Goodwill/Easter Seals Minnesota, a leader in state-wide workforce development, presented its Participant of the Year award to three individuals at the Minnesota History Center who displayed tremendous effort and determination while accomplishing their employment goals, spoke with the audience about their experiences. Two of the award winners are people with disabilities.
The May 9 event is also an annual Goodwill/Easter Seals benefit. More than $134,000 was raised to support skills training programs that will prepare people for work. More than 250 people gathered to celebrate a year of Goodwill/Easter Seals Minnesota changing lives and building stronger communities.
Carl Nimis and Gary Guzy accepted the prestigious awards at Goodwill/Easter Seals’ 2013 Power of Work event. The award recognizes exceptional effort and accomplishment by a Goodwill/Easter Seals participant. They were joined by another Participant of the Year, Christie Baker, in receiving the award.
Twin Cities resident Nimis went to Goodwill/Easter Seals in February 2010 for assistance with job training. Released from prison after 16 years, Nimis had reentered a world he didn’t recognize. His future was hindered by a criminal record and loss of vision.
His employment support consultant at Goodwill/Easter Seals helped him with thousands of job applications and arranged a culinary demonstration at Chipotle. Nimis landed a full-time job on the spot. Now he has a new boss, a new apartment, a new wife and is training to be a manager.
Thanks to job training from Goodwill/Easter Seals he now works at a Chipotle restaurant doing tasks including prep work, cleaning, dishes and line service. He uses his senses of smell, hearing and touch to do his job. Management at the restaurant said Nimis not only works harder than everyone else, he also challenges coworkers to be better people and to keep improving themselves.
In a video, Nimis talks about the value of work and training. He is shown doing day-to-day tasks and in interviews. Restaurant management and his Goodwill/Easter Seals jobs counselor were also interviewed.
“Carl represents the dedication and perseverance we try to instill in each of the thousands of people we serve every year,” said Dr. Michael Wirth-Davis, President and CEO of Goodwill/Easter Seals. “We’re thrilled to give him this award, and we know he will inspire many others to succeed as he has.”
“It gave me back my identity,” Nimis said, “Having work meant that I had the independence of purchasing things, making more decisions.” Goodwill/Easter Seals also recognized St. Cloud resident Garry Guzy as its Participant of the Year for his tremendous effort and determination in accomplishing his employment goals.
Severely bullied, isolated and with no work experience, Guzy found his way to Goodwill/Easter Seals through a workforce center. After completing the financial/call center skills training program, he was hired as a sales associate at the Goodwill store in Waite Park.
“I just want people out there to know that no matter where you are in your life, things are never as hopeless as they seem,” Guzy said. “I think the biggest accomplishment I’ve made is being able to say, ‘Wow! Look at how far I’ve come in these past three years. I’ve made huge advancements forward in my life and I’ve begun to see that I can be someone of value.’”
Many Goodwill/Easter Seals participants have no job history at all. Giving them work experience in a safe, stable environment helps them prepare for competitive employment.
Goodwill/Easter Seals Minnesota provides family strengthening, education, workforce development and employment services for people with disabilities and other barriers to education, employment and independence. In the past year, over 15,000 individuals received 70,000 services, including job skills training (automotive, medical office, banking/finance, construction and retail), job placement and free medical equipment loans. Revenues from its 33 retail stores, along with other contributions, support these programs at 32 service locations in Minnesota.