News Stories, Newspaper Writing, Sample Work

Nonprofit Recognizes One of Its Own

Published in the 10/5/10 issue of the Suburban Journals

Nonprofit Recognizes One of its Own in Fairview Heights
Goodwill worker went from shopper to manager

Tenia Buchanan spent years shopping at Goodwill to provide necessities for her children. On a whim, she said, she applied for a job and 15 years later, as the store manager of the Fairview Heights store, she is now considered a local hero by the nonprofit.

“I was a welfare recipient, a low-income parent looking for a job. When I started here, I never thought I would find myself in this position 15 years later,” Buchanan said. “I’ve been very blessed with an opportunity of a lifetime.”

Buchanan’s climb from store cashier at the Cahokia store to managing the Fairview Heights location took hard work and years of training, she said. It ultimately landed her the Local Hero Award, given by Lewis Chartock, CEO and President of MERS/Goodwill.

“It’s our job to make sure that our employees know that we appreciate what they do,” Chartock said. “We have been looking for people who have been leaders in making our vision so real and Tenia is a solid, creative manager who knows how to work with people beautifully. ”

The Local Hero Award honors Goodwill employees who show a commitment to the nonprofit’s vision and mission of “providing for the vocational needs of individuals who have barriers to employment through disability or economic disadvantage.”

With more than 1,400 employees throughout 40 Goodwill stores, Chartock said, one of the biggest achievements for the agency is that 92 cents of every dollar raised in the stores goes back to the community through services. “There are certain people who have made that happen and that is why we started the award,” Chartock said.

Buchanan was named a local hero because of her ability to motivate her team and “walk the walk,” he said.

Buchanan said she feels more like a leader than a manager. “I do whatever my employees do,” Buchanan said. “My employees see me sorting through donations, cleaning the bathrooms – they know I’m going to be right there with them.”

The customers also know that Buchanan will be there to greet them five days a week. “I like the people – you learn from people,” Buchanan said. “Every day is a learning session and you really do learn from your customers.”

The customers have kept Buchanan positive and upbeat for the past 15 years, she said. They have also kept the store financially afloat during her tenure as store manager.

The Fairview Heights store has consistently produced more than $1 million in sales for the past three years, with a record $1.2 million in 2009.

“The more we achieve in our stores financially, the more our company can help the community,” Buchannan said. “When I was a customer, I didn’t know about all of the programs Goodwill offers for the community. It is a better feeling for me knowing that there is a mission for the money.”

Buchannan also has a mission: To continue treasuring her job each day. “I feel so good about what I do,” she said. “Someone else’s trash is someone else’s treasure – there is no doubt that my job is a treasure.”


– Shannon Philpott


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