United Way Agency Spotlight: Evergreen Goodwill of Northwest Washington

Sep 21, 2021

You know Goodwill is a great place to donate used items and shop for bargains. But do you know what’s happening behind the retail business? It’s full of classrooms and trainers providing a variety of classes and services to help Whatcom County residents gain job skills and find work.

More than a store

Goodwill helps individuals furthest from opportunity reduce barriers to employment. They do this by providing job training, education, and support services to help people gain the skills they need to be work-ready so they can find and keep good jobs.

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The Whatcom County Job Training and Education Center (JTEC) offers a welcoming, inclusive environment where students can take basic education classes, engage in career exploration, and prepare to enter various job sectors.

Goodwill’s JTEC programs help people build basic workplace competencies so they can maintain steady employment. They also provide a launch pad for students to explore rewarding career tracks and pursue high-demand job sectors that provide opportunities for advancement and family-sustaining wages. With additional support services from Goodwill to help with critical basic needs like housing and food, students can gain the stability needed to be able to pursue their education and career goals.

No two stories are the same

Goodwill students are a very diverse group of individuals with different backgrounds and ambitions. Some come to the center with highly specialized skills and advanced degrees that are not recognized in the U.S. These students need help navigating the local employment environment and making their experience relevant to employers. Other students are lacking a high school credential and need help earning their diploma.

Statistically speaking, here are some demographics for JTEC students in Whatcom County:

  • The average age is 44.
  • 58% of students are female.
  • The average income of a student entering the program is $12,502.
  • 57% of students identify as Black, Indigenous, or People of Color.
  • The top three reasons students enroll at Goodwill are to find a job (33%), to learn computers (19%) and to learn English (14%).

Way more than just an awesome thrift store, Goodwill exists to help remove barriers to economic opportunity. Because jobs change lives. No matter what brings a student in for services, the Goodwill team is committed to providing the tools and opportunities they need to be successful in life and work.

To hear how Goodwill’s Job Training and Education Center (JTEC) helped a local woman overcome difficult parriers to find hope, confidence, and a job, read Rachelle’s story.

Making a difference locally

Over 250 employers in Northwest Washington hired Goodwill students last year, helping local individuals and families get on a path to financial independence.

Last year, Goodwill served 270 individuals in Whatcom County with Adult Basic Education classes, workshops and labs. Most of these students are living well below the ALICE threshold*. The average household income for students in Whatcom County is just $17,880 with an average household size of 3.

Goodwill provides important case management and support services in addition to training and education. Goodwill provided 489 Whatcom students with more than $55,000 in direct support services last year. This includes help with costs like housing, education, clothing, healthcare and food.

Your gift to United Way helps fund Goodwill’s amazing work plus 21 other local nonprofits helping our friends and neighbors become financially stable.

A network of support

When we asked the folks at Goodwill what it means to be part of the United Way network, here’s what they had to say:

“Being a United Way partner agency has helped us make great connections with other partner agencies, which allows us to make a greater impact in our community. We worked with Futures NW, another United Way recipient, to provide over 7 virtual employment and preparation workshops to Bellingham and Whatcom County high school students who are receiving services from the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation. We also partner with Mercy Housing to deliver work-readiness workshops and helps residents build their resumes. In addition, we collaborate with Whatcom Literacy Council to ensure that we are not duplicating services and refer students to each other when our services do not meet their needs.

We are so grateful to be a part of the United Way of Whatcom County network. Being among this group of organizations allows us to connect and collaborate with one another to best serve the most vulnerable in our community. And being able to reach United Way of Whatcom County supporters is incredibly beneficial as we work to raise awareness and support for our critical services.

We’d like to thank United Way donors and supporters for helping Goodwill students. Your investments are life changing to so many people seeking a better future for themselves and their families.”

United Way’s mission is to enable financial stability for everyone in Whatcom County.

Thank you to Goodwill and all of our wonderful donors, volunteers and advocates for being part of this work!

*For more information about Asset Limited, Income-Constrained, Employed (ALICE) populations in Washington state and Whatcom County, click here.

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