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Goodwill Manasota exceeds goal for Supported JobsPlus program expansion

An increase in employment for workers with significant disabilities comes thanks in part to a $10 million contribution from philanthropist MacKenzie Scott in 2020


SARASOTA/BRADENTON, FL – In December of 2020,


Goodwill Manasota was honored – and thrilled – to learn that it was one of 384 nonprofits to receive multi-million-dollar gifts from philanthropist MacKenzie Scott. With its $10 million windfall, Goodwill launched new programs as well as made a commitment to expand existing programs, such as Supported JobsPlus, which targets employment for individuals with significant disabilities.


Since that time, Goodwill has blown past its initial goal of adding 10 more slots for the Supported JobsPlus (SJP) program, with 18 hired in 2021. In 2022, Goodwill hired a program manager and exceeded its goal to hire another 10, with 18 hired thus far this year and plans to recruit many more.


The program expansion began in the wake of pandemic-related SJP team member losses, due to medical issues and fears of COVID-19 infection.


"Everyone deserves a chance to earn a paycheck and feel the dignity of work," said Donn Githens, president and CEO of Goodwill Manasota. “At Goodwill, we choose to focus on abilities rather than see barriers to our mutual success. We are proud to have implemented policies and invested resources to ensure all our team members – as well as community members seeking employment opportunities – have a pathway to find fulfillment and achieve success.”


The SJP program was implemented in 2005. Currently, of Goodwill’s 756 employees, about 70% have self-identified disabilities and/or disadvantaging conditions, while 70 – nearly 10% of its employees – have significant disabilities and participate in the SJP program.


Team members who are hired through Goodwill’s SJP program usually start their Goodwill employment journey with a job coach from a partnering agency, who assists them with the hiring and training process. Prior to being hired, the SJP candidate is assessed for eligibility; if eligible, they will be scheduled for an interview and, possibly, hired.


Once hired, team members are introduced to their GoodPartner Coach, who completes a needs assessment and assists them in establishing an individual development plan, meeting with them one-on-one to support the progress on reaching their goals.


Both the SJP and GoodPartner Coach programs provide an opportunity for individuals with disabilities or other barriers to employment to experience what it means to live a life changed through the power of work. Frequently, these team members maintain their employment with Goodwill for years – if not decades. They benefit not only from their employment but also from the sense of community internally (often referred to as “family”). Through the Supported JobsPlus and GoodPartner Coach programs, they also have access to beneficial community resources.


Claretha Haygood, 21, was the tenth SJP team member to be hired in 2022, coming on board this past spring. The Sarasota native – a Booker High School graduate – works part-time (15 hours/week) as a fitting room attendant at Goodwill’s “Mecca” location in north Sarasota. Haygood had formerly participated in a voluntary Exceptional Student Education on-the-job-training program, through Booker High, at this location and has two cousins working there at present.


Haygood has an intellectual disability but that hasn’t stopped her from striving for career and life success. With the income from her job and Social Security Disability Insurance, and the support she receives through the GoodPartner Coach and SJP programs, she has been able to enjoy an independent living situation for the first time in her life. Her GoodPartner Coach, Diana Olivieri, is currently working with Haygood on creating an individualized budget, so that she can manage her savings and spending.


Mecca store manager Dora Talamantes could not be happier with Haygood’s work. “She caught on so fast – she’s so smart,” Talamantes said. “About six weeks into her employment, I checked our store’s 63 timecards and Claretha’s was the only one that was perfect. She is always on time, is always on the job working. I’m so glad to have her here!”


And Haygood is happy to be a part of the Goodwill family, noting that she particularly likes her co-workers, managers, coaches and customers. “The team is very helpful – I really appreciate that!”


In 2021, Goodwill served 489 people with disabilities across all its Community Resource Centers, with programs including Job Connection, Veterans Services, GoodPartner Coach and Supported JobsPlus.


Dana Knuuti, Goodwill Manasota’s mission employment program manager, notes that the best way for an individual with a disability to be matched with employment opportunities is to start with the Florida Division of Vocational Rehabilitation. There, they will be given assessments, and then a job coach who will help them undergo a process to help them get job-ready. Once a candidate has gone through the process at Vocational Rehab, Knuuti will be contacted to consider any prospects who might be a good fit for a job at Goodwill.


“The Vocational Rehabilitation job coaches not only consider prospects for employment at Goodwill but also partner with other employers who have inclusive workplaces,” Knuuti said. “We want to help candidates find work that is beneficial and meaningful to each individual.”


For more about Goodwill, visit experiencegoodwill.org or call 941-355-2721.


PHOTO ID: (From l-r) Mecca store manager Dora Talamantes, employment specialist Lara Putnam, SJP team member Claretha Haygood, GoodPartner Coach Diana Olivieri, and mission employment program manager Dana Knuuti


About Goodwill Manasota

Goodwill Manasota is an industry-leading 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that changes lives through the power of work. With philanthropic donations and revenue generated by the sales of donated goods, Goodwill is able to assist people with disabilities, veterans, seniors, and those with other barriers to employment by providing jobs, job skills training, and free career services. For more information or for a listing of locations, visit experiencegoodwill.org or call 941-355-2721.

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