More than a resale store, Goodwill Industries of Arkansas — under the leadership of President and CEO Brian Marsh — is shaping the employment landscape of the entire state.
By Barrett Gay | Photography by Dero Sanford | Shot on location at Shinall Mountain
Many recognize Goodwill Industries International, Inc. as the place where books, gently used clothes, furniture and other items are donated and sold through a Goodwill retail store. For some, that is perhaps the extent of their experience with the organization. But the depth and breadth of programs and services that Goodwill – in this case Goodwill Industries of Arkansas – provides extend far beyond selling donated goods: it is shaping the employment landscape of the entire state, one person at a time.
“Our mission is changing lives through education, training and employment,” explains Goodwill Industries of Arkansas President and CEO Brian Marsh. In particular, Goodwill Arkansas assists Arkansans facing barriers to employment of any kind — be it disability, illiteracy, a criminal record or other related obstacles.
A significant barrier for many Arkansans is a lack of education — an estimated 300,000 adults in the state do not have a high school diploma. To combat this statistic, Brian introduced a successful program first implemented at Goodwill of Central & Southern Indiana in Indianapolis to the Natural State, called the Excel Center. The Excel Center is an adult high school that provides individuals the opportunity to earn a diploma. This no-cost education offers flexible + accelerated class schedules, with life coaches who encourage and counsel each student. Goodwill emphasizes hands-on, relationship-based services so its clients have mentors and cheerleaders throughout their journey.
Goodwill Arkansas also has a trade school licensed by the Arkansas State Board of Private Career Education, called the Academy at Goodwill. It offers certifications for technical jobs that are in high demand, including forklift operators and environmental services technicians.
Additionally, Goodwill Arkansas programs target specific needs, such as the Transitional Employment Opportunity Program, which supports individuals reentering the workforce after incarceration. One Goodwill Arkansas employee who completed the TEO Program recently shared his compelling story at a juvenile detention center. “He’s someone who has walked in their shoes and is telling them, ‘you can do anything you want. You can be something other than what you are today,’” Brian says. “We like to say ‘we are who we serve,’” adds Goodwill Industries of Arkansas Vice President of Community Engagement Leslie Heizman.
The Career Services Centers are another avenue for individuals to receive specialized guidance and counseling. Services include resume building, mentoring and mock interviews. Last year, Goodwill Arkansas helped 6,173 Arkansans find employment. “You see them gaining self-esteem, confidence and belief that they can do this,” Leslie says. “It’s a metamorphosis they go through,” Brian notes.
Brian and his team are looking forward to Goodwill Week, which generates awareness for the organization’s mission fulfillment work and commemorates their clients’ momentous life achievements. The week will feature an employee appreciation day, a job fair with more than 75 companies and an awards luncheon. The annual Peace Love and Goodwill 5K/10K & Half Marathon will close out the week’s festivities.
When Brian was introduced to Goodwill Arkansas, the organization’s mission and heart for people immediately resonated with him. In keeping with the spirit of Goodwill, he also serves on the advisory council for AR Kids Read and is a member of the Southwest Little Rock Business Association. An avid outdoorsman, Brian and his wife Dani enjoy camping and spending time at their cabin with their bulldog Bear.
At the helm of Goodwill Industries of Arkansas, Brian reflects on a leadership principle from Teddy Roosevelt, “people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”
Brian with his English Bulldog Bear