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Podcast: Goodwill of Michiana Tailors Programs to Community Needs – Debie Coble

Wednesday, June 22, 2022
Natalie Terchek
Podcast – Debie Coble: Goodwill of Michiana Creates Programs Tailored to Community Needs

This week, at The One Thing Podcast, by The Horton Group, our host Jason Helfert, talks to our guest, Debie Coble, President and CEO of Goodwill of Michiana.

Most people associate Goodwill with its retail stores (there are 3,200 stores across the United States). But throughout the past eight years, Goodwill has also created services tailored specifically to their communities to help clients achieve an “Abundant Life.” Goodwill of Michiana founded the Nurse-Family Partnership, an evidence-based program designed to help decrease infant mortality (which is a problem throughout the state of Indiana). The program provides nurse home visits to women expecting their first child, many of which are low-income, unmarried and/or teenagers. The nurses will visit the mothers several times throughout the pregnancy to ensure they’re getting the best prenatal care. When the mothers go into labor, Goodwill of Michiana  has a doula on staff to assist. And after the baby is born, the nurses will continue to walk this journey with the family for two years to ensure everyone is adjusting accordingly.

“We want to make sure that Mama is getting the economic stability that she needs beyond just surviving – we want her to thrive,” Coble said. “If she wants to stay at Goodwill for longer than two years, we will continue to help her move up until she has reached her definition of ‘Abundant Living.’”

Additionally, Goodwill of Michiana started an employment-based program to help people get the skills necessary to go to work, excel at work or make a life change in their work world. For example, the program provides coaching to individuals with disabilities on avoiding limitations or talking to their employer about accommodations. They’ve also helped individuals returning from prison who want to get their life in order and adults who never graduated high school who want to return and get their diplomas.

“When you help somebody get to hear the words, ‘you’re hired,’ that is one of the best feelings in the world,” Coble says. “We get to be a part of that journey for them – and I will tell you, there is nothing more rewarding than knowing that we got to be a part of changing a life.”

Listen to our podcast above for the full interview with Debie Coble about what lies ahead for the future of Goodwill of Michiana.



