Congratulations 2022 Hall of Honor Inductees!

As we celebrate the coming New Year, we honor three outstanding individuals whose positive attitudes as well as success exemplifies Goodwill’s message of strengthening our communities through empowering individuals. These are stories of hope and transformation meant to inspire everyone to become their best selves. They are further proof that everyone’s path to success is different. Who knows? With Goodwill’s help, you may find yourself on the list next year!

Without further ado, here are our most recent Hall of Honor inductees.

Outstanding Achiever: Michelle Bailey

Personal Quote: “I truly believe that Goodwill was the main reason I was able to start rebuilding my life, and the reason I have come so far from where I started back in 2018.”

If you’re looking for an example of defeating the odds and never giving up, look no further than Michelle Bailey. When Michelle’s husband unexpectedly passed away in September 2012 from a massive stroke, the resulting grief from this devastating loss completely upended her life, resulting in a downward spiral. She soon found herself struggling with homelessness and depression. As a result, her children were forced to move in with her parents in 2014. This was a devastating moment for Michelle.

As addiction prevented her from gainful employment, Michelle continued to make one bad decision after another until she was inevitably incarcerated in 2018 and served a prison sentence in 2019.

It wasn’t until Michelle was released on parole in 2020 that she was determined to get her life back on track both for herself and the sake of her children. She moved into a halfway home to be closer to her family and it was during this time that she discovered many other women in the program who worked at Goodwill. They encouraged her to seek employment at Goodwill. At first Michelle was apprehensive due to her previous successful career she had as a Call Director of Operations.

But after three months struggling to find employment due to her history, Michelle finally decided to apply at Goodwill. At the time her expectations couldn’t have been lower for both the company and position. Nevertheless, she was hired as a sales associate in October of 2020.

It didn’t take long for Michelle to change her mind. “After about 15 minutes of orientation, I realized how wrong I was.” Not only was she unaware of the company’s overall mission as well as all the good work they have done for various communities, but more importantly, she quickly found that many of the successful people she met at Goodwill served time for a felony in their past, but they still were still promoted into positions within the company.

Within a year of working for Goodwill, Michelle was promoted to Assistant Manager. Because of the help at Goodwill, she was able to get her life back in order and start rebuilding relationships with her family. “The support and positive environment that I experienced every day at work kept my recovery on track,” Michelle says.

These days Michelle hopes to instill the same beliefs in her teammates by making sure that everyone understands the incredible support and programs that are available to them at Goodwill, which can make a huge impact in their lives. After all, Michelle is proof of its success. 

Goodwill couldn’t be prouder to have helped Michelle’s along her journey. She is now working full-time at Texas Reach Out Ministries as the Women’s Program Manager. She is a prime example of how Goodwill improves individual lives and helps communities succeed from within.

Client of the Year: Robbie Lutz

Personal Quote: “I’ve seen Robbie grow as a person. I’ve seen him become more confident, more outgoing, and more willing to interact with others.” – Jenny Lutz, Robbie’s mother

Robbie Lutz is another perfect example of Goodwill recognizing potential within a vast range of employees who otherwise may be overlooked due to disabilities.

Robbie Lutz was only 18 years old when he first enrolled with Goodwill’s Summer Youth Employment Program in 2017. Upon completing the five-week paid summer internship, Robbie set his sights upon participating in the Summer Earn and Learn Program (SEAL) program. Through this program, Robbie found himself assigned to work for AVES (Austin Veterinary Emergency and Specialty) in its first year participating in the program.

AVES can be a very challenging environment for the interns due to seeing critically injured and traumatic health issues experienced by pets. Despite obstacles, Robbie rose to the challenge and picked up various tasks on the job remarkably fast. With the support of his employers, Robbie exceeded expectations over the course of the program and was able to rise to any challenge on the job. After finishing his successful internship, Robbie seized upon his momentum by participating in Project Search for the 2019-2020 school year, bringing with him the same hardworking and determined attitude.

The internship started off great, until in 2020 when Project Search was put on hold due to COVID and Robbie was forced to adapt to unexpected changes in his internship. But Robbie didn’t let these obstacles prevent his success or keep him down. Instead, Robbie requested he go back to AVES to continue building upon the skills and training he had previously learned. Never one to give up or take no for an answer, he enrolled in SEAL in 2021 and asked if he could be again placed at AVES. Not surprisingly, the AVES staff couldn’t have been happier to see him, and his arrival was met with celebration. Robbie was able to successfully pick up right where he left off with his training and continued to develop new skills that would serve him well in his future. By all accounts, Robbie was a fantastic intern who was thriving in this work environment, but clearly, he was meant for more.

Robbie was encouraged to submit his resume to the hiring manager before completing the internship, and thanks to his job coach at Goodwill, it wasn’t long before AVES hired Robbie as a permanent part-time employee. Now Robbie has a job that he enjoys in a supportive environment with room for growth. And we couldn’t be more thrilled for him. “I like working with people that are helpful and friendly. And there’s a few that I feel comfortable talking to today,” he says.

Robbie’s coworkers aren’t the only ones to notice these positive changes in his life. His mother has witnessed her son overcome personal obstacles to achieve success within the programs Goodwill offers. “It’s been nice having Goodwill there to help along with this journey… When you have a child with a disability, you’re never sure where it’s going to take you. Seeing Robbie grow as a person, I’ve seen him become more confident, more outgoing, more willing to interact with others, and more independent.”

We’re proud to have provided assistance to Robbie on his journey and are excited to see what heights he will soar to as an employee at AVES.

Outstanding Team Member: Thomas Lawless

Personal Quote: “At the end of the day all the classes are for the opportunity for work so you can better yourself. What I lacked most in my life and the reason I went to prison is a lack of purpose… I can’t say that about everybody, but for me it has filled that purpose.”

Like many successful team members, Thomas’ journey to success at Goodwill started in prison. Thomas set his sights on enrolling in truck driving school while serving his prison sentence. Upon being accepted into the program, Thomas focused on achieving his goal, hoping that once complete, he would have a career where he wasn’t excluded because of his past.

Upon serving his three-and-a-half-year sentence, Thomas was determined to get his life on track and dreamed of becoming a truck driver with his new training. In Thomas’ own words: “When you’re getting out of prison, you’re afraid of rejection. There’s nothing worse when you’re trying to put your life together and you’re trying to get your spirits up and trying to believe in yourself and having somebody not even look at you. It can crush someone.”

Goodwill was the first place Thomas applied to and he was hired on the spot. Goodwill recognized his desire to improve and that was he driven to success. They even helped him get a bus pass so that he could travel to work while earning a paycheck. 

In 2007, Thomas used his savings from working at Goodwill, and purchased a car that he can proudly call his own. He no longer has to take the bus to work every day. 

After almost four years as a truck driver for Goodwill, Thomas has now advanced to be a driving instructor for the Goodwill Truck Driving School at the Goodwill Career and Technical Academy (GCTA). To this day, he is grateful for the opportunities afforded to him by Goodwill. Not only did Goodwill help him achieve his goal, but it also gave him the sense of purpose he was sorely lacking in life previously. By believing in Thomas’ future with the company, Goodwill encouraged him to do the same. “I really believe in the purpose of Goodwill because my success is completely tied to it. They took a chance on me, and I will always be grateful for that.”

Congratulations to all our Hall of Honor award winners: You are the reason for our mission. If you would like to contribute to the success of individuals like Michelle, Robbie, and Thomas, please consider making a financial donation to Goodwill Central Texas so that we can continue to improve the lives of Central Texans.