By Lisa Frost, Patch Staff

Posted Thu, Jan 27, 2022 at 7:18 pm PT

OCEANSIDE, CA — Goodwill is known to most people as a thrift store, but they really are so much more. Donations and shopping at Goodwill make it possible to provide all the education, training and employment programs to people free of charge.

The Patch reached out to Darlene Cossio, Director of Marketing/Communications with Goodwill Industries of San Diego to get the latest on how their Oceanside locations are adapting to meet the changing needs of the community.

Can you tell us about what’s happening at Goodwill and what you want people to know about it?

“Of course, it all starts at the beginning of the process when community members donate resellable items to us. We then take those products and we polish them up a little bit and we put most of the items in our retail stores. If they don’t sell after a while then they go to our clearance and outlet centers. From there, any product left that has not sold is recycled. So it is a closed-loop.

“For the donations, our purpose is to keep things out of the landfill and give products a second life.”

Goodwill has 33 retail locations including outlet centers throughout the county. That revenue is used to fund our mission and our free programs and services. That’s the next step in the process. At the donation centers and in production and in our retail stores, we are training. All these folks that we’ve hired, we are doing on-the-job training. For some, it may be their first job or they may be overcoming some barrier, but they are learning and our goal is to help with their employability.

The next aspect of our organization is our Community Employment Centers. We have five in San Diego County, including the Oceanside center. At those centers, we work with veterans that are transitioning. We provide help with their job search. We have free workshops and training they can take. We help with housing, rehabilitation and food, and any kind of wrap-around service they need.

We have a similar program for young adults. I don’t know what the numbers are at right now but two years ago, 40% of our youth, were not working and were not in school. That’s obviously a very big concern. So our young adult program prepares them for employment, puts them into jobs, helps them start gaining work experience because most of them come to us without any work experience.

We have a Ticket-to-Work program. These are services through our community employment centers for people who are on disability insurance and want to regain self-sufficiency. If they come to us and we’re able to secure employment, then great. But if it doesn’t work out, they can go back to their disability benefits.

Our goal from the beginning has been to help prepare people for work. If you’re a person with a disability, you may not have work experience. But you can come to Goodwill and work with a job coach and initially, work at Goodwill in a group setting with the goal being to move towards working independently. We’ve been really blessed to see a lot of our people with disabilities graduate to independent work in the community.

“Goodwill currently employs not quite 1100 people and at least 50% of those folks is a person with a disability.”

Of course, any job seeker in the county is encouraged to come to our center for job search assistance. Our career advisers will do a career assessment and then we’ll help them with their resume with the mock interviews to prepare and we’ll connect them through hiring events and relationships that we have with local employers to get started in whatever career they want to pursue. Our services are available in person or online so they don’t have to worry about arranging for child care or transportation. We will also help them get work with Goodwill if they want to join the Goodwill team. So that’s all happening at our community employment centers.

With Oceanside being a big military town, we really like to see military spouses, family members and transitioning military take advantage of our services. We have some exciting programs coming up that are specific to veterans and we’re really working hard to cultivate relationships to provide really good work opportunities.

We also help local employers. They can take advantage of our free workshops for their employees. They can share their job openings with us and we will help them to fill the spot and or collaborate with them on a hiring event.

So that’s what happens when people donate and shop with us. We served more than 5000 people last year and we obviously want to serve more this year.”

Next, the Patch dropped by the Goodwill Employment Center in Oceanside to speak with Career Advisor Diane Record about their resources for job seekers and employers.

“When job seekers come into our employment center a career advisor will do an intake and ask about their interests and background to find out how we can best serve them.

Then we do our best to connect them with an employer. Sometimes people just need help navigating websites and filing online applications, so we walk them through the process. Other times they know exactly what they want and we try to connect them with specific employers.

Just last week a job seeker was looking for work and she had been a preschool teacher assistant. We helped her prepare a resume and sent it to Palmer Playmates in Oceanside and yesterday was her first day. She was a great fit and it really worked out.

We do resume workshops and mock interviews for people that want to practice. They can come in person by appointment, but mostly now it’s been really convenient for people to be on Zoom.

One of the things that we do during our one on one coaching sessions is help them come up with what’s called a 30 second commercial or an interview pitch that helps to build their confidence for the interview.

People can just go to SD Goodwill website and on the homepage click ‘Meet with a Career Advisor‘. People can also sign up for our workshops on the website as well. We offer five workshops and four one-on-one coaching sessions, that package is called the Job Readiness Certificate program. If they complete it they will get a Goodwill Job Readiness Certificate with a gold seal and they’ll also get a certificate to shop for 50% off for some clothes for work at any Goodwill store in San Diego County.

We’re not actually a placement agency but we do our best to connect job seekers to employers and we have quite a few community partners that we refer for a variety of resources. Another part of our job is just being a traffic director. When we do the intake process we try to figure out what programs and resources will benefit them. We try to serve everybody but of course, there are folks that may benefit from another agency.

“We are guides on the side, we’re guiding people through this process.”

We’re like the greatest secret and people don’t realize that we’re here to help them in their job search or sharpen their job readiness skills, you know we’re here for them and it’s all free. We are very passionate about enriching the lives of others through the power of work.

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