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After a career working in warehouses ended about six months ago because of a disability, Tracy Torres wanted to begin supporting himself and stop drawing Social Security income.
Finding a job with a disability and no car was difficult until his Communicare case worker suggested the Elizabethtown man apply at a local Goodwill.
“I was kind of nervous because I was on S.S.I. for a long time and I wanted to be independent,” he said.
Torres now drives trucks and forklifts part time for Goodwill and expects to eventually work there full time and no longer depend upon Social Security.
Being the first local beneficiary of the new Goodwill Cars to Work program means Torres also has received a car for a low payment and no interest to replace the taxi expenses he used to pay to get to work.
New hires in Hardin County contributed to a record number of Kentuckians helped through job placement by Goodwill Industries of Kentucky.
The organization recorded 2,970 workers finding jobs during the 2012 fiscal year through its job training and placement programs, the highest in the statewide organization’s 90-year history. That’s a 13 percent increase over job placements during the year before.
Of those jobs, 12 were the result of the opening a second retail location in Elizabethtown, on Ring Road.
Cathy Bryant, manager of the Ring Road store, said the jobs give opportunities to those who are disabled or disadvantaged.
There are many success stories, such as Torres, that develop from being given a chance, she said.
“You can’t ask for a better employee,” she said.
Torres said he had low self-esteem before he began working at Goodwill. He thinks more highly of himself after working there for about six months.
Heather Hise, communication and public relations specialist for Goodwill Industries of Kentucky, said it is common for people to experience greater feelings of self-worth when they begin earning their own paychecks.
Job placement has been the main mission of Goodwill since the organization was formed in 1902 by a Boston minister who had local residents with disabilities collect donated items and sell them in stores.
Most centers today employ between eight and 12 workers who have disabilities or other disadvantages that prevent them from finding jobs, such as being a single parent or having limited work history and education, she said.
Goodwill paid nearly $17 million in wages during the 2012 fiscal year and provided more than 14,000 services and referrals to Kentucky residents throughout the state’s 62 donation and retail centers.
The number of workers placed in jobs through the organization has increased during the past two years, after several challenging years in a tough economy.
Job placement numbers might have increased recently because of slow economic recovery, more people seeking help and growth within the organization’s most successful job placement program, Hise said.
Amber Coulter can be reached at (270) 505-1746 or firstname.lastname@example.org.