism benefits her community. That’s one of the reasons she has volunteered at Seattle Goodwill for nearly a decade.
“Volunteering is a way that I can give back and then promote what Goodwill stands for. And every time I go to a Goodwill event, I learn something new.” - Myra
Myra has volunteered at nearly every Glitter Gala since the event’s inception 10 years ago. Myra has volunteered in just about every Gala volunteer role – from working registration, to selling raffle tickets, to assisting with the silent auction, modeling and more.
Besides volunteering at Goodwill’s Glitter events, Myra and her husband, Troy Dawson, also serve as Goodwill Ambassadors who attend community events and spread Goodwill’s mission.
“Volunteering is a way that I can give back and then promote what Goodwill stands for,” Myra said. “And every time I go to a Goodwill event, I learn something new.”
Myra has lived in Seattle all her life. Her family has always donated to Goodwill, but she never knew the extent of Goodwill’s mission and programming.
“Now I’m sold on it,” said Myra of Goodwill’s mission.
“I would say see beyond the donation that you make and come and see the backstory of Goodwill,” said Myra. “Come take a tour and see the good in the community. See what your contribution does. If they come and take a look, they will definitely be hooked.”
Learning about the breadth of programs offered in Goodwill’s five Job Training and Education Centers has inspired Myra to keep donating her time.
“You are doing something good when you donate to Goodwill,” Myra said. “When you think you are throwing something away, you are not really. It benefits the students, and it benefits the community.”
“There have been several moments that have struck me as, ‘Wow, I can make a small difference,’” Diana said.
After her first visit to Seattle Goodwill’s Administration Building Diana Naramore knew she found a mission she wanted to align with.
“I had found my people,” Diana said.
Like so many others, Diana has always donated to Goodwill. She regularly brings in goods from her business, Sip and Ship. When she first learned the impact those donations make, Diana was floored.
“There was a significant shift when I learned how Goodwill welcomes anyone from any walk of life into their doors and helps remove any visible or invisible barriers,” Diana said. “From getting someone glasses or getting them a bus pass so they can come to the (Job Training and Education Center), that blew my mind.”
Diana has volunteered at Seattle Goodwill for more than a year. She’s participated in job readiness workshops, offering her knowledge and providing fundamental career tips and advice. Diana and the Sip and Ship leadership team secured several raffle donations and volunteered at Goodwill’s 10th Annual Glitter Gala & Fashion Show. Diana’s also participated in Goodwill’s annual Thank-a-Thon where she connected with, and extended thanks to fellow Goodwill partners for their many contributions.
Through all her Goodwill experiences, what Diana admires the most is the genuine care Seattle Goodwill has for its students.
“Our philosophy at Sip and Ship is of caring,” she said. “We care for anyone we come in contact with, and so does Seattle Goodwill.”
Diana’s volunteer time has been rewarding and productive, she said. She has enjoyed plenty of memorable, moving moments. From witnessing how instructors connect with students to sharing the fun of the Glitter Gala with her Sip and Ship team, Goodwill has left an indelible impression on Diana.
“There have been several moments that have struck me as, ‘Wow, I can make a small difference,’” Diana said. “One was during a one-on-one mock interview session with a student to practice for a job interview. We had discussions with students about interview process and things that might be stumbling blocks. Here (at Seattle Goodwill) is this forward thinking environment that breeds success, that sets these students up for success, and I am so proud to be a part of that.”
In one word, Diana described her time volunteering as invigorating and implored others to join Goodwill’s mission.
“Now is the time to create positive change,” she said. “Gandhi once said, ‘Be the change you wish to see in the world.’ These are our future leaders, so invest whatever you can, because it will benefit the long term greatly.”
“Growing up, shopping in the Goodwill was always a family affair,” Lauren said. “I’ve moved 22 times in the last 32 years, so I’m constantly moving forward and getting rid of things. We talk about Goodwilling all the time in our family. It’s a term for us.”
Lauren Dalton learned early in life that proper attire can make a lasting impact.
When she was a senior in high school, Lauren was speaking with an admissions counselor at Florida State University—now her alma mater—when he was struck by an accessory she was wearing.
“At the time, I thought it was popular to wear a guy’s tie around your waist,” Lauren said. “We chit-chatted, and he complimented me about the tie I was wearing. Two or three months later, I had put in the application, and he remembered. He said, ‘Oh, you had that white tie around your waist.’ I since have learned how important it is what you wear.”
