Day in and day out, people in Stark County drive by a Goodwill retail store. Some folks stop in to shop or donate, and others might just drive by without a second thought.

However, what many people who shop, donate or just pass by might not realize is the mission that is being delivered behind the scenes.

Every retail store location functions with one main goal in mind — to help support the mission. Programs and services offered in Stark County and nine other counties exist to help individuals improve their quality of life and employment opportunities.

“Our main focus is to fulfill our mission and make a positive impact on the communities we serve, and our retail stores give us a vehicle to make that happen,” said Ken Weber, president and chief executive officer. “What most people don’t realize is how many lives we impact annually, and how we make a difference.”

Each day, individuals walk into a Goodwill office searching for the path to competitive employment, independent living and self-sufficiency.

Last year, Goodwill served nearly 11,000 individuals through its programs and services, which include employment-related programs such as résumé writing, work evaluation, computer training and nontraditional programs such as parenting skills and Urban Hope Ohio.

One program in particular, SPEAK, is a program offered to help children develop basic reading skills. Special Pups Enhancing the Abilities of Kids is a volunteer-driven reading program. It allows dogs and their owners to visit several Stark County elementary schools and offers children who have been deemed “delicate readers” the opportunity to read aloud to a non-threatening reading buddy.

“We really believe the SPEAK program is making a measurable impact for these children and improving their skills and self esteem at the same time,” said Weber. “It is a wonderful program that touches so many lives.”

Whether people simply need help finding a job, or if they have barriers they need help overcoming to achieve competitive employment or independent living, Goodwill can help. Additionally, Goodwill runs a Voucher Program to give individuals the hand out they sometimes need before they can get a hand up in life. Vouchers are issued by Goodwill, local non-profits and area schools to allow individuals in need to “shop” for items in Goodwill stores at no cost.

Last year, nearly $140,000 worth of merchandise was given away to families and individuals in need through this program.

For more information, visit www.goodwillclevecanton.org.

GOODWILL INDUSTRIES

WHO: Goodwill Industries of Greater Cleveland and East Central Ohio

WHAT: A nonprofit organization working to improve the quality of life and employment opportunities for people.

BOARD MEMBERS: Maureen Ater, The Repository; Timothy Beauch, Aultman Health Foundation; John
Brannon, Day Ketterer; William Bryan,Timken Co.; Ken Douglas, Bruner Cox, LLP; Gordon East, Gordon & Sons; Michael Eberhart, Hall Kistler & Co.; Marge Jentes, Twin City Hospital; George Lemon, community volunteer; Roy Levenger, community volunteer; Gregory Luntz, LSC Luntz Services Corp.; William Maddox, Maddox Consulting; Richard Martindale, Leonard Insurance Services; Jill McQueen, Day Ketterer; Marcas Miles, Employers Health; Robert Marlan, FirstMerit Bank; Sarah Richards,The Timken Co.; Dennis Ritzel, Darone Financial Services; Larry Smerglia, UBS Financial
Services; Mark Thurin, Thurin Furniture; Curtis J. Werren, J. Curtis Werren, Esq.

PROCEEDS/DONATIONS: Benefit the programs and services we offer to a 10 county area. Call the Fund Development Office at (330) 445-1030 or visit Goodwill’s Web site at www.goodwillclevecanton.org to make donations.

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