by Sara Catlett | photos by Daniel E. Johnson
[portfolio_slideshow navpos=disabled pagerpos=disabled autoplay=true timeout=3000]
“You can never be too kind or too generous.” These are the words of Goodwill of Greater Grand Rapids CEO Kathy Crosby’s screen saver, which set the pace for her work each day. Her thirty-year career with Goodwill has been motivated by these principals from the start.
Crosby started her career with Goodwill in 1980 as an office clerk in Detroit. A self-proclaimed late bloomer, she started college in her 30s, earning her Bachelor of Arts degree in Business Administration at Siena Heights University. From there she went on to earn her masters in Organizational Leadership. In the late 90s, she transferred to the Goodwill office in Bethesda, Maryland, where she won a scholarship to the University of Maryland Smith School of Business,where she earned her Executive MBA in 2006.
She arrived in Grand Rapids and took over as CEO in December of 2006. Her successes were widely acknowledged after receiving the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce ATHENA Award in July 2011.
Goodwill Industry’s mission is to “change lives and communities through the power of work.” The organization works to create jobs and provide training and support while employees transition into permanent positions in the community.
Crosby truly believes that “given income, independence, and the ability to feed their families,” communities can be transformed. She has witnessed this in Grand Rapids first-hand, as Goodwill Industries of the greater Grand Rapids area successfully transitioned 1,300 people into other businesses in 2010. Goodwill is most often recognized by their donated goods stores, which generate profit to fund the employment programs. The stores themselves create twenty jobs per store. Among many other initiatives, Crosby has been working for the last three years to implement the Achieve program, a long-term employment program created to train employees with intensive skills workshops and follow participants for a full year in their new careers. The organization will celebrate the program’s first successes this fall.
The mission of Goodwill is close to Crosby’s heart because it is a continuation of her mother’s advice to her. Crosby says, “Generosity is the most important core value that I hold. I attribute much of that to my mother.” Her mother exemplified that generosity by always giving their best to others, and not only giving away what they didn’t want. In her family, that often meant giving time, talents, laughter, and enthusiasm instead of money. Crosby blogs the importance of her mother’s intentional generosity on the Goodwill website, and she loves to share it.
Crosby also encourages the Goodwill employees to participate in giving in the same vein as the mission of the organization and the wise words of her mother. Opportunities to work with Access of West Michigan’s food bank, United Way’s Day of Caring, and The Mental Health Foundation of West Michigan’s walk to Stomp Out Stigma, among others, are consistently offered as ways employees can continue to be generous toward the community. Goodwill also works to be giving toward employees by offering paid tuition reimbursement, paid time off to go to school, and flexible work schedules. Making Us Great, their internal program for employee suggestions, rewards every comment with a mug of M&Ms.
The most familiar way to contribute to Goodwill’s cause is to donate used goods, and Goodwill pledges to get the greatest good from each item to put back into their programs. The organization also values volunteers to help with responsibilities ranging from leading mock interviews to clerical or specialized office work. For those generous with cash donations, the contributions augment their support services and technical training for program participants.
The future of Goodwill looks bright as Crosby continues to “keep a strong eye on what the community needs for tomorrow.” With increased donations of used goods, cash, and volunteered time, she is building Goodwill’s impact in the community. She conveys, “I can’t think of anything that makes me feel better about myself than being generous with others…that is where real happiness comes from.”