Hello and welcome to The One Thing podcast, brought to you by the Horton Group. Here at the Horton Group, we specialize in Insurance employee benefits and risk advisory, and I’m your host, Jason Helfert. We are excited today to have on the a client and friend of the agency, President and CEO of Goodwill Industries of Michiana, Debie Coble. How are you, Debie? I’m good. How are you? I am really good. Well, thanks for taking the time today. Appreciate it. Thanks for having me. You bet you bet Reverend Edgar J Helms who founded the Goodwill in Boston was quoted as saying, the philosophy of Goodwill is not of Charity, but of chance. And if you focus on the chance, party could certainly mean a bunch Things that maybe meant opportunity in this light but if you, if you think about chance for a second, I think that things do happen for a reason or better said left up to chance. And so when you look at yourself and how you started your career at Goodwill, was it by Design or was it left up to chance? I think it was definitely by Design 
and the reason I say that is the fact that I was in a work situation that I needed to get out of For, they realized how bad I was 
and so that’s funny. I had a couple friends from church who worked for Goodwill and they had a retail managers position open and I had retail in my background, so I applied and was only going to stick around a year. And 32 years later here, I still am having worked my way through the organization and I’ve been serving now as president and CEO for seven years or eight years now. So let’s fantastic. Is the other retail Or you started in still with the organization. 
But I’m not the one who caused it. 
It actually wasn’t going there with the question. 
That’s funny. And I I’m sure over your years, Goodwill has changed a little bit. It has mmm. We have really started to focus in especially over the past eight years of creating greater opportunities in the communities that we serve for people to take advantage of the services that we offer. One thing that we really want to help folks do is to 
have a life of abundance e and they get to Define that by how they feel is their Abundant Life. That’s interesting that there’s a, it’s why there’s a one of the service that I looked at online. Not funny. Interesting. I was shocked. Quite candidly and surprised and happily surprised to see how many different Services you provide to the community. And I, you know, I think most people think of the Goodwill for its retail, but for obvious reasons, there’s thirty two hundred stores, but there’s a just saying that I would thought about when I looked at, when your programs is that behind, every young child, who believes himself as a parent, who believes in them first. And as a parent myself, I know that that belief can be tested at times and I think parenting is a very warm Reading but also you know probably the hardest job that most people have and which is why I was so interested to learn and read about the nurse Family, Partnership program that Goodwill offers and I know Debie was my understanding is AB not all good organization. Goodwill organizations are the same meaning. They don’t all provide the same services and so if that’s the case, then how did you and your organization kind of land on this and why was this really important for you to provide to the community? You guys serve So it actually started that our sister Goodwill down in Indianapolis was providing this service and working with these first-time moms in creating an opportunity for a pregnancy that was going to be healthy and a start to life for the child. And nurse Family Partnership is an evidence-based program, that has a really good impact on infant. Mortality, Indiana is not rated very well, we are infant. Mortality is Very high. So Governor Holcomb has a goal of us being the best in the midwest by 2024 
nurse Family. Partnership has evidence of being able to move that needle in the right direction and so as they’ve wanted to spread it throughout Indiana, they wanted to bring it into this area that we serve. And so we had conversations, I love the program, I love the concept and so we are now providing it in four counties and having a tremendous impact on the moms. Babies that we get to serve. Well, that’s outstanding. So what tell us more about the program, what type of services does it provide to the moms and the babies? So we actually employ registered nurses and so when a young lady or any age comes to us while they are pregnant we will enroll them and they are assigned a nurse and she’s going to walk alongside this mom. And the family through the pregnancy, making sure that she’s getting her prenatal care then, Nurse does not replace prenatal visits. She is an addition to those. And so, then, as things happen and, and the mom goes into labor, we actually do have a doula on staff. So if the mom needs additional support in labor, we can provide that as well. And then we’re going to continue to walk this journey with Mom and the family through two years with the baby, to make sure mom’s adjusting, Mama starting to get that economic stability that she needs Beyond. Just Surviving. We wanted to drive. Sure. And then we will then continue, even if she wants to stay with us for longer than two years, in Goodwill will continue to help her move up and into that what she defines us her Abundant Living, okay? It’s more of a continuity of care. I mean, even after a really a master of us is provided and I, my guess is you’ve got some really feel good stories out of that program, I could only could only imagine absolutely. We we have a couple of cases where Delivery would have been a very different story. Had the nurse been involved. A couple miles had preeclampsia, okay? And the nurse knew the signs mom, got to the hospital and we had healthy deliveries versus had they not been involved. We don’t know that that would have happened. Okay, okay. Well that’s that’s mean. That’s means enough to keep the program going and thriving and supporting it and and I think there’s a narrative out there. I don’t have any stats on it so you could tell me if I’m wrong and I would believe you but it’s I think nurses at our premium right now and I think there’s If my nursing staff and I get my assumptions less nurses and nursing school and halves, is that part of a challenge with running a program like this, you know, it really isn’t some ways. We have a couple openings right now at this point in time. However, one of the things that we can bring to a nurse who’s interested in this type of work, it is home-based work, it is not the hours and a hospital. It is not the stress. 
