A man returning to work after a devastating motorcycle accident, a woman whose family battled mental illness and an immigrant from Egypt are among people whose inspiring stories of achievement were celebrated during Goodwill Industries of Middle Tennessee’s Impact Luncheon awards ceremony in Nashville Thursday.
Outstanding Goodwill employees, Career Solutions clients and a community partner were recognized during the event at the Music City Center. The luncheon was sponsored by American Paper & Twine.
The nonprofit also honored John Van Mol, founding partner of DVL Siegenthaler, with the Pioneer Award for 33 years of service on Goodwill’s Board of Directors and outstanding support of Goodwill’s mission of changing lives through education, training and employment.
GOODWILL 2019 IMPACT LUNCHEON AWARD WINNERS
Achievers of the Year
The recipients of this award have achieved great success since being hired by Goodwill.
Wedad Beshay emigrated with her husband Rashad from Asyut, Egypt, in 1997 to start a new life. In Egypt, she had been an agricultural student and then worked as an engineer, but she wanted more religious freedom and to start a family. They moved to Nashville where they found jobs, with Wedad washing dishes at Opryland Hotel. They found a home, and soon they welcomed a son, Thomas. In 2009, Wedad’s husband became seriously ill and she had to quit her job to care for him and their son full-time. By 2015, her husband was not cured but well enough for her to return to work during certain hours. She went to Goodwill Career Solutions for help finding the right job, and the center provided her with training in job readiness, computer basics, resume assistance and more. She applied to work at the Goodwill store in Antioch and was hired as a part-time donations processor. She eventually went full-time and has now been employed nearly five years. Her supervisor says Wedad has a great work ethic and is well-loved by co-workers. Wedad says Goodwill is like her family. When she returns for yearly visits to Egypt, she takes her relatives gifts she buys at Goodwill.
Danny Stephens was 23 when he had a motorcycle accident on Memorial Day weekend in 2011. Just a month earlier, the Lewisburg resident ran a 5K race, finishing 60th out of 1,000 participants. After the accident, Danny learned he would likely never run — or walk — again. After going to rehabilitation with people who had more severe paralysis, Danny was determined to serve as an inspiration to others. He began doing woodworking projects at his home. He built 8-foot tall lighthouses, wishing wells, miniature rocking chairs and intricate scale models of loved ones’ homes. In 2017, Danny was ready to return to work. He investigated several possibilities without success before trying Goodwill. Danny was hired as a greeter at the Lewisburg Goodwill store, but quickly moved on to other duties. After the manager had a cash register lowered to the height of his wheelchair, Danny became a cashier — the position he holds today. He is a favorite of customers, and his supervisor says he is a star performer, constantly amazing co-workers with how much he can accomplish. Danny says Goodwill changed his life by giving him an opportunity to share his talents and energy with others.
Logan Stewart Guarino grew up with a mother who suffered from severe mental illness and substance abuse. Her mother was frequently hospitalized, and when she was not, life in their home was extremely chaotic. Logan was an overachiever from early childhood, but she didn’t always feel that she fit in with other kids. Logan was eventually diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. Nonetheless, she graduated high school with both a diploma and an associate’s degree in psychology. For the next six years she cared for children with developmental or behavioral disorders, but the job became overwhelming and she knew she needed a change. She planned to take a yearlong break to work in a less stressful position. She went to Goodwill Career Solutions for help finding the right position and decided to try working as a donations processor at Godwill’s Hermitage store. Logan discovered a passion for Goodwill’s mission and became a star performer. She rose quickly through the ranks, working at four different stores and ultimately became manager of Goodwill’s store in Smyrna. Her supervisor says Logan’s attention to detail, strong leadership skills and empathy for employees facing challenges make her an ideal manager.
David B. Lifsey Scholarship
This annual scholarship, named for Goodwill’s past president who served four decades, is presented to a Goodwill training program graduate who plans to enroll in post-secondary education or a credentialed certification program.
Gavin Wilson, an irrepressibly outgoing people-person, seemed like he had it all together. After graduating high school in Nashville, he took a job and worked his way up to a management position. He was attending church regularly, took some college classes and his company even offered him a promotion. But all that changed after Gavin’s close friend died in a homicide. Gavin got in trouble, lost his job and went to jail for three months. When he got out, he had no prospects and ended up couch surfing for a while, then living in his car and finally staying at the Nashville Rescue Mission. Gavin’s mom encouraged him to try Goodwill’s free Hospitality Training program, and in March of 2018 he signed up. One day, the HR director for Holiday Inn Nashville Vanderbilt came to speak to the class. Afterward, Gavin applied at the hotel and was hired. Initially, Gavin was assigned to the dishroom, but after six months he was promoted to a front-desk position. His supervisor says guests love Gavin and he has a bright future. Gavin plans to use his $1,000 scholarship for college courses while working at Holiday Inn. He hopes one day to be a motivational speaker.
This award is named in honor of two women who were loyal supporters of Goodwill, Madaleine LaVoi and Elsine Katz. The award is given to a Career Solutions client who has made outstanding progress in their program at Goodwill.
Bradley Morton’s heart stopped during birth. He was resuscitated but spent several days in breathing distress. Doctors were baffled as to the cause. Over the next few years, he seemed healthy, but he lagged behind other children. He did not walk until 18 months, and he developed a strange speech pattern that did not respond well to therapy. At 11, Bradley’s spine began to curve and an MRI revealed malformations of his skull and spine. Doctors drained fluid from his head and spinal cord, and afterward Bradley’s speech rapidly began to improve. Another operation corrected his spinal curve. During high school, Bradley began working part-time at a sponge factory. He stayed in that job for years after graduating with a special education diploma, but the operation eventually closed. Bradley stayed home for a few years, bored and restless. He and his mother, Sandra Morton, would often shop at Goodwill and he got to know the employees. One day, Bradley asked the manager for a job. He was hired in 2016 to work as the store’s greeter, and he continues in that position to this day. Bradley loves helping people, and customers and co-workers say he is a wonderful representative for Goodwill and its mission.
MISSION PARTNER AND AMBASSADOR AWARDS
These are organizations that have significantly contributed to Goodwill’s mission of providing jobs and job services to those who struggle to find work.
Mission Partner of the Year Award
Home And Office Transitions has partnered with Goodwill for several years, recommending that its clients donate household goods, furniture and clothing remaining after moving and estate sales to Goodwill. Since 2015, the company’s efforts have resulted in about 63 truckloads of high quality donations for Goodwill.
Goodwill Ambassadors of the Year
After being laid off in February of 2018, Leah Ellzey began reselling Goodwill items to support herself and her son. In April of that year she attended a Goodwill fashion event and began posting her Goodwill finds to Instagram. Since then, Leah’s online following has grown to more than 14,000 people, and she has participated as a fashion expert in several Goodwill events. She has also provided free styling at Goodwill for people undergoing rapid weight loss after bariatric surgery.
Taylor Blanton Hawkes is a fashion and thrift blogger living in Nashville who has a passion for Goodwill’s inexpensive shopping opportunities, the sustainability of its environmentally friendly merchandise and its mission. On her blog, Taylor Made Style, Hawkes frequently writes about — and posts photos of — her Goodwill finds. She has participated in several Goodwill fashion events and has appeared on TV to model Goodwill fashions and promote its annual wedding gown sale.
About Goodwill Industries of Middle Tennessee, Inc.
For more than 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.