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Annual Recognition Banquet Held Nov. 2

Goodwill Industries of Northwest North Carolina honored the community partners, volunteer leaders, employees and program participants who make our mission services possible at the Annual Recognition Banquet, held Thursday, Nov. 2, at the Millennium Center in Winston-Salem.

The approximately 300 people who attended the banquet enjoyed remarks by keynote speaker Donovan Livingston, a writer and educator whose convocation address at the 2016 Harvard Graduate School of Education earned him national recognition. The spoken-word poem he recited in that address, “Lift Off,” was later viewed online more than 13 million times. Livingston shared part of “Lift Off” at the Goodwill banquet and spoke about the importance of access to education.

Livingston recalled how his grandmother always pushed him not only to advance himself, but to help others find opportunities as well. He also noted how much it encouraged him as a child to have teachers see his potential and encourage him. “Being able to help someone see the power in their story is what’s going to take them from where they’re at to where they’re going to be,” he said.

The banquet also included award presentations for the Graduate of the Year Kenny Cooper, Heritage Award recipient Michael Gunter, employee recognition awards and those for community and corporate partners.


Graduate of the Year Award: James Kenneth Cooper

The Graduate of the Year Award honors an outstanding person with a disability or disadvantaging condition who has completed a Goodwill career services program and gone on to demonstrate outstanding achievement by attaining and maintaining successful employment in the community.

The 2017 Graduate of the Year is Kenny Cooper, who faced numerous challenges with homelessness, addiction and unemployment. He was referred to the Haywood County Career Connections Center in Waynesville by a local homeless shelter. Kenny received career counseling and took several skills training courses. Today he is employed full-time at Giles Chemical in Waynesville, and recently opened a karate training business. He regularly returns to the Career Connections Center to mentor others.

Watch a video about Kenny’s story


Heritage Award: Michael D. Gunter

Goodwill’s Heritage Award recognizes individuals that have made a significant, long-lasting contribution to the success of Goodwill and its mission.  This award is the highest honor that we give to those who support our agency, and it’s only been given to four individuals in our history.  The 2017 Heritage Award was presented to Michael D. Gunter, a longtime board member whose leadership helped Goodwill expand our mission services, employee base and retail stores. Click here to read more.


Board Award:  Mark Bachmeier

Mark Bachmeier served a six-year term on the Board of Directors from 2012 to present. He served all six years on the Personnel Committee and three years on the Workforce Development Committee, helping guide Goodwill’s delivery of its services to thousands of people in northwest North Carolina. Mark has been a loyal supporter of Goodwill’s Annual Golf Tournament and faithfully travels to board meetings from his home in Wilkesboro. Mark is retired from Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center and is currently on the faculty at Appalachian State University.


Donor Partner of the Year Award: Mt. Tabor High School – Fran Del Monico

Mount Tabor High School has faithfully participated in Goodwill’s Annual Donate to Educate High School Challenge since its inception in 2003. Donate to Educate is a donation competition among Forsyth County schools, and Mount Tabor has decisively won the challenge 13 of the last 14 years. This year alone, Mt. Tabor students collected almost 16,000 pounds of donations – 3,000 pounds more than the second-place school. Fran Del Monico, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, coordinates the school’s drive and has implemented a pickup service for donors using the school’s marching band truck.


Employer of the Year Award: Shields Incorporated – Jesse Simmons

The Employer of the Year is given to Shields Incorporated, a commercial construction contractor based in Winston-Salem, for its recruitment and hiring of Goodwill program participants. Shields acknowledges the need for trained employees in the construction industry, and developed a paid training program that takes place on a temporary site that realistically simulates the job. Goodwill program participants are able to learn a trade with a quality employer through this innovative approach to filling the skills gap. To date, Shields has hired 16 Goodwill program participants. Jesse Simmons, Training Officer with Shields, takes a personal interest in the success of the trainees and will reach out to Goodwill if there is a concern.


Partner Agency of the Year Award: NC Works DVOP

By partnering with like-minded organizations, Goodwill is able to pool resources and magnify its impact in the community. This year the Partner Agency of the Year Award goes to NC Works DVOP, which stands for Disabled Veteran Outreach Professionals. The DVOP – Goodwill partnership creates a seamless process that ensures all veterans’ needs are addressed.  The U.S. Department of Labor VETS program tasks DVOPs with assisting veterans and their families with employment and training. All of Goodwill’s locations have DVOPs that work with our veterans to ensure that they not only have a job, but a means to live. Accepting the Partner Agency of the Year Award were Brian Mobley and Lamarris Williams, two of the veterans representatives that Goodwill works with in the Winston-Salem area.


Special Recognition Award: American Solutions for Business

Goodwill honored American Solutions for Business with a Special Recognition Award for their generous support of Goodwill’s annual golf tournament and countless other projects. American Solutions has graciously donated t-shirts, banners, and tee signs to Goodwill’s golf tournament for the last three years, resulting in thousands of dollars in savings and generating more funds for the Outreach Scholarship Fund which is supported by the event. American Solutions provides excellent customer service and goes “above and beyond” to take a special interest in Goodwill’s projects. Accepting the Special Recognition Award were Mike Helton, Barry Sikes and Joe Riggsbee.


Employee Recognition Awards

Each year Goodwill recognizes employees who consistently go above and beyond to demonstrate Goodwill’s corporate values. This year’s award recipients were:

  • PROMOTES TEAMWORK – Kim Bledsoe, Store Manager of Store #20 in Kernersville
  • RESPECTS AND APPRECIATES OTHERS – Rachel Olsen, Skills Training Manager at the Asheville Workforce Development Center
  • TAKES OWNERSHIP OF PERFORMANCE AND BEHAVIOR – Richard Totten, Career Connections Specialist at the Prosperity Center (Winston-Salem)
  • DRIVES IMPROVEMENT – Senior Tech Support Specialist Susan Rinehart
  • LIVES THE MISSION – Tommy Ware, Transportation Department (Asheville)


Click here to view photos from the Annual Recognition Banquet