And you carry a caseload of maybe, 25 moms. So you really get to know your mom’s and your families. And if you have that heart for making a difference in somebody’s life and putting your skills to use, we are the perfect spot for a for a nurse to be able to do that. I could see why. And so, if I’m a nurse out there, listening right now or the nurses out there, listening through this, how could they, how would they learn more information about this? How would they get in touch with with you? So if they start On our website, which is good, will Dash and and go to the services. We do have a page that describes it more with an email. Or if they’re like, oh my goodness. I want to apply for this, then they just need to go to the career Tab and they just need to apply. Thank you for letting me. Plug that welcome. So all you nurse is out there looking for a new challenge, rewarding challenge, you could work from home and work with maybe a limited number of moms to get to know them very well, and provide a rewarding service. Maybe reach out to a Goodwill of Michiana them. Absolutely. Very cool. Well, as I mentioned before, I do know that at least my belief to that, most people are pretty familiar with the name Goodwill. I mean it’s a very well-known name and I believe that most people know of it for the retail and I think there’s only over 330 200 stores within North America. So that’s a good reason why they know and I believe you, you mentioned me. Retail is the engine that drives the mission. And and so outside of retail Or some of the other services, in addition to nurse Family Partnership that you want people to know about. So maybe what’s the one thing? Or it could be two, three, whatever you want that? You would like people to know about Goodwill. So we really are all about helping people change their lives. So we are an employment-based program to help people get skills necessary to go to work, or to excel at work, to make a life change in their work world. So whether it’s somebody that maybe has A disability that we need to really work with them on avoiding limitations or helping talk to an employer about accommodations or whether it’s somebody who is returning from prison and they want to get their life in order. Whether it is an adult who has not achieved their high school diploma, and they want to go back and actually get their high school diploma. We can do that will be opening some hard skills training in the fall. So if individuals are interested in learning Automotive welding, we’re going to be those This is to really help people, no matter where their skill set is, in life to again. We keep going back to what is your definition of Abundant Living? Sure, help you to get there. Sure, well, tell us more about some of the the job coaching or job, training the Industrial Services. I think that’s I’d never thought about again for opposite of Good Will and doing some of the. So I think that was a really important to him. Tell us more about that if you can, like, who you’re looking for and what kind of services are training to provide for, People that are for the Industrial Services piece at your organization. Sure. So for that particular piece, we are really looking for people who need to gain some work experience, individuals who maybe we need to assess what their limitations are if they have a disability. So we know what to avoid or if we have somebody who is just maybe coming out of the prison system and they really need to start getting that resume built up. We’re going to work with them. Give them the opportunity to try different jobs. Get that work history built. Up and work with them to get into either. Stay at Goodwill or work with an employer in our community. Who knows that? When they’ve been through a Goodwill service that we have worked with them and they are ready to go to work. If they are interested more in the hard skills training, then we can actually work with individuals that to get that. Again, this will be opening in the fall but to actually learn Automotive skills so that they can go to a dealership that’s great. And has the you find that the local community is pretty. Open and accepting to that and excited about it. They are very excited about it. We have one local dealership that has the leap Family Foundation has ended up some some money and support for it to help us get the equipment that we need to the tune of 250,000 dollars. And what they view that is coming along side of us and being a partner as we train folks, then they will have individuals and that they can look at employing in their dealerships to meet their needs because there’s Chum, there’s just such a need for the technicians. Yeah, I think that’s fastenings. I don’t believe and maybe I’m wrong, but I think most for-profit businesses could be Automotive for an example or machine shops or whatever. Maybe probably they don’t first. Think about employing individuals with disabilities. I think they may be filed more, traditional methods, you know, through Morse hiring boards or HR for Job searches. And it’s not what John Barth from in our, if and, you know, one of their big tasks and challenges advocacy. E is all about that, you know, placement of jobs for individuals with disabilities and from my understanding that Indiana is much further along in that then one of your sister States 
