Jim Gibbons was the only starter on his fifth and sixth grade football team. Midway through the season he was “fired.” The coach simply told him, “You aren’t starting anymore.” Gibbons quit.
That night his dad sat him down and talked to him. “You are losing your vision. We don’t know if it is going to stop deteriorating or if you will become totally blind. You are going to have to work harder and become more creative to get half as much as the next guy.”
But “quitters never win and winner’s never quit.” That was the lesson he learned. He went on to study industrial engineering at Purdue and got good grades. He sent letters to the big recruiters from Detroit and Flint and got 50 ding letters while his friends were getting two and three offers. It was hard to work through, he says, but winners never quit. He went to work for AT&T and later went to Harvard Business School and became the first blind person to graduate from its MBA program.
Gibbons may be blind but he’s a winner and is helping many others become winners. He is president of Goodwill Industries International and is committed to making his life better and the lives of the people in his life better.
The people in his life are often those who too many look down on as “nothing.” Those with disabilities. Those with issues. Those whose disabilities and issues make them truly miracles. Those who want to show the whole world they are somebody. Those who believe winners never quit
I had the pleasure of talking to Gibbons a short time ago as he was getting ready to speak to the Detroit Economic Club on November 30. In that speech he will discuss Goodwill’s complex social enterprise and how for-profit companies can use Goodwill’s philosophy to not only be customer-focused and market-driven but also socially responsible.
“Our model has a market that insures long-term viability,” Gibbons says. “It is a culture of entrepreneurism and community service. The power of the Goodwill model is that decisions are made at local level. We have more than 100,000 entrepreneurs today and that will double over next few years.”
Almost all of us know about Goodwill and the good work it does. We’ve dropped off truckloads of clothes, old furniture, appliances, knick knacks and odds and ends to one of their 2600 stores nationwide. However, many of us aren’t fully aware of the breadth of programs and services Goodwill provides.
It trains people for careers in fields such as financial services, computer programming, manufacturing and emerging industries, including technology and health care. It provides support services, such as transportation, childcare or financial literacy courses.
Goodwill also has a partnership with Dell, known as Reconnect, which is a free drop-off program for consumers who want to responsibly recycle unwanted computer equipment. That partnership keeps used computers out of landfills and preserves the environment. By repairing and rebuilding computers, participants learn to be computer technicians. If you’re looking to drop off a computer contact Goodwill Industries of Greater Detroit.
Goodwill Industries of Greater Detroit creates jobs and training opportunities for people in Detroit and other communities.
“Nationally and locally I see nothing but additional human need, which sparks our interest in growth … creating an employment platform to use as a training and employment engine … a social service,” he says.
This year alone Goodwill International will serve 2.4 million people and it grew its employment numbers from 91,000 to 98,000. Those were new jobs created by local Goodwill operations.
“Our goal is to continue to grow at that clip and we need to do that,” Gibbons says. “People we serve are knocking on our doors at a clip of 20-30 percent more a year.”
Some of those jobs are created by your local Goodwill resale store. There is a new one opening in Canton. The resale model is one Gibbons says Goodwill is re-engaging across the nation. It’s no wonder. Resale is a multi-billion dollar a year industry. Goodwill Industries alone generated $2.69 billion in retail sales from more than 2,500 not for profit resale stores across America in 2010, according to the Association of Resale Professionals. (Just a quick aside — my kids found some of their coolest finds at the Goodwill store in high school.)
So how do we get that Goodwill model to work? It takes three parts humming together, Gibbons says. Individual accountability. Community support. Employer investment in the workplace.
“Goodwill is an organization filled with passion and every day innovates for their communities,” he says. “We don’t think of innovation as the next iPhone but the next idea to help people in the communities we serve.”
Gibbons and his accomplishments are truly miracles, but I doubt he would ever put it that way. His commitment is to Goodwill and the people it serves and to helping others overcome adversity … to re-engineer themselves and take the world by storm.
Gibbons’ favorite movie says it all. It’s For Once in My Life. It’s an awesome and inspiring true story about a special group of people and their dream to make music. It’s a look at the Spirit of Goodwill® band, a unique assembly of 28 singers and musicians, all with disabilities — ranging from autism and behavioral disorders to cerebral palsy, Down syndrome and visual impairments — who share an uncanny gift for music, joy and friendship. It’s a celebration of overcoming the odds.