In less than three years with Goodwill Industries of Kentucky, Kha-Ka (pronounced Chaka) Jackson has gone from being a receptionist to IT telecommunications manager. Working for a company she believes in, and that also believes in her has made a huge difference in her life.
As a recent transplant to Kentucky, Jackson was working as a receptionist in a hair salon, but wanted more for herself. When she saw the administrative concierge position online, she researched Goodwill. “I saw all the programs they offer,” she said. Impressed, she applied.
Jackson couldn’t have guessed that in just two years, the IT telecommunications manager who was interviewing her would retire, and Jackson would be promoted to take her spot. Recalling the interview, she seemed to relive the nervousness she felt that day.
“‘This is what’s going on,’” she remembers saying, immediately revealing that she had a prior conviction. “‘I don’t want to waste your time.’ And [the manager] said, ‘No. As long as what you’re telling me is true, and you’re not leaving anything out, this is what the position is.’ Two days later, I got a call asking did I want to take the job.”
“Of course,” she answered.
“No one holds that against you. No one mentions it. Who you are is who they take,” she said. “It makes you feel good. It makes you feel like a person. Where on the other side, people make you feel like you’re not human anymore because you have these issues. Goodwill doesn’t do that.”
Goodwill Industries of Kentucky operates throughout the state, working to prepare people for work, no matter their age. For youth who quit school, there’s the Kentucky Youth Career Center, which offers job training, paid internships, and continuing education.
For retirees, the Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP) links seniors with non-profits and public agencies for on-the-job training.
Goodwill hires many people with disabilities and through their AbilityOne program, connects people with disabilities to federal janitorial positions throughout the state. All their employees have access to a range of services, including career coaching and tuition reimbursement.
Goodwill offers expungement clinics to help people convicted of crimes clear their records so they can find a path to steady employment and toward a full life after serving their time. The KentuckianaWorks Power of Work program connects people who are on public assistance with job-readiness training, helping participants create priorities and goals to work toward.
“This is what we do on a daily basis,” said Jackson. “There are so many success stories. Goodwill even has the Cars to Work Program.”
Not having a car might be what stands between a single mother trying to get her kids to school and getting to work on time. With that program, Jackson said, “They put you in a financial class. It helps you budget. Who does that?”
“I’ve heard so many stories of people who were living in transitional housing, living in a homeless shelter, and now they have their own place and they’re making pretty good money. It’s compassion. You have these career coaches, and this is what they chose to do, what they have a heart to do.” Coaches work one-on-one with people, determining and helping clients meet goals.
“Every position and individual count,” said Jackson. “The CEO looks people in the eye. She remembers your name.”
To help Goodwill in their mission, anyone can donate goods. “The money from our sales goes right back into programs that help people,” said Jackson. In addition to accepting gently-used items at 65 convenient drive-thru locations, Goodwill also accepts financial donations online at www.goodwillky.org.
For the last year, Goodwill Industries of Kentucky has been working with Duplicator Sales and Service. The non-profit uses copy machines from the local, family-owned office equipment supplier. In their busy offices and career centers, the machines are in heavy rotation. Duplicator Sales and Service understands how important these copiers are to keeping Goodwill Industries of Kentucky in motion.
“Working with Duplicator is perfect,” said Jackson. For any issue that pops up with the machines, “There’s a person you can call. If you don’t have time to make a call, you can send an email, and that same day or the next day, someone’s out to you.”
Jackson said in the past, they used to work with a national supplier who would typically take a couple days to return an email. Now, their supplier can quickly help their IT department address network issues, and when they need toner, it’s overnighted at no extra cost.
“Their customer service is amazing,” she said. She knows she can call John Ruffra, their sales representative anytime and he’ll be receptive and helpful. “It’s just so comfortable,” said Jackson. “You just don’t get companies like that anymore.”