Free “Careers In Retail” Program Provides Training for Mid-level jobs

By Kaylah Johnson

In just 4 months of employment, I have fallen in love with Goodwill. When most individuals think of Goodwill, they think of retail stores or maybe they find themselves humming Macklemore’s song Thrift Shop. While our retail stores are well known for their bargains, it’s our Mission Services efforts that really give me the warm fuzzies. Specifically, it’s the Careers in Retail program that gives me a sense of fulfillment and allows me to achieve my personal mission of stimulating growth in my community by providing encouragement, guidance, and education to the individuals and organizations that reside within it.

Now here is the textbook description of Careers in Retail…

CiR Photo“Careers in Retail (CiR) is a no-cost program that prepares entry-level employees to move up to rewarding, higher-paying jobs and lasting careers in the retail, restaurant, and hospitality industries. This is achieved through remedial, soft skills, and occupational training that equips our clients with the necessary tools to turn their entry-level jobs into mid-level careers. This initiative is funded by the Walmart Foundation and executed by 8 select Goodwill’s throughout the U.S. This initiative is built upon Heart of Texas Goodwill’s 60 years of successful job training programs in our community.”

Now here is the truth…

Careers in Retail is unique to this community. It’s one of the most job placement intensive initiatives that I’ve encountered in my 15 year stay in Central Texas. The whole idea behind it is to help people see their potential for being successful and prepare them to step into greater roles in the restaurant, retail and hospitality industries. According to the most recent U.S Census, just over 30% of the Waco community lives in poverty. Many of those people are working jobs for $7.25 an hour in the restaurant, retail and hospitality industries – which equals about $15,000 in annual income before taxes. Surprisingly, these wages aren’t just affecting one age range. The chart below shows the age ranges of our current CiR participants:

pie chart for CIRAdditionally, our current participants come from a variety of racial and ethnic backgrounds. So what does this mean? In short, it means that ALL of this community needs the Careers in Retail program. There are some great jobs available in retail, restaurant, and hospitality, but not a large pool of qualified applicants. Our focus is to bridge that skills gap and move people into mid-level positions by providing them with the training and skills needed to be successful. Now that we’ve covered the what and the why, let’s talk about the how.

It all begins with an application. CiR applications can be picked up from any of the four Goodwill Learning Centers (Killeen, Belton, Temple, or Waco) or found online on the Heart of Texas Goodwill website. Applications are then reviewed by CiR Specialists. Next we perform interviews and assessments for applicants to ensure that they are a good fit for the program. We look for motivated self-starters with industry background who have an immediate desire to move into a better position in retail, restaurant, or hospitality. Once accepted into the program, participants receive individualized skills training. Maybe they need a refresher using Microsoft Excel or they need some help with their interview skills? Either way, we provide that training to help them improve.

The highlight of this program is the training that we provide through the National Retail Federation (NRF). There are 3 major certifications provided through NRF: (1) Customer Service and Sales, (2) Advanced Customer Service and Sales, and (3) Retail Management. We require all participants to complete the Customer Service Essentials course. This course provides detailed training on the do’s and don’ts of customer service while incorporating curriculum that assists with passing the Customer Service and Sales certification exam through NRF. Passing this course and the certification exam gives people the opportunity to add something new to their resume and develop the exceptional customer service skills that are needed to stand out with employers. The other two courses are optional and are assigned based on specific needs identified for each individual participant.

Once the participant has completed all of the skills training, we get them job ready! In collaboration with our Goodwill Learning Centers, we provide services for resume writing, cover letter writing, interview skills, job search & networking techniques, self-presentation, and much more. We also work with local employers to help place our participants into mid-level positions.

All of the services listed above are provided at no cost to our CiR participants so there is much more to gain than there is to lose. Our goal is to place over 100 people from this community into new careers in retail, restaurant, or hospitality. If you or someone you know may benefit from this program, please feel free to contact me: Kaylah Johnson, Program Manager for Careers in Retail at (254) 495-9415 or

Kaylah JohnsonKaylah Johnson is a business major with the heart of a social worker. She has won two awards for her dedicated volunteer work in Central Texas and continues to volunteer her time to a variety of local causes. She is currently set to graduate with her MBA with a concentration in Management & Leadership from Texas A&M University – Central Texas in May 2016. Her motto is “I don’t know everything but I can learn anything” so in her spare time aside from spending time with family, Kaylah likes to read and watch anything that will broaden her skill set.

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email for more information.


Youth Empowerment Services: Community Support Helps us Provide Help

By Kiera Collins

Y.E.S. (Youth Empowerment Services) is a Medicaid waiver program. The purpose of Y.E.S. is to keep at-risk youth who are in danger of out of home placement or inpatient psychiatric treatment in the home with the family unit. I am a behavior specialist at Klaras Center for Families. As a behavior specialist, I tutor and mentor my assigned clients, many of whom participate in the Y.E.S. program.