the state of Indiana. And I know there’s probably you would say there’s no roads to go. We are so many more miles to walk down them. 
I’ve just whenever I think about that, I’m very I get kind of Goosebumps when I think about how strong that A program that can be for individuals disabilities, it really is. And, you know, back earlier in my career when I was doing Direct Services, I mean I would go to work with individuals with disabilities to help them learn their jobs. So I worked in van conversion. Companies learning how to put springs on the seats, learn to make pizzas, never quite acquired. The ability to spin it up in the air. But, you know, you’ve got time. It’s awesome. Because what you get to do is, you know, Not only do you get to hear somebody gets to hear those words that they’re hired and they get to start to earn a paycheck. We get to be a part of that Journey for them and I will tell you, there is nothing more rewarding than to get to know that we got to be a part of changing a life. You know, I can hear the passion in her voice for the lives that you touch. So, thank you for doing all that. And if, if you put your, so, what do you say with your leadership team and your, when your CEO hat? You know what? The things that you’re concerned about with the future, so some of the obstacles just hey, team, you know, here’s what we’ve got to get, right? Yes, so we are continuing to work on helping to develop our own employees. 
You know, we do a lot in the community 
up until a couple years ago while we did things internally. We weren’t as 
we weren’t as focused on it and over the past couple of years I brought in a chief human resource officer who has that passion and dedication and so we are being as intentional about our own employees. Is as we are individuals in the community and I have to tell you that is just as fun and is exciting to get to watch our people grow. So that’s one thing. We’ve got to get it, right? And we need our employees to understand that when we say, they are our most important asset in our company. We mean it and there’s action behind those words, the other piece that we have to get right right now is our donated Goods. So we are blessed that people give us Goods. However there’s a lot of competition Out there for those goods right now you can sell things online. No you can you can do the garage sales online. Now it’s very easy and so we have to continue to demonstrate to people that we do care and are good stewards of those resources that they give us in order to be able to do our mission. Okay? And so, have you seen, I guess, have you seen retail Revenue? Go down over the years because of that. So now it has we have continued to increase. We’re doing more online. Yes. Goodwill is has an e-commerce business. A there you go. There you go. You can get your good will fix 24/7 at shock I saw that there’s some expensive stuff, there’s a pricey stuff on there, to us right, incredible finds their one-of-a-kind antiques, those kinds of things. We’re continuing to open brick-and-mortar because people enjoy that treasure hunt and so we have been blessed that Revenue has continued to go up and to the right. Sighs. But we just know that we have to continue to create greater efficiencies so that we can put that back into our employees and put that back into our admission, okay? And I know it’s a kind of a traditional question, but I think it begs asking here and so when people go to Goodwill and they make a purchase, you know, if I’m asked him said, well, you know, where does that money go? So it’s going to go about 90 cents of every dollar, is going to go back into Mission and employees. We are very cognizant of our overhead. We keep that to the bare minimum and really do create great stewardship of the dollars that we get whether people financially donate to us. Whether they are donating through the stores because they’re purchasing items, we tend to be very cognizant and spend that money. Very wisely. Okay. Well good, I think that’s I think that’s telling the Organization, you are and if I’m going to go back to the sitting in your seat, other great thinkers and leaders in the nonprofit, you know Community. We know what you want to do. Internally what are you seeing on the external front? You know some challenges head winds that are potentially 
not, not impact. Your mission negatively to where it becomes a huge issue but what’s going to stop you from progress? 
You know, the changing of the workforce, to be real honest with you. So we have seen right now, in this economy that we are in. We don’t see as many people coming through our doors for assistance, who traditionally would. However, there’s a great concern on that side. What we do know is those individuals aren’t necessarily keeping those jobs, 
they haven’t gained the skills to be a good employee. That that employers retain 
And right now, employers aren’t as concerned about that, if it’s somebody filling out an application, they’re much more likely to get hired. No matter what their resume looks like, and that’s going to change. I mean we’re starting to see some softening coming around the Pike and that you know, those individuals are going to be the ones that fill it, the quickest. 
So but it is changing the gig economy really plays a stronger role. It did quicker, the pandemic, spread that on and so just being able then to also ensure that we’re staying on top of the skills that people need for those future jobs, because jobs are changing. 