That’s one of the messages Lauren delivers during the Dress for Success workshops she leads as a Seattle Goodwill volunteer.
Lauren, a Product Integrity Manager at zulily, has been volunteering with Goodwill since the Glitter Gala in the fall of 2016. She’s always been passionate about helping people who are bettering themselves, and zulily’s volunteer policy has afforded her the ability to make a major impact at Goodwill.
Besides instructing Dress for Success workshops, Lauren and several of her zulily team members will be volunteering at the new pop-up shop that will be featured during this year’s Glitter Gala. Even Lauren’s mom is flying all the way from Georgia to volunteer at the event.
While Lauren’s values fall in line with Goodwill’s mission, her tie to the organization goes beyond her volunteerism.
“Growing up, shopping in the Goodwill was always a family affair,” Lauren said. “I’ve moved 22 times in the last 32 years, so I’m constantly moving forward and getting rid of things. We talk about Goodwilling all the time in our family. It’s a term for us.”
Lauren’s professional background in product development and merchandising coupled with her love for fashion has been a great fit for the Dress for Success workshop, which takes place toward the end of every class session, just before Goodwill students begin applying for jobs.
One of Lauren’s messages is very clear: fashion doesn’t have to cost a lot. It’s more about choosing clothes that are stylish, flattering, and appropriate for the occasion, she said.
Lauren teaches how to put outfits together, how to shake hands, how to speak while maintaining eye contact, and overall, how to feel comfortable during an interview. And because she’s often working with such diverse groups, Lauren’s benefitted by learning customs from various cultures.
“I honestly appreciate people’s differences and love learning from other cultures,” Lauren said. “What I appreciate the most is the number of people from different walks of life who come into the building with the same goals of wanting to better themselves through our educational programs. I have truly realized how great the Goodwill organization is.”
Lauren said with her schedule it would be impossible for her to commit as much as she does to Goodwill without the support of zulily, which provides 32 hours per year of paid volunteer time. Lauren is constantly recruiting co-workers to join her at Goodwill.
“Working with the Goodwill organization has been great,” Lauren said. “Everyone is just super friendly and passionate about what they do. When I learned Goodwill was affiliated with the zulily volunteer program, I didn’t think twice about where I would give my time.”
“Every time I came in I would say, ‘This is amazing.’ It blew me away. I was floored. We have a bonnet from the Oregon Trail. It still has dirt on it from the Oregon Trail.”
There are days when Zophie Leslea, even after over a year of volunteering, still can’t believe she gets complete access to Seattle Goodwill’s Vintage Fashion Collection (VFC).
For a fashion lover such as Zophie, it’s paradise.
Zophie said while she’s spent countless hours volunteering, time spent in the vintage collection never feels like work. That is partly because she’s entrenched in what she loves and partly due to how she’s treated as a Seattle Goodwill volunteer.
“One of the strengths of Goodwill is how privileged you feel as a volunteer here,” Zophie said. “This has just been a breath of fresh air for me. It’s amazing being around a collection like this and to have access to it. I feel blessed every day. I also feel really blessed to be introduced to the people who are involved with Goodwill.”
“I’m a gregarious person,” Laura said, “and it touches me when that light goes on for someone and they go, ‘Ah, I figured it out on my own. You know, I can do this now.’ I get good feelings from watching other people succeed, so I’m sort of rooting for them.”
Laura had no intention of volunteering the first time she stepped foot in Seattle Goodwill’s South Everett Job Training and Education (JTE) Center.
In fact, Laura had no knowledge of Goodwill’s mission.
“I got here purely by chance,” Laura admitted.
Years ago Laura helped establish a community garden in Mukilteo. She met an Iranian single mother who gardened there, and the two struck up a strong relationship. One day, the woman invited Laura to the education center for a graduation event, and less than 30 minutes into it, Laura was hooked. She knew she wanted to be involved in Goodwill’s mission.
“I walked into the graduation event, looked around and said, ‘Wow, this is interesting. Look at the variety of people here,’” Laura recalled. “Within half an hour, I met (JTE Center Manager) Susan Allen and said, ‘Do you need anybody?’”
That was the genesis of what’s been a two-and-a-half-year relationship between Laura and Seattle Goodwill.
Laura has donated more than 300 volunteer hours, starting out as an instructor’s aide in computer classes before transitioning to English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) classes. With the help of South Everett ESOL instructor Janice Powell, Laura has created a successful talk-time sessions, in which twice a week she meets with ESOL students to facilitate conversations around American culture, idioms, speech patterns and analogies.
