Dorothy Cooksey, like many other mature individuals, found herself seeking work after early retirement. Dorothy retired in 1998 from her position as the secretary to the Washington University School of Medicine’s Director of Radiology. She quickly realized that her 401K and pension would not be enough to make ends meet. Due to her personable nature, Dorothy found a job on the customer service team for Harrah’s Casino where she received honors for Employee of the Month and Employee of the Year.
In 2002, Dorothy struggled with her health and experienced constant challenges with finding and keeping employment as a result. Dorothy found work in several capacities on and off, and she eventually succeeded in finding work at a restaurant. However, her success was cut short by an unfortunate fall on the job that left her unable to continue that line of work.
Despite a strong administrative and customer service background, Dorothy spent a year looking for employment without any success. She sought outside help and was referred to the MERS/Goodwill Lippman Center by Missouri Agency, Vocational Rehabilitation.
Dorothy was assigned a MERS/Goodwill caseworker that recommended taking job readiness training classes.
“The job training classes really focused on how to present yourself and prepare for job openings,” said Dorothy. “They put me in a better position to get a job as opposed to those who were looking on their own.”
In March of 2008, armed with her resume and newfound confidence, Dorothy attended a job fair that was advertised at the Lippman Center. It was there that she found the Northgate Park Senior Living Community table and inquired about open positions. The recruiters were looking for nursing aids, but Dorothy told them she was interested in a dietary aid position. Even though that wasn’t the position they were hiring for that day, the recruiter had Dorothy complete an application.
Less than a week later, Dorothy received a call from Northgate. She interviewed with the retirement community and was hired as a dietary aid. Today, Dorothy enjoys interaction with the residents and a management team at Northgate that is flexible with her requested hours. As a result, the financial strains that once plagued Dorothy no longer worry her. She plans to be financially stable when she does retire so that she can relax and enjoy life. Looking back on her experience at the job fair, Dorothy said that even though she was alone at the Northgate table, the MERS/Goodwill team was supporting her the whole time.
“It’s the MERS/Goodwill team that I have to thank for my current position,” said Dorothy. “They helped me regain confidence and maintain my independence.”
To see James Watkins hard at work as an Assistant Manager of the produce department of the Price Cutter in Springfield, it’s hard to imagine him hitting a rough patch not long ago. In 2007, James was looking for work and feeling downhearted about his prospects. With the support of his mother, James decided to seek the help of Missouri’s Division of Vocational Rehabilitation and MERS/Goodwill. What James didn’t expect was that his time with Goodwill would not only provide him with the skills necessary to find a job, but also the encouragement to change his life forever.
In his first meetings with Larry Click, MERS/Goodwill Employment Specialist, and Elly Richter, MERS/Goodwill Assessment Specialist, James was less than excited to be seeking assistance. “We kept nudging him and pushing him to stay with the program,” said Larry. “He had a sense of humor and a gleam in his eyes, we knew he was unique.”
James initially questioned the amount of support he might need. Recognizing this obstacle, Larry struck a deal with him; James could sit outside the room during weekly Job Readiness Group Sessions, coming and going as he pleased. This offer appealed to James, and, as Larry had hoped, after several weeks James came around, realizing he did share common bonds with others in the room.
Slowly, Larry and Elly broke down James’ hard outer shell. With their persistence, James’ interaction in the programs increased. As Larry and Elly got to know James, they learned that he is a fourth generation grocer, with an impressive resume in the field including a managing position at a store in Oklahoma. Despite his solid background and knowledge of the industry, a lack of openings in the field led to Larry reaching out to Bill Risberg of LaMar’s Donuts. At the time, Bill wasn’t hiring, but decided to hire James for a part-time cleaning position. For more than three years, James worked at LaMar’s, slowly transforming from behind-the-scenes, to a front counter position with lots of customer interaction. During that time, Bill would call James at any moment if he needed help at the store, recognizing James’ hard work and reliability.
As he gained tenure on the job and the trust of those around him, James’ self-esteem increased. Overcoming unemployment and reconnecting with his outgoing personality, a final hurdle stood in James’ way. Standing at 6 feet 3 inches, James weighed 380 pounds, and even for a tall man, James knew his health was at risk. With the support of his family, James decided to undergo Lap-band surgery. As James focused on his lifestyle transformation that ultimately led to losing 130 pounds, he began exploring new employment opportunities.
James had always shopped at the Price Cutter grocery store near his home, and during a particular trip he decided to ask about the produce department. After visiting with an employee, James left his name and number, receiving a call shortly after. He was hired on as the Assistant Manager of the produce department, and continues to serve as in the position, more than a year and a half later.
Although he was sad to leave LaMar’s, James maintains a good friendship with Bill. James’ remarkable story has made him a poster-child for healthy lifestyles. He often speaks at seminars and meetings about his transformation. He continues to attend support groups, and can now keep up with his two grandchildren.
James is rejuvenated, now enjoying running and biking and even participating in 10Ks. Recently, James made the more than 230 mile bike ride from Clinton to St. Louis. In addition to restoring his health, James appreciates all the support and guidance the employees of Goodwill gave him, and he encourages others to seek out the help of Goodwill. With the support of his Goodwill team, James recognized the potential he had and opened his heart to the love people bestowed upon him. Embracing a new life, James and all those around him celebrate his tremendous success.
