If you have ever gotten to Safeway’s checkout counter and forgotten the cream of chicken soup, changed your mind about the Doritos or decided you could use a hand pushing your grocery cart through a slushy spring Northern Arizona afternoon, you would likely have been happy to see Logan Holmes smiling at you at the end of the grocery conveyor belt asking if there is anything else he can do for you.
“I enjoy helping people and feeling appreciated,” said Holmes.
You also may be happy to know standing behind Holmes is a whole team of support. It may not be obvious, but that team is there and eager to help make your shopping experience more enjoyable while building and strengthening skills in courtesy clerks like Holmes.
“It is life changing to be able to guide someone along the path, see individuals transform, and know how thankful they are for the help in meeting their desired goals,” said Goodwill of Northern Arizona Employment Specialist Dazhoni James, who has been training, motivating and coaching Holmes and others for success in the workplace. “We see people sparkle and come to life. It’s a beautiful experience.”
This beautiful experience is part of The Job Connection. Goodwill of Northern Arizona provides training, employment, and educational assistance to those who are unemployed, under-employed, or who may have barriers that are making it difficult for them to get a job. Removing those barriers made a $25.2 million difference to the economies of Northern Arizona last year and helped 545 people find jobs.
“Helping individuals earn a paycheck is the only reason Goodwill exists,” said Goodwill of Northern Arizona President and CEO David Hirsch. “So we know, when we’ve taken someone who comes in needing the job yesterday, how tremendously important The Job Connection is to so many people.”
As Goodwill helps people become employed, the not-for-profit business provides pre-screened, qualified candidates to help meet workforce demands.
“Many people have skills but they don’t know how to be employees. Businesses want people who show up on time and are enthusiastically ready to work,” said marketing professional Cindy May. “Goodwill helps teach the soft skills like having eye contact and shaking hands, and also the basics such as how to write a resume, fill out an application online, interview for a job and dress for work.”
In many cases, individuals are referred to Goodwill by external organizations that provide funding to help pay for the training, such as the Division of Developmental Disabilities or the Rehabilitation Services Administration.
“Those individuals get intensive types of services that are one-on-one in nature,” said Hirsch. “We figure out what their needs are, help them to put an individual plan for employment in place and assist with the services necessary to achieve those career goals.”
Through a partnership with Safeway that began in 2011, Goodwill has set up a Safeway Training Center in Flagstaff. This is a mini grocery store. It is stocked with real products like cereal and applesauce; it has a real checkout counter with a cash register and conveyor belt, but there are no customers. It is Safeway with a safety net where people like Holmes spend a lot of time with job coaches like James before you’ll ever hear them ask if you’d like paper or plastic.
“Safeway has been partnering with agencies that provide service to people for many years,” said Safeway Human Resources Manager Linda Karras. “The diversity of our workforce is one of our strengths. It is more than a corporate initiative; it is a living part of our culture. Safeway’s efforts are recognized by our customer base and this contributes to the loyalty of our customers.”
At the Flagstaff Safeway Training Center, 25 participants have been trained, 92 percent have graduated and 11 have become part of the Safeway team.
“The program has done wonders for the community,” said Cedar Safeway Manager Rose Wiley, who has been honored for her involvement with Goodwill in setting up the Flagstaff Safeway Training Center.
And those wonders keep growing. Goodwill has expanded services and donation centers in the Village of Oak Creek, Lake Havasu City, Cottonwood and Sedona. Plans currently are being finalized for the new 32,000-square-foot donation drive-through center, store, Job Connection and team support center near the Flagstaff Mall. The grand opening celebration is scheduled for 9 a.m., Thursday, May 30.
“As these stores generate revenue to fund The Job Connection, the organization’s economic impact continues to rise,” said Hirsch. “At the end of the day, it feels good to meet the needs of individuals and also the needs of businesses for a qualified workforce. That’s what makes our communities work.” FBN