“It just brings (the students) to that world where everyone else already is,” Cathie said. “They get more confident every class, and the pretty soon they are showing us how they can do stuff. And it’s ‘Look what I can do now!’ It’s pretty nice. It keeps bringing us back.”
Digital literacy is a requirement in today’s society in order to navigate one’s personal and professional life.
Cathie and Loanne have recognized this, and thanks to their combined 500-plus volunteer hours at Bellingham’s Job Training and Education (JTE) Center, Seattle Goodwill students are able to learn digital essentials paramount to seamlessly maneuvering through their daily lives.
Cathie, for a long time, has provided instruction for computer programs such as Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint at Bellingham Technical College and sees regularly how gaining computer skills improves people’s lives, whether it be finding a job online or connecting with family across the country through email or video chat.
Loanne, on the other hand, came to Goodwill several years ago as a retired Navy veteran looking to gain computer skills. She wanted to volunteer, but found many positions required computer literacy she didn’t have.
“Unless you know Microsoft Word of Excel or something, they say, ‘No thank you. We can’t use you,’” Loanne said. “So, I became a student here.”
Loanne still remembers a form she filled out when starting as a student in Goodwill’s computer explorations class. There was a prompt that asked: “Why do you want to take this class?” Loanne wrote: “To be a better volunteer.”
The instructor, Loanne said, was struck by her answer and asked Loanne to continue on as a volunteer. So the class Loanne wanted to take in order to become a volunteer has turned into the class she now volunteers in.
And Loanne couldn’t imagine a more fulfilling volunteer role.
“I could probably get another volunteer position but not one as rewarding as this,” Loanne said. “I tell people the biggest thing we teach here is confidence. To watch people walk in (lacking confidence), and between this staff, they leave laughing and doing all kinds of stuff, because they are not afraid.”
Cathie has witnessed how impactful her time is to the students who come to her class.
Cathie works with many seniors who are retired and had computer skills while working, but since retirement haven’t kept up with the ever-changing world of technology.
“I encourage other people to volunteer,” Gonzalo said. “I encourage you to come to Goodwill. Whoever is looking for a job, and they want to volunteer, I encourage them to do so.”
Superlatives aside, the fact Gonzalo has dedicated more than six years and 1,500 volunteer hours toward helping Marysville’s Job Training and Education Center speaks volumes to the impact he’s made in the community he helps serve.
And Marysville instructor Elizabeth Laryea had some glowing remarks about Gonzalo, too.
“He always has a really positive attitude,” said Laryea, who teaches English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) classes and frequently has Gonzalo as an aide. “He always welcomes the students and makes everyone feel comfortable, and he also is willing to do any task, big or small.”
Originally from Mexico, Gonzalo came to Washington after living in California for seven years. He started taking classes at Goodwill in 2011 in order to develop skills that would help him land a job.
Gonzalo began volunteering after being asked by Marysville JTE Center Manager Tania Siler. He started helping in ESOL Basic and ESOL Level 1 and 2 classes, while he continued honing his own English-speaking skills by taking more advanced classes. Every Monday through Thursday Gonzalo volunteers for roughly three hours.
Besides working as an aide, he also acts as a translator and interpreter for Spanish-speaking individuals who come to Goodwill but haven’t yet developed English-speaking skills.
“I know he does a lot in the office, too,” Laryea said. “He makes phone calls, and if someone has questions he can do some translation. I think he can really relate to a lot of our Hispanic students, helping them feel comfortable right away.”
That relatability is displayed on multiple levels. Not only can Gonzalo connect with Hispanic students through conversation and culture, several years ago he earned his citizenship and serves as a testament to other students that gaining citizenship is obtainable.
Gonzalo’s willingness to volunteer is even more impressive given a challenging barrier he faces. Getting to Goodwill requires a 15-minute walk to the training center. The trek isn’t easy. Since birth, Gonzalo has dealt with a foot deformity that makes walking long distances a challenge.
“I don’t have a car, so I have to walk all the time,” Gonzalo explained. “Sometimes I feel like my legs are hurting a little bit. It’s hard to move. The movement I do when I walk, that causes problems for my hips, and I feel a lot of pain sometimes.”
To Gonzalo, the struggle of walking to Marysville’s JTE Center and back home is a small price to pay for the reward he gains in return.
“I love helping these people,” Gonzalo said, “especially after I help them and they say, ‘Thank you.’ That is what motivates me.”
Gonzalo is hoping he can use all his volunteer experience to find a job in the future as a translator.