MEMBER SPOTLIGHT: GOODWILL OF WESTERN MISSOURI & EASTERN KANSAS
Nov 16, 2021
Most of us have a favorite find we’ve come across at a Goodwill store. From shirts to books to mugs to tables, Goodwill has something for everyone. But beyond clothes and household goods, the most important thing Goodwill provides are job skills and workforce readiness. In our latest Member Spotlight, we talk technology, expansion, and workforce with Anita Davis, Chief Mission Officer at Goodwill of Western Missouri and Eastern Kansas (MoKan Goodwill).
“A lot of people know Goodwill for donated goods and shopping wonderful resale items at affordable prices,” said Davis. “But they don’t realize this is a social enterprise that really advances a mission around workforce development. Around employment careers and skills. That’s what all our work is really about.”
Founded in 1894, Goodwill’s mission is straightforward: to empower people to discover their potential and adapt for the future through the power of work. MoKan Goodwill just opened their 15th store in Raytown and serves 82 counties across the region. Many are rural areas that may not be the best locations for a store, but that’s where Goodwill’s workforce services come in to help people learn critical technology skills for the job market.
“Our free programs are designed like a funnel,” said Davis. “The Bridge to Technology is designed to teach foundational digital skills, as well as 21st century skills like critical thinking and problem solving. Research showed us many people in this region want to get into tech, and there are many people who don’t know where to start. And there were others who were applying to community colleges like Metropolitan Community College or other institutions and maybe they didn't pass the entrance exam. We can send them to the Bridge, and after 5-10 weeks of a preparation course, those applicants can go back to reapply.”
Reaching those students isn’t always easy – especially during a global pandemic. That’s where the Mobile Workforce Unit comes in. Launched in Spring 2021, the Mobile Workforce Unit is a mobile computer classroom on wheels, making it easier to connect with KC. Through partnerships and collaborations, Goodwill can bring the classroom to the students. A successful example is Goodwill’s work with the Healing House, which provides recovery housing and support in Kansas City. “We have a regular meeting with them each week where people know on a particular day we will be there, and they can come into the computer lab and get the NorthStar digital skills assessment to figure out where they are with their computer skills and see what they need to work on. We really want to meet people where they are.” For those with more advanced skills, there’s the Artemis Institute, training for adults in advanced technologies such as machine learning, artificial intelligence, augmented reality, and virtual reality.
Goodwill also focuses on non-technology jobs through the AbilityOne Program. These custodial jobs provide people who have significant documented disabilities the opportunity to acquire job skills and training, receive good wages and benefits and gain greater independence and quality of life. Currently, MoKan Goodwill participates in AbilityOne with custodial service contracts at the Richard Bolling Federal Building in downtown Kansas City and Fort Leavenworth in Kansas.
It’s not just about workforce though. It’s about helping families have what they need. Especially this time of year. As the holidays approach, MoKan Goodwill is kicking off the Holiday of Giving campaign to help families who have been impacted by the pandemic. The Holiday of Giving extends a family’s holiday shopping budget by more than three times the value at most retail stores. It also provides household items and warm clothing that many Kansas Citians need. Click here to support the Holiday of Giving and to help families.
Davis said none of this would be successful without partners and collaborators in the community. That’s a key reason she values MoKan Goodwill’s Chamber membership. “The Chamber is a valuable partner. When it comes to workforce development training, we’re building a demand-driven workforce development program at Goodwill. We really want to align with what our business and industry partners see, and we know the Chamber is right on the pulse of that.”
The future is now for MoKan Goodwill. They plan to open three stores a year, and just signed a letter of intent for a new Waldo store. To learn how to donate or volunteer, go to mokangoodwill.org. To talk partnerships and collaboration, contact Davis at Adavis@mokangoodwill.org.