“I Change Lives”: Columbia Woman’s Journey Working at Goodwill


Rebecca Kelly, 36, manages Goodwill’s newest retail store at 405 S. James Campbell Blvd. in Columbia. Leading a crew of about 40, she describes herself as a “leader, coach, mentor, teacher — and sometimes a therapist.” She is also responsible for merchandise sales, hiring, scheduling, opening and closing the store, cleaning and much more.

Becky had her oldest child when she was just 16. The Columbia native took a job at a department store and completed high school while taking care of her son. She later worked for a local printing company until having her third child and deciding she wanted to stay home with her kids. “That lasted about six months,” she recalls. “I needed to get out and do something — mainly for my sanity.” In 2002, she learned Goodwill was hiring in nearby Lewisburg, and — though she had never been inside a Goodwill before — applied and was hired as a part-time sales associate. She was quickly promoted several times and within a year and a half was named the manager of Goodwill’s Columbia store. She has held the position ever since. “I never thought this little part-time job would turn into an almost 15-year career,” she said.

What are some of the challenges you face?
Not being able to help everyone. When someone comes to you and needs a job, and you can’t give them what they need for whatever reason, it makes you feel bad. Everyone deserves a chance at a better life.

What has surprised you most in your time with Goodwill?
That I still enjoy coming to work every day! (OK, not every day but most every day). The programs Goodwill offers and the amount of people Goodwill helps every single day are amazing!

What do you enjoy most about your job?
My staff. With the diverse people Goodwill hires, it is so rewarding to watch them grow, learn and become successful in their job as well as in life. Especially when others might never give them a chance.

Why is your job important to Goodwill’s mission?
I love the mission of Goodwill, I know its importance and I strive to live by it daily. I want the people who come through Goodwill to do great things, whether they stay with the organization for many many years or use their time at Goodwill as a stepping-stone to do greater things.

How do you change lives?
I’ve never really looked at it as I change lives. I just care. I want to help people have a better day and succeed in their job. I love to train and teach people what I know. I love to watch them grow. Honestly, the people that we help at Goodwill change my life: the ones who smile no matter what life brings them and get up and come to work, even on the bad days. That is why I love my job at Goodwill.

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