Success Stories

Meet a few of the people Goodwill has helped.

Success Stories

Meet a few of the people Goodwill has helped.


If you’ve had the chance to visit our Elizabethton store, you likely encountered a warm and friendly gentleman named Samir.

Samir’s journey with us began in March 2021, but the unfolding of his story dates to December 2020 when Samir and his family became a part of our lives. Born with the absence of the corpus callosum—a bundle of nerve fibers connecting the brain’s hemispheres—Samir faces daily challenges with communication and fine motor skills.

Starting with no prior work experience, our team decided on a cautious approach—testing the waters with a part-time position of 8 hours a week, split up between two four-hour shifts. Erin, our Director of Client Services, took Samir under her wing, and over time, natural support developed within the store. He eventually began working closely with fellow team member Darlene.

Initially assigned to the role of a textile hanger, Samir quickly distinguished himself. Going beyond the basic tasks, he showcased a keen eye for quality and an impressive ability to organize items by category. As weeks passed, his responsibilities expanded, seamlessly integrating into our rotation system and ensuring our glasses racks were both organized and well-stocked.

Samir’s impact extends well beyond the merchandise racks. He embodies the true essence of our mission and the purpose behind our stores’ existence.

Beyond his individual contributions, Samir has influenced our team’s communication dynamics, emphasizing the power of effective and inclusive communication.

The joy on Samir’s face upon receiving his paycheck is contagious. It’s not merely a financial reward to Samir, but a tangible acknowledgment of his capabilities and contributions. His enthusiasm for meeting people has left an indelible mark on his fellow team members, fostering a vibrant and supportive community within the workplace.

Above all, Samir has become synonymous with a smile that brightens everyone’s day. His positive energy sets the tone for a workplace where everyone feels valued and appreciated.

In a remarkably short time, Samir’s journey from a tentative start to a confident and valued team member stands as a testament to resilience, growth, and the transformative power of inclusion.


If you have made a donation at our Green Acres location, chances are you will have met an amazing person named Melinda.

Melinda has been with the Goodwill Tenneva family since December of 2009 where for over a decade, she has been bringing smiles and joy to donors and her colleagues. Her primary responsibilities include receiving donations and greeting donors.

If you have ever met Melinda, you very quickly learn that she is a people person. In her own words, she has “never met a stranger”, and enjoys striking up a conversation with the donors she encounters. To meet Melinda is to make a new friend.

What Melinda loves most about her work is having the opportunity to meet people from all walks of life and getting to know their stories. One particular thing she has noticed over the years is that no matter who she meets, kindness is key. She makes it her personal responsibility to bring a smile to every person she meets, knowing that her act of kindness may be the very one that turns a person’s day around.

A moment Melinda will never forget is when she spoke with a Veteran about his military service and thanked him for his sacrifices. Her kindness made an impression on him, and he thanked her for her genuine interest in his story. Melinda is a woman of tremendous faith, sharing Christ’s love with each person she meets. Her kindness, empathy, and genuine interest in others are qualities of Melinda’s that make her such a blessing to our organization.

An interesting fact about Melinda: In 2021, she and her fellow team members uncovered a piece of history when they discovered letters written during World War II stowed away in a donated jewelry chest. She and her team were responsible for returning these letters to the family, preserving a piece of history!

The next time you make a donation at Green Acres, be sure to strike up a conversation with Melinda!

Check out her inspiring video below!


When you visit our Bristol Commons store and suddenly feel an air of positivity…you’ll know that Charles is there.

Charles is a proud participant in our Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP). This program allows Virginia seniors aged 55 and older the ability to re-enter the workforce without the risk of losing any currently established benefits. From gaining new skills to earning additional income, SCSEP gives seniors the ability to make a difference in their community and cultivate lasting connections.

“I was having a conversation with one of my social workers one day, and SCSEP just naturally came up in conversation. I told my social worker that I have a lot to offer, and SCSEP sounded like the perfect way for me to get back out into the workforce and make an impact.”

Charles went through the SCSEP enrollment process and was warmly welcomed by the Bristol Commons staff.

