Benjamin Anderson is a tall, young man with a shy smile and kind eyes. The friendliness in his voice immediately puts people at ease. What first impressions will not reveal is the two major barriers he overcame to become a valuable Goodwill employee.
In January 2008 Benjamin weighed 453 pounds. But he had made a decision: to change everything about his life, to achieve his goals of success – starting with a healthy diet. He began a program where he learned how to eat and exercise properly as a precursor to undergoing gastric bypass surgery. Over the next three months, he lost more than 30 pounds, and then underwent the surgery.
As Benjamin began to shed the extra pounds after surgery, he launched Phase Two of his plan to rebuild his life, which meant ending his reliance on disability payments. Benjamin had received Social Security Disability for a number of years because of his weight and a bi-polar disorder. Benjamin contacted the Oregon Department of Vocational Rehabilitation (OVRS), where the counselor referred him to Goodwill Industries.
Benjamin says the encouragement he received at Goodwill and from OVRS helped him feel “better about myself and changed my beliefs of how others saw me.”
By September 2008, Benjamin was hired as a donation attendant at the Barger Road Donation Center. He continued to lose weight and was better able to undertake the physical requirements on the job that he had previously been unable to. Benjamin quickly proved himself to be a valuable employee, working hard, filling in when needed at other donation locations, and providing exceptional customer service.
But that wasn’t enough. Benjamin had always liked people and wanted to work as a cashier at one of the Goodwill stores. When an opportunity became available at the Seneca Store, his supervisor gave him a glowing recommendation, and he was hired. Benjamin began his new assignment as a cashier in the winter of 2009 with the same enthusiasm and drive that he brought to his job as a donation attendant.
Even that wasn’t enough. Benjamin has been a successful cashier for one year, but is reaching for more. He will begin classes at Lane Community College this fall, with a goal of becoming an energy management auditor. Balancing work and attending school will be a challenge for Benjamin, but he knows difficult obstacles mark his track record for success.