Good is happening in East County through Goodwill programs, stores

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Goodwill Ambassador of the Year Jessee Diaz and Goodwill President and CEO Toni Giffin smile together at the annual awards luncheon put on by the organization on April 15, 2019.

Goodwill is invested in “making good happen.” But what often goes unappreciated is that, while Goodwill is a big organization with branches across the country, at its most fundamental level, it is made up of people from our own communities.

One such person is Jessee Diaz, the Del Cero bookstore manager who was named Ambassador of the Year at Goodwill’s annual awards banquet on Monday, April 15.

“Jessee joined Goodwill with no work experience, and he was able to earn promotions through hard work and dedication,” said Toni Giffin, President & CEO of Goodwill and the day’s master of ceremonies. “He was willing to accept feedback from management, taking it as an opportunity to learn and to grow.”

Diaz’s five promotions in six years pale in comparison to the act of integrity he displayed on the job last year when he found $46,000 in donation – a secret savings account accidentally turned in when relatives of the owner dropped of items containing it. Diaz found the money and reported it to lost prevention immediately, following every step of protocol.

“In 2018, Jessee exemplified our aspirational values of honesty and integrity,” said Giffin. “There was a wonderful television profile of Jessee’s act of honesty and when asked if he would make the same decision again, he said, ‘yes, it was the right thing to do.’”

Diaz, who has worked for Goodwill for seven years after being unable to locate a job following the acquisition of his associate degree, said he never thought to do anything different with the discovered monies.

“I didn’t think twice, I really didn’t,” he said. “Who knows what he or she went through to get that money?”

The La Mesa employee said Goodwill has made him feel special.

“This company really invests in its employees,” he said. “Thanks to Goodwill, I’m becoming a good leader. Jessee when he was 22 can’t imagine the Jessee I am now.”

The banquet also recognized Mason Wessner with the Tom Tolleson Achiever of the Year Award, Savannah Lopez with the MacLean Wilson Graduate Staff Award, Rick Hunter with the Richard Nelson Staff Service Award, Albert O’Dell with the Myron Insko Graduate of the Year Award, zero8hundred – a veteran’s help organization – with the Alan Sutherland Community Service Award and Leap to Success with the Good Neighbor Award.

“I have to admit, as with most volunteer boards, we spend a lot of time looking at goals, objectives, results and numbers,” said Jonathan Tibbitts, Board Chair. “Therefore, my favorite meeting each year, is this annual meeting where we have the opportunity to see of the organization’s work and to hear the success stories of some of our outstanding members.”

Among Goodwill’s contributions to the community are their four community employment centers and veterans program where they help members of the community, whether veterans or individuals with disabilities or other barriers to employment, find success in the job market through training and placement.

Darlene Cossio, Director of Communications for Goodwill San Diego, said 49.5 percent of the organization is made up of people with disabilities or other employment barriers.

“We improve their skill sets and train them, not only to improve their skill sets but maybe to one day leave us and work with another employer,” she said. “That’s quite an impact, something that we’re incredibly proud of.”

Ultimately, Cossio said, the real power behind the good of Goodwill is the community itself.

“We can’t accomplish anything without the donations and purchases of our community,” she said. “We’re incredibly grateful for them and we want them to continue to shop with us and donate with us so that we can continue to train and employ people with disabilities and other barriers.”