BY HECTOR FLORES
In Queens, it is taking a lot of Goodwill Industries teaching skills to help adults and children build toward a better life.
Just ask 47-year-old Ivanhoe Jones, who has seen his way through some tough times and has come out on top with help from an agency, in Astoria, that takes pride in helping turn people’s lives around.
“I was working in the Brooklyn Navy Yard as a steam fitter, fitting high pressure pipes for ten years,” recalled Jones. “In 1991, I lost my job and was in the process of a divorce. As a result,
I had a nervous breakdown with all that was going through my mind at the time.”
In 1992, Jones was referred to the Goodwill facility in Astoria as a client and assigned a social worker to begin his journey back into the work force.
He participated in various programs in the facility and in August of 1998 was hired as a full time employee in the cable processing plant in Goodwill Industries for Con Edison.
“It was a good feeling to know that I had entered the work force again, to receive a salary, and be eligible for vacation. Even when I was in the assembly floor, putting hangers together, it was nice to wake up each morning to do something instead of just wasting away,” Jones said. “That is what Goodwill does, it gives you the confidence to leave your house and enter the real world and do something with your life.”
Today Jones assists his supervisor on the day to day operations of a cable splicing facility at Goodwill and hopes to one day return to construction work.
“I like what I am doing, everyday it is a challenge to meet our contract with Con Edison.
“They give us an order and we have to meet our deadlines in order to keep their contract,” Jones said. “The feeling I have is unexplainable. God bless Goodwill Industries for who they are and what they stand for.”
WHAT IS GOODWILL?
The Goodwill Industries of Greater New York and Northern New Jersey has been helping economically challenged youths and those with physical ailments and mental illnesses enter the work-force with the skills and confidence needed to land a steady paying job and become productive members in society.
The industry accomplishes its mission by offering an array of special programs geared for these individuals. One of the facilities that services these special cases is located at 04-21 27th Ave. in Astoria.
GOODWILL TOWARDS CHILDREN
The facility in conjunction with IS 10, IS 141 and PS 149 offers after school programs (Beacon Programs) for adults and children of the community.
Through the program, tutoring in homework and reading is made available to area students.
According to Martha Gotwals, Goodwill’s public relations representative, the facility provides children with free books to read through their Good Books program. “Books are donated by stores, publishing companies, or individuals,” she said. “Children can pick up a book at any of our facilities or affiliates at no charge. The only requirement is that they sign a registry that commits them to reading the book. This program was created to improve literacy in our communities.”
There are also programs geared toward teenagers including the Adolescent Vocational Exploration (A.V.E.), for teenagers between the ages of 14 and 16, and the Progressive Adolescent Vocational Exploration (P.A.V.E.) for teens between the ages of 15 and 18.
These programs help teens successfully complete their education.
The programs offer mentors, staff assistance, special speakers, internships, summer job placement, tutoring, and assistance with college applications.
Teenagers are also shown vocational career paths through the facility’s Signs and Designs shop.
Participants run a sign engraving business with teachers from other beacon programs. Teens take orders from companies who need office name engravings and send them to the client companies as soon as the orders have been filled.
According to Gotwals, this program teaches older teenagers entrepreneurial, marketing, and advertising skills.
THE GOODWILL WORKFORCE
The Goodwill facility in Astoria provides an array of contract services such as assembly and packaging, motor messenger, and cleaning for companies looking for subcontractors.
Subcontracting enables handicapped or disabled members with jobs and training to make a decent and independent living.
As part of the assembly and packaging service, Goodwill Inc. maintains cable splicing equipment plant that is used as a subcontractor by Con Edison to cut and splice cables into different sizes and deliver them to Con Edison plants.
Goodwill Industries also maintains a chain of thrift stores whose products are processed by handicapped members.
The stores serve as training ground for handicapped members who are looking for work experience or plan to enter the retail field.
The products, such as clothing, toys, and household appliances are collected, sorted and shipped from the processing plant in Astoria.
The revenue received from the stores are used as salaries for the workers and helps to fund Goodwill programs.
The Diane Armstrong Family learning Center, a subsidiary of Goodwill Industries, was created in March of 1998 to provide continuing education to local residents.
According to Gail Harris, director of the facility, the learning center, with conjunction with the Board of Education, La Guardia Community College, and The Consortium for Worker Education, teaches basic literary skills and provides computer classes free of charge to residents who apply.
Classes are given Monday through Friday from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and students usually range from 18 years of age or older. Currently, basic learning levels range from 2.3 to 2.9 and adults are placed in their corresponding classes based on the result of their assessment tests.
The center provides five ESL courses where immigrants can also prepare to the take the GED exam.
Residents who need computer skills, but are unable to afford classes can take advantage of the facility’s computer labs. There are four computer classes that train students to use the programs that are essential in today’s job market.
“Computer classes are taught every hour in the learning lab. Students are taught Intro. to computers, Microsoft, Power Point, Excel, typing, accounting, and math,” Harris said.
For more information on after school programs contact Goodwill Industries at 728-5400.
For more information on the Diane Armstrong Family Learning Center, contact Gail Harris as 777-6440.