From day one, Charles’s kindness and eagerness to learn made an impression on his team. Not only is he learning a lot of new skills, but our team is also learning a lot from him.

If you’re considering learning more about SCSEP, Charles encourages you to check it out and see if it is right for you.

“SCSEP is a beautiful program. I’m so thankful there are organizations like Goodwill that truly care about people who need extra help or extra attention but can still be a valuable part of society. Being part of SCSEP makes me feel like I’m wanted and needed. I have an opportunity to be helpful and be a valuable part of society.”

Charles’s enrollment in SCSEP is just the beginning of a renewed sense of self and purpose.

“I’ve joined a gym and started bodybuilding, and I’m hoping to adopt a puppy.”

Fun Fact about Charles: He is a musician! He enjoys singing and dancing, and can play the organ, saxophone, and tambourine!

Check out Charles’ inspiring video below!


When you make a call to our home office, you will have the pleasure of speaking with Donna.

Donna is our Director of First Impressions: she is the first person you will see when visiting our home office in Kingsport. Donna is responsible for providing excellent customer service to callers, transferring calls to the appropriate departments, and data entry. Donna has been a member of the Goodwill Tenneva family for 30 years, having started her career with our organization in 1991. In addition to her work with Goodwill Tenneva, Donna is very active in her community. She is on the Executive Board for the Arc of Washington County, and is on the Family Support Council for the Arc of Washington County.

Donna is one-of-a-kind: she is compassionate, energetic, and is always offering a smile and pleasant conversation to brighten the days.

What Donna loves most about working for Goodwill Tenneva is the culture of inclusivity, growth, and opportunity.

“I became a viable member of our community because Goodwill saw my ability, not my disability. I have Cerebral Palsy, but that doesn’t define who I am. It is my hope that when you get to know me, you will see the person I am before you see my wheelchair. It takes a village to help me live my life, and my Goodwill Family is a big part of my village. I’m thankful God chose to place Goodwill in my life.”

The next time you visit our home office, be sure to tell Donna hello and congratulate her on 30 wonderful years of service with Goodwill Tenneva!


When you visit our home office on Wednesdays and Thursdays, you’ll be greeted with a lively “Live Long & Prosper” by Emma: Star Trek enthusiast and proud employee of Goodwill Tenneva.

Emma joined the Goodwill Tenneva family in July of 2018. In October of that same year, she began working as our Data Entry Clerk. She works closely with our organization’s Data and Technology Manager to develop critical reports for our organization.

Emma is one-of-a-kind: she is incredibly intelligent, outgoing, a data whiz, and exceptionally witty. She is laser-focused on the task at hand, and always has a way of bringing smiles to everyone she meets. Emma loves to read, and enjoys spending her days off building her literary collection while shopping at Mr. K’s.

What Emma loves most about working for Goodwill Tenneva is getting to work alongside people who care about her. She loves making a difference in her community, and feels that her work at Goodwill allows her to grow both professionally and personally.

“I am Goodwill Strong because of the difference I make for my community.”

The next time you stop by our home office, be sure to offer a “Live Long & Prosper” greeting to Emma!


When you spot a Goodwill truck on the road, you may just be spotting Mike: one of our awesome truck drivers!

Mike’s journey with Goodwill Tenneva began in July of 2019 when he joined the West State Street team in Bristol as a Donations Processing Associate. In this role, he was responsible for grading and pricing donated items, and meeting with the Transportation team on their stops at our stores. Our transportation team makes frequent stops at our stores, bringing wares from the Processing Center and collecting salvage items and recyclables. Mike became interested in the process and decided that he wanted to make a career change. Before long, he was given a chance to join the Transportation & Logistics team as a Truck Helper.

In this role, Mike’s responsibilities included visiting all of our retail locations, collecting salvage items, textiles, and recyclables, as well as transporting wares to stores from the Processing Center.

In late 2022, Mike was promoted from Truck Helper to Truck Driver.

“Goodwill gave me a job when others wouldn’t take a chance on me, which really meant a lot to me. I was on probation and had a history of substance use, and Goodwill worked with me and gave me a chance. Today, I’m living a clean lifestyle, I’m on the right track, learning a lot, working with great people, and doing what I love. I couldn’t ask for much more.”