And so, we’ve got Sure that if we don’t stay ahead of the game, we’re not going to be able to help people that need our help. Yeah, that’s a that’s well said, by a leader, looking at ways that, hey, this is gonna impact our business. So how do we change that? And we’re feeling that our business to now Service delivery. I mean, is much different than it was a couple years ago. We’re not running a retail business and just the people that we have or don’t have in our office as changed and it’s not going back. People say it takes 66 days to develop a habit. Well, it’s been what What? Over 800 days since the pandemic started. Yes, I this is a word different world that we’re living in and, and so it’s no surprise that. I mean, I don’t know if eCommerce is a bigger piece of your Revenue, pie than it was two years ago, but I think one would rightfully expect that to be a bigger Pie as you move forward. And so, how do we do have to hire not web designers or Engineers? Right. You know, instead of people that less people maybe to, to work the floor, but then you’re also building more brick and mortar. So that sounds like a good problem to have. Hey, we’re growing and I wish. It’s a growth. How do we staff for growth and that’s a challenge in the nonprofit industry and even ours, how do we pay for it? How do we keep up with, you know, wage inflation and you’re not immune to that? We’re not immune to that, and is there a cultural element? I know you mentioned before. That one thing you have to get, right? You are team, right? You have to get, right? Is this internal employee piece? Yeah. And so as part of that, and I had a culture that not a, I believe in cultures, not a cliche at all. But is there a cultural component that you have at your age? Agency or organization that really is bringing people in. So I think we are really, we are really developing, the culture that I that I want, and we just recently, did a did a survey and we have our diversity Equity, equity and inclusion committee. And we recently did a survey about whether people felt included, did they feel like they matter? Did they feel like their diversity mattered? And I have seen the preliminary results and I am so very pleased. Oh good, we are making progress. Prague we’re not where we need to be but we are making progress and we had over eighty percent of our employees. Actually take the survey. And so we are seeing overwhelming folks say that they agree or strongly agree that we’re moving in the right direction and that and I think that’s what’s really going to help us continue to grow is when people know that they can come in our doors and they can be a part of the team and be respected for who they are. That’s what’s going to help us, get to where we need to be and I think so too. I think your client tell your customers, you know your clients and people you serve will feel that as well. And you know, people say there’s the challenge with organizations now is you you look different on the inside than you do in the outside and how do we continue to learn grow and develop internally. So we could better serve the people that, you know, we’re looking to serve and and so I applaud you for doing that Dia is wildly important. I don’t get it. I think most people say we don’t do It as well as we should, right. And I think that’s good, emotional, intelligence and awareness there, and it keeps us moving forward. And so, we’re in the same boat there. But what else before we hop off, what else, anything else you want the viewing audience to know about Goodwill? So you know I think the one thing and you brought this up before there’s thirty two hundred stores in North America, there are 155 
Goodwill’s in North America. So we all have territories that we are assigned to and then we all have a local Board of Governors are government that oversees us board of directors. And so one of the neat things about it is that we get to respond to the needs in our community. So there are some Goods that Wills that run homeless shelters. There are some that Provide services to youth. Almost every good will provide services to individuals with disabilities or chronically unemployed. But I think that’s one of the neat. Things about Goodwill is we are responding to our community in the way that we need to to make it a better. Stronger place to be in to live and I my guess is that’s probably appreciated by people that are receiving the services of maybe that known by people that are not, you know, receiver of services. And I think that’s really, really important. And I think being a community leader, one identify the opportunities within your community and develop programs that can address those needs. I think that’s pretty cool. And I think you talked about building Community Building continuity building collaborative, I’ve been building a brand that is needed in accepted in your community. What better way to do it by then providing services that people need doesn’t help provide service that they don’t need right. Exactly. 
You made the comment form your sir, your We might need different things than in Orange County or New York City and it’s just going to be different and that’s okay. Yes. What’s not? Okay, I guess if we don’t listen to the needs and we don’t adapt. Correct, and that you’re right. And it’s and it is ever-changing mean, if you look at the services that were providing Now versus what we’re providing eight years ago, they’ve expanded a lot and it’s because of the needs in the community have changed and we have been there to answer the call and we’ve been invited to the tables to Great. And that’s the other big thing that that we all need to do more. And I’m so pleased to say that the not-for-profit world does it much better than we did 20 years ago and that’s working together and providing that Continuum of services for individuals so that they don’t get lost in the cracks. Well, I think the nonprofit Community especially in Northwest, Indiana is in good hands with leaders, like you at the helm. And so Debie, I want to say thank you so much for being a guest today. Thank you for having me. I’m Jason Helfert saying, thank you for joining. The One Thing podcast.

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