“Thank you for calling Goodwill Industries of Middle Tennessee. My name is Terrell, how can I help you?”
Terrell answers the phone dozens of times a day at Goodwill’s Nashville Call Center. During those conversations, he is the voice of Goodwill and its mission of changing lives through education, training and employment opportunities. But few would guess that Terrell is one of the people whose lives have been changed by Goodwill.
Terrell, 31, can type on his computer with blazing speed and quickly and courteously provide callers with an amazing array of information. That’s impressive, because the position is his first paying job — one he has held about two years.
What’s more impressive, however, is that Terrell — the efficient and knowledgeable phone operator — has never actually seen his computer. Terrell has been blind from birth.
While talking to callers, Terrell uses special software to scroll through more than 900 pages of information that are read aloud to him through his headset. He is able to quickly help callers, whether they want to talk to one of Goodwill’s 1,900 employees or are asking about Goodwill Career Solutions training, the location of a Donation Express Center or the hours of a Goodwill store.
It took six weeks of intense training to become the first visually impaired client to work in Goodwill’s Call Center, but Terrell’s hard work and determination have paid off for him and paved the way for several other call center trainees with vision impairment. He credits Goodwill Career Solutions for answering his call for help and connecting him with fulfilling employment.
After graduating from high school at the Tennessee School for the Blind in 2004, Terrell worked in several volunteer positions training students and adults to use computer software designed for people with vision impairment. When those positions ended, he began looking for paid work opportunities.
“I was unable to find steady work in any field, which I found devastating,” he said.
In 2014, Terrell’s family members suggested he look for employment assistance from Goodwill. At Goodwill Career Solutions, he completed job readiness and job search classes. His career counselor recognized skills that would be valuable in Goodwill’s call center, and he suggested that Terrell enroll in Goodwill’s Call Center Training Program.
Terrell was hired on as a full-time employee after completing the program and was soon helping Goodwill adapt the new software that he uses on the job today.
Call Center Manager Danielle Taylor said it’s not Terrell’s disability but his abilities that make him extraordinary.
“He is so adaptive to new situations and new trainings,” she said. “For example, when the Call Center moved to a new office, the rest of us needed a few days to set up our stuff and feel comfortable. But Terrell basically just sat down at his new desk and got to work. He sets great example.”
Terrell said he enjoys working at Goodwill because it gives him a sense of purpose.
“Employment at Goodwill’s Call Center has enabled me to maintain steady work with benefits and allowed me to become a more productive member of society,” Terrell said. “But the best part is knowing that I’m helping people.”
About Goodwill Industries of Middle Tennessee, Inc.
For 60 years, Goodwill Industries of Middle Tennessee has provided job training and job placement free of charge to people with disabilities or other barriers to employment through the sale of donated items. Goodwill’s vision is that all people will have the opportunity to reach their fullest potential through the power of work. More information about Goodwill’s Career Solutions, retail stores and donation centers can be obtained online at www.giveit2goodwill.org or by calling 1-800-545-9231.