TRAVERSE CITY -— Terry Berden had a chance to follow through on his principles when he sought a new employee to keep the Great Lakes Stainless factory clean and safe.
Berden is Great Lakes Stainless’ CEO and a six-year member of the Goodwill Industries of Northern Michigan’s board of directors. He believes in employing people in tough circumstances to help them become independent and confident. That led him a year ago to Matt Wenner, 59, a homeless man who stayed at the Goodwill Inn shelter.
“I knew that position could be filled by someone who had some challenges,” Berden said. “I wanted to put my money where my mouth is.”
Wenner now has permanent housing, a pickup truck, self-confidence and a job. He’s a model for those going through Goodwill Industries’ services.
Goodwill has programs to house, feed and train disadvantaged people in the community and help them become independent. More than 5,000 people used Goodwill programs in 2013. Goodwill employs 256 people in northern Michigan, recycled more than 3.6 million pounds of goods, collected 1.2 million pounds of food and housed nearly 600 people at the Goodwill Inn in 2013.
Executive director Cecil McNally said Goodwill provides services the community doesn’t know it needs.
“I think most people here don’t realize there is homelessness, since as a community we’ve done a good job keeping that hidden,” he said.
Goodwill is beginning to transition operations of Paperworks Studios to nonprofit Grand Traverse Industries. Paperworks is a card-making company that employs disabled or disadvantaged workers, and Goodwill fully supported it until March 3, when GTI took over operations. GTI will take over fully in August.
Sakura Raftery, director of workforce development, said all 32 Paperworks employees either work with GTI, started working in the Goodwill store or took a severance package.
Paperworks is meant to fully support itself on card sales, while most Goodwill services rely on funding from fundraising and Goodwill stores. GTI president Steve Perdue said the company will decide by August if it will be able to become self-sufficient.
“We’re digging in, we’re discovering the things we need to do, developing plans,” he said. “Doing our very best is our goal, and the goal is still the same, to get it self-sufficient.”