AP NEWS

Goodwill provides wellness, career services

July 22, 2018

Goodwill Industries of Greater Nebraska serves a far bigger role than simply a place to drop off and pick up clothing.

Although the retail store at 4330 23rd St. has been in the area for decades, Goodwill in Columbus has been providing services to help people with mental health disorders and employment opportunities only since May 2017. Those services are offered inside the Family Resource Center at 3020 18th St.

There are approximately 163 individually operated Goodwill locations nationwide.

“Each Goodwill is independent and autonomous,” said Kim Buschkoetter, vice president of compliance and mission marketing for Goodwill Industries of Greater Nebraska. “Each Goodwill has their own local volunteer board of directors, chief executive officers and each Goodwill provides their own unique set of services.”

Buschkoetter said proceeds collected from Columbus Goodwill fuels the different services provided by the organization, adding those are provided based on individual community needs.

Program Manager Jillian Underwood oversees Goodwill’s Behavioral Health Services in Columbus. Underwood helps individuals diagnosed with mental illnesses cope with their problems, increase awareness regarding their diagnoses and improve their communication skills.

Underwood’s department also includes three different types of community support programs for emergency situations, mental health and substance abuse. These services are open to individuals suffering from mental illness and those with criminal histories seeking immediate support for housing, food and other basic needs.

“For the ones that struggle, No. 1 is that they don’t have the support,” Underwood said. “So if they are struggling with substance abuse or mental health and have no one else to turn to for that support, Goodwill is able to help in that way and I think that’s a huge need.”

Underwood said the program helps people who are several weeks away from being released from treatment facilities or the justice system adjust back into their communities.

“Let’s say they are in long-term treatment and they have nowhere else to go or they have nobody to help them, we could come in to help,” she said. “To help with that stabilization so that way they have help, so if they don’t know the different resources out in the community, we can help with that.”

When Megan Boss, program manager for Goodwill’s Employment & Career Services, saw the need for employment in the area, she decided to move back to her hometown. At that time, she had served at the Goodwill in Kearney for eight years.

“Employment is key to people’s lives,” Boss said. “When you think about how you spend your week, so much of it is at work. So for somebody who’s not working, it really does affect them.”

Being employed helps people contribute to society and provides them the opportunity to give back to their communities, she said.

Boss works closely with Nebraska VR, which is an employment program helping people with disabilities enter the workforce.

“We help them match to an employer in the community that they qualify for the positions,” Boss said.

Boss said people who haven’t been in the workforce for an extended period of time can be overwhelmed at the prospect of re-entering.

“A lot of the processes have changed for employment in the last few years,” she said.

Individuals suffering from disabilities, mental illnesses and those recovering from substance abuse learn a variety of skills, which include putting together resumes to meet the standards of the competitive workforce.

Goodwill’s Employment & Career Services provide onsite and offsite job coaching to help those who are already in the workforce stay on track and succeed.

Area employers provide feedback, enabling Boss and her staff to analyze the performance of their clients.

These services offered by Goodwill are catered to individuals of all ages. Both Underwood and Boss have seen people as young as high school students to retired individuals seeking assistance.

“It’s very diverse,” Boss said. “Everyone we meet has a different background and story, which makes it fun and unique because every time you meet someone, it’s something different that you’re getting the opportunity to serve.”

Buschkoetter said all these services complement one another, adding clients can seek help from multiple programs. Each department shares the common goal of providing a support system to community members.

“That support on that recovery journey, it’s just so important,” Buschkoetter said. “I see Goodwill being able to provide that support through these services as individuals continue their journey.”

Those interested in learning more about services provided by Goodwill Industries of Greater Nebraska are encouraged to call Underwood at 402-835-9675 or Boss at 402-942-4572.

Natasya Ong is a reporter for The Columbus Telegram. Reach her via email at natasya.ong@lee.net.