(Sarasota/Bradenton, FL) Goodwill Manasota is currently putting 177 area seniors back in the workforce while serving the needs of community employers at the same time. According to Bob Rosinsky, president and CEO of Goodwill Manasota, that’s good news—though it shouldn’t be news.
“America’s senior citizens are a vital national resource,” he says. “It’s a vast pool of educated, motivated and highly trained people—and in the larger workforce so much of this potential is shamefully going to waste. Goodwill Manasota is determined to help turn that around in our region.”
According to Rosinsky, this problem has been brewing for a long time. And it’s a problem we can’t afford to ignore. “Older Americans want and need to remain in the workplace past traditional retirement age,” he says. “Those lacking jobs face a particularly tough time finding new positions.” He cites a number of factors to explain this hardship, including the economic downturn, disappearing retirement funds and more people living longer and enjoying healthier lives.
“More senior citizens can and want to work these days,” says Rosinsky. “But there are fewer jobs available.” He cites a grim statistic to prove it: According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate for people ages 55 years and older has increased sharply since the beginning of the recession in 2007. By 2010, workers who are 55 years and older experienced an average duration of joblessness of 35.5 weeks before they found gainful employment.
“That’s not just an empty statistic,” says Rosinsky. “That hurts, and we’re doing our best to take the hurt away.”
He cites more positive statistics to prove that. “At Goodwill Manasota, more than 23 percent of our employees are over the age of 55 (177 employees out of 759). Our two oldest employees are 93 and 83. And the Centergate Bookstore on Bee Ridge Road has the highest number of team members over 70 years old.”
There are a number of senior success stories at Goodwill Manasota—and they all have names. Dick Morgan, 93, has worked for Goodwill for more than 38 years. He started out as a store manager and worked his way up to vice president. Today, Morgan is Goodwill Manasota’s image consultant, a role he gladly performs when he travels to all 44 Goodwill Manasota locations to inspect them.
“I love Goodwill,” said Morgan. “And I will be here for as long they will have me.”
Centergate Bookstore boasts the highest number of senior employees. Bernie Spitalnick, 77, and previously a pilot in the United States Air Force, has been with Goodwill for more than 14 years. Lynn Hudgins, in her mid-70s, has been at the store for nearly nine years and Stephen Hedger, 70, has been with Goodwill for more than one year.
Nancy Stern, Centergate Bookstore’s manager, appreciates the contributions of her senior employees. “A mixed-age personnel makes for really interesting workplace dynamics,” she says. “The different age groups complement each other nicely.”
A mixed-age approach works well at Goodwill Manasota but it’s not standard operating procedure in America’s workforce.
“Older employees are often overlooked for positions, despite their experience and service,” says Rosinsky. “We want to change that, although there’s no easy answer. We need a thoughtfully conceived strategy supported by dialogue, research and the willingness to look at older workers in new ways. Seniors want to give more. If we work together, we can make it happen.”
Goodwill Industries Manasota, Inc.
Goodwill Industries Manasota, Inc., is an industry-leading, 501(c)(3), not-for-profit business that turns donations into good jobs, good homes and good neighborhoods. Goodwill Manasota assists people with disabilities and barriers to employment, providing services to more than 15,000 people throughout the region every year. As a pioneer in the reduce-reuse-recycle movement, Goodwill helps divert more than 34 million pounds out of area landfills each year. The organization accomplishes its mission through a network of Good Neighbor Centers in Sarasota, Manatee, Hardee and DeSoto counties and through its Mission Development Services (MDS) throughout North America. For more than 100 years, Goodwill has provided much-needed opportunities to people through a variety of programs and initiatives, including Job Connection, JobsPlus, Supported JobsPlus, the HomeBuyer’s Club, Mission Development Services, White Glove Services, Good Neighbor Program, the Ambassadors Program, the American Veterans and Their Families Initiative and donated goods. Individual tax-deductible donations to Goodwill Manasota can be made at www.ExperienceGoodwill.org.