Goodwill doesn't just take donations - it puts people to work

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When you think of Goodwill, you think of a place to donate our clothes.

But there is so much more to this non-profit, which is putting people to work. 

Antonio Downer is a crew leader at Goodwill Industrial Solutions - a supervisor in their automotive supply division. It's a far cry from where he was several years ago.

"It was nerve-racking not knowing if I was going to be able to get a job," he said.

The now 43-year-old had just been released from prison and this returning citizen was ready to be a contributing citizen, he just needed the opportunity and the support.

"Goodwill, they worked with me, gave me a chance to get my life back on track," Downer said. "I give kudos to this place - they really helped me through a lot."

"The mission - the whole dignity and respect - is for everyone," said Blair Vesterfelt.

Vesterfelt oversees automotive operations there. Goodwill just doesn't just do donations. At this plant, employees are helping to build cars.

"We are a Tier One supplier to GM, Ford and Chrysler FCA, we are also supplying heavy equipment as well as the diversification effort and we are seeking to get into med tech as well," said Vesterfelt.

Goodwill workers supply kits for FCA's front license plate brackets, cables for robotics and even nitrogen and oxygen sensors for diesel engines.

The employees are returning citizens, veterans, the homeless and the disabled. People who might otherwise have a tough time finding work. There they get training - and a career.

"It's incredibly humbling it's incredibly joyful to come to work and give that back to individuals who don't have that opportunity," said Vesterfelt.

"When somebody goes from unemployed to making $12 or $15 an hour, it's life-changing for the entire family," said Dan Varner, president and CEO of Goodwill Industries.

Varner says many programs are available for people of all backgrounds and abilities from personal development to workforce training - and they employ people through their stores, the automotive program, an industrial recycling program and contract labor.

"There is a ton happening at Goodwill - most folks know 'I drop off my clothes at Goodwill' and that's where the story ends," Varner said. "But this iconic brand has become iconic for a reason."

Goodwill is an iconic brand nearly 100 years old that continues to grow and evolve with expanding programs with plans to hire more people. People like Antonio Downer who have the drive they just need a chance.

"He's gone from a general laborer to a supervisory role so he's a real success story," Vesterfelt said.

"I'm very proud of myself, I smile at myself all the time for the things I used to do in my past to the things I do now - a whole 360-degree turnaround."

For more information about Goodwill Industries go to