For more than 12 years Mary Armbruster was a dedicated employee at Value City. But as the economy worsened, the discount department store chain filed for bankruptcy and closed all its stores. Back at square one, Mary was in search of another position she could grow to love and bond with a group of team members.
After several months of being unemployed, Mary knew it was time to ask for help. When she turned to Missouri’s Division of Vocational Rehabilitation and MERS/Goodwill, she knew she made the right decision. “Through interview, resume and application completion trainingsessions, Goodwill taught me it’s about advertising me,” said Mary. “Goodwill teachesa ‘hire me, I’m a great worker’ approach.” Mary’s positive attitude and outgoing spirit has made her relationship with Goodwillmutually beneficial.
“Mary always has a smile on her face,” said John Campbell, Goodwill Job Developer. “She is always upbeat and in a good mood. She came to classes and meetings dressed for interviews.” As Mary learned invaluable skills, her smile and professionalismstood out to others. “She was a good influence on other clients. She even came back to help out with other classes.”
With her ready-to-work attitude and employment history, Mary focused on retail opportunities with John’s help. While checking in with a client employed at Walgreens, John found out Gina Pate, Walgreens Store Manager, was looking for a part-time Service Clerk. Jumping at the opportunity, John discussed Mary’s potential with Gina. Soon Mary was filling out the online application, quickly followed by an interview.
While Gina looked over Mary’s resume, one specific detail caught her eye; more than 12 years employed at Value City. Already having witnessedone Goodwill client’s dedication to Walgreens, Gina had no hesitations hiring Mary. “Goodwill’s such a great organization,” said Gina. “They respond quickly, are extremely accommodating and want to be involved.” Focused on hiring dedicated, permanent employees, Gina knew Mary would be a perfect fit.
A little over a year later, Gina is proud to say she made the right decision hiring Mary. “Everyone loves Mary,” said Gina. “Most importantly, Mary’s happy to be here, and we’re excited to have her.” As a part-time Service Clerk, Mary’s responsible for greeting customers, running the cash register, some light stocking and general store tidiness. Mary’s outgoing attitude has proved great with customer service, and she’s very familiar with the store’s regular customers.
In the past 12 months, Mary has bonded with her fellow staff members. The location she works in employs 18 workers, not including the pharmacists. The small group has welcomed Mary with open arms, and Mary appreciates the genuine comradery. The employees are always finding ways to keep work interesting. A holiday potluck last December, an occasional fundraiser for various charities allowing jeans on Fridays and the blood drive held in August, have all contributed to Mary’s love of her job.
Every day Mary is proud to put on her khaki pants and blue Walgreens polo, thankful for a great, stable job. Smiling, she greets her customers with a friendly, “Welcome to Walgreens.”
After working for a company for nearly 11 years, Dallas Lawrence, like so many others, was laid off due to corporate cutbacks. Unlike many others, Dallas is deaf. His unemployment resulted in the loss of income, benefits and security, and as the recession continued, future employment was looking grim. Dallas, 31, spent months searching for employment, never considering defeat. After a stint of unsuccessful searching, Dallas turned to MERS/Goodwill for assistance.
Enter Project Grow, MERS/Goodwill’s comprehensive employment services program specifically designed for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Similar to MERS/Goodwill’s other programs and services, Project Grow supports individuals with barriers to find and maintain employment. Dallas was referred by Missouri’s Division of Vocational Rehabilitation and paired with Employment Specialist, Bob Eves. Bob worked with Dallas to update his resume, prepare for interviews, and contact employers on his behalf.
“Dallas set himself apart from many job applicants,” said Bob “It was evident he truly wanted to work.” His relentless ambition led Dallas to apply for as many jobs as possible. Bob encouraged Dallas to stay dedicated to his search, helping him look for not just any job, but the right job. Despite the odds, Dallas’ hope never wavered.
Intoximeters, Inc., a privately held company that produces and markets a full line of alcohol breath testing instruments, responded to Dallas’ application in October of last year. After interviews with Bryan Heaven, Materials Manager, and Keith Hart, Assistant Controller and Human Resources Manager, Dallas was offered a full-time janitorial position. True to the company’s family background; Intoximeters staff welcomed Dallas with open arms. They quickly learned that Dallas’ hearing impairment was not a communication barrier. Everyday accommodations of texting and email via phone allow Dallas to meet and exceed expectations.
“Oh! It’s so awesome,” said Dallas. A few months from his one year anniversary, Dallas is still enjoying his job every day. “It’s so interesting and lots of fun. Intoximeters is such a wonderful company.”
Dallas has quickly earned the respect of his fellow employees, constantly going above and beyond what is required of him. From his timeliness to his dedication, Dallas has truly integrated into the Intoximeters family. Last winter, the company closed for a day due to snow. Combating the harsh winter weather, Dallas made his way to the facility, to shovel. After this particular event, Chris Dalton, President of Intoximeters, sent Dallas a personal thank you card for the efforts he puts into his job.
His co-workers are also making efforts. Many are learning American Sign Language. “I’ve been with Intoximeters for eight months now,” said Dallas. “In that short time, most of the company has tried and continue to try to sign with me.”
Dallas and his wife, Kim, are ever excited and thankful for the opportunity MERS/Goodwill and Intoximeters have provided. All who have contact with Dallas are grateful for the impact he’s made on their lives. MERS/Goodwill is proud of Dallas’ success, and the inspiration he is to so many others.