The Y.E.S. program is 12 months long. In those 12 months we work on school issues, learning deficits, vital skills, goal setting, seeking natural supports, communication skills, coping mechanisms, safety plans, and many specially designed undertakings that will benefit the family unit as a whole. Our goal is to empower the family and give them a better foundation to build upon.

These goals are accomplished by providing community based services for the child and parent. Some of those services include art therapy, equine therapy, recreational therapy, adaptive aides, community living specialists, and family support specialists.

I have been able to make community contacts with Angie Veracruz from Central Texas Artists Collective (CTAC), Cherie Hudson at The Cutting Edge Salon and Spa, William McKeever at D20 prints, and Brazos Books. Ms. Veracruz provides our clients with bi-weekly art sessions. Ms. Hudson provided four deserving parents with donated services to promote self-care. Mr. McKeever provided wood block t-shirt printing sessions, and Brazos Books offered a discount on the books we purchased. We have also received donated books from Half Price Books and I ran a successful book drive with Usborne books.

We have been able to provide better services, activities, and support to our clients at Klaras Center for Families in part due to the Y.E.S. waiver program and in part due to the community support that we have received. It is important to encourage our clients by showing them that they have a team of people that want them to succeed. In 12 months we can transform a life and give a family hope for the future.

Kiera Collins-1Kiera Collins, born and raised in New Orleans, La., is a behavior specialist at Klaras Center for Families. She is a lover of words and all things weird. She is a writer, poet, and artist that spends her days thinking creatively and outside the box. Follow her blog:

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email for more information.

Waco Diaper Bank: Keeping Little Bottoms Clean, Dry and Healthy!

by Ellen Filgo

When my older son finally potty trained at age 3 years and 4 months, it was a relief to not have to change the diapers of my articulate, stubborn little boy who clearly could use the toilet (but just didn’t want to). It also meant that I no longer had two children in diapers. That’s right, our family had two in diapers for more than a year! It was a relief on our budget to save that money. Diapers are expensive. They can cost up to $100 a month per baby, which can stretch even a middle class family’s budget.

Now imagine you are the 1 out of 3 families in the country who struggle to afford diapers. There are 5.8 million babies in the United States aged 3 or younger who live in poor or low-income families. Not having enough diapers can mean that babies are left in soiled diapers longer or that parents re-use diapers that are meant to be single use. This can lead to health risks for the babies, such as rashes or infections. A clean supply of diapers is also required at the vast majority of childcare centers. If parents can’t provide them, they may not be able to enroll their children in early childhood programs, or even be able to enter the workforce themselves. Lack of access to diapers can sometimes hinder a parent in getting or staying employed at the job they need in order to become more financially self-sufficient.

There is no state or federal safety net program that allocates money for diapers. You cannot buy diapers with SNAP (food stamps) or WIC (a federal program that helps provide food for women, infants and children). Many existing social service organizations, focusing on hunger, homelessness, abuse or pregnancy try to provide diapers to the families they serve, but they rely on irregular donations and they are often lacking larger sized diapers for toddlers.

WDBlogo3 smallThis is where the Waco Diaper Bank comes in. Our mission is to collect donations of diapers in order and distribute them to those other social service organizations. We will focus on diapers so that they can focus on their main missions. Our main way of collecting diapers will be through diaper drives. These can be organized by the volunteers working with the diaper bank, or by other people – Girl or Boy Scout groups, schools, fraternities or sororities, businesses – anyone can organize a drive! The Waco Diaper Bank will distribute the donations to our partner social service agencies. If individuals want to donate money, we can take that too! We can use it to purchase diapers in bulk, which can be a cheaper way of collecting diapers.

To kick things off, the Waco Diaper Bank is hosting a community wide December Diaper Drive from the 1st to the 14th of December. All sorts of churches, organizations and businesses have signed up to be drop-off locations for donated diapers. We’ll take everything – all brands, sizes, packages; we’ll even take loose diapers, opened packages or the leftovers from a “diaper cake!” You can find the drop-off locations and more information about the diaper bank at our website .

About a year ago, when I first heard about what a diaper bank was, I immediately knew that Waco needed a diaper bank, for two reasons – well, actually three! First, because of the high rate of poverty in Waco. There are a lot of little bottoms that need to stay clean, dry and healthy here in town. Secondly, because of the existence of so many great social service organizations that are already doing wonderful things. Collaboration is the watchword here in town and the diaper bank model is inherently a collaborative one. And the third reason was something that I knew about Waco, but hadn’t really FELT until we started our diaper drive promotion – Waco is a town with a great big heart. There may be a lot of need in our community, but there is also a lot of love and a willingness to give and share. And that’s why I believe my hopes for the Waco Diaper Bank will ultimately become a reality.

Ellen2014Ellen Filgo is a research librarian at Baylor and a Wacoan of 8.5 years. She loves living in Sanger-Heights with her husband, her stepson and her two energetic little boys. She has been known to get sidetracked researching the answer to a random question casually asked in a Facebook post.

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email for more information.