Mike is one of the kindest, most hard-working people you’ll ever meet. He is also a proud Veteran, having served in the Gulf War.

The next tome you pass a Goodwill truck on the road, be sure to give a wave!


When you walk through the doors of our Bristol Commons store, you may hear a hearty laugh amongst the hustle and bustle. That’s when you know Sharon is there, spreading cheer everywhere she goes. 

Sharon joined the Goodwill Tenneva family in January of 2020 when she enrolled in the Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP), a national employment and training program partnership with the U.S. Department of Labor. This program allows Virginia residents ages 55 and older to build employment skills, share the valuable skills they have, and supplement income through meaningful work.

Upon Sharon’s enrollment in SCSEP, she started working at our Bristol Commons retail store. She excelled in her role and was hired by Goodwill Industries of Tenneva in February of 2021 as an employee of the Bristol Commons store. She currently works on the sales floor, and is responsible for stocking and ensuring the retail environment is safe and clean for customers. Sharon is very thankful for the opportunity and the emotional uplifting she received when she secured her job.

“Goodwill gave me a reason to live. They hired me when nobody else would and have blessed me. I look forward to coming to work every day.”

A mother of six children, Sharon had spent 30 years working two jobs at a time while supporting her family. She wishes that Goodwill had been an option while raising her children, much in part to the support she receives and the flexibility she is given. Sharon says that Goodwill has changed her life for the better.

“What I love most about working for Goodwill Tenneva is the opportunity they have given me. The sky is the limit. If you want to learn, Goodwill is willing to teach you—I mean, they are REALLY willing to teach you. I’ve learned so much since I’ve been here.”

The next time you stop by our Bristol Commons store, be sure to tell Sharon hello!


During the fall race rallying in Bristol, you can find Jay volunteering his time at the Family Race Night at the Food City tent. Jay is currently enrolled in the Supported Employment program with Goodwill Industries of Tenneva.

Jay was referred to Goodwill by the Virginia Department of Aging and Rehabilitation Services. The Supported Employment program allows individuals to receive job readiness training and job coaching, which involves on-site training, and follow-up services.

He works as a courtesy clerk for the Food City in Damascus, Virginia. He was hired at Food City after Goodwill Program Manager, Robin Haga, was able to help him learn how to do the clerk responsibilities and continues to follow up with him to help him learn new job skills.

“I would recommend Goodwill services because they have helped me a lot,” said Jay. “The job coaching and continued visits help me learn how to continue to do my job.”

Goodwill helped Jay find his job and successfully keep the job at Food City. He loves his job but especially enjoys volunteering at the Food City tent, handing out samples to visitors.

“Jay has been a delight to work with,” stated Haga. “It has been exciting to watch him grow to become an active member of the Food City team.”

In June, Jay will be celebrating TEN years at Food City. If you see him, be sure to wish him a happy work anniversary!


If you’ve spent some time in Southwest Virginia, you are almost certain to have been graced by the inspiring presence of Kenneth: Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP) Assistant Extraordinaire.

Kenneth served in our SCSEP program from 2021 through 2022 as a Program Assistant. His responsibilities included assisting with the recruitment of SCSEP participants in the Southwest Virginia area and forging relationships with community agencies.

Kenneth has an extensive background, having spent his career in management, as a crisis intervention specialist, and as a residential counselor. He is an avid tennis player, and is arguably one of the best tennis instructors around!

What drew Kenneth to SCSEP was the ability to learn new things and cultivate new relationships within the community. Kenneth has never met a stranger, and enjoys meeting new people and sharing his story. To meet Kenneth is to make a new friend, and he firmly believes that you are never too old to learn!

One of Kenneth’s favorite quotes is: “If you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day. If you teach a man to fish, you feed him for a lifetime.”


At Goodwill Tenneva, our mission is to provide employment services to those in need. We provide a wide variety of services to individuals within our organization, in addition to services to reach those outside of our organization. Check out the video below to learn about the services we provide to members of our community.