Goodwill Industries of Northwest North Carolina presented longtime Board of Directors member and Winston-Salem attorney Michael D. Gunter with the 2017 Heritage Award, which recognizes individuals that have made a significant, long-lasting contribution to the success of Goodwill and its mission. The Heritage Award is the highest honor that Goodwill gives, and has only been awarded four times in Goodwill’s 91-year history.
The award was presented at Goodwill’s Annual Recognition Banquet, held Thursday, Nov. 2, at the Millennium Center in Winston-Salem. The banquet honors the contributions of Goodwill’s community partners, donors, program participants and employees.
Gunter is an equity partner at Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice, where he served as attorney from 1974 until his retirement last year. He has received countless honors and accolades in his field – including Charter Fellow and Member, American College of Employee Benefits Counsel and being named to North Carolina Super Lawyers. In 1998, the National Law Journal named him as one of the 40 top employee benefits “trendsetters and groundbreakers” in the United States.
When Gunter joined Goodwill’s Board of Directors in 1986, it was still known as the Winston-Salem Goodwill Industries Rehabilitation Center. The organization employed only 118 people and operated just 11 stores. Vocational services were offered at one location and helped 469 people that year. Financially, the organization was solvent but struggling, with an annual revenue of $2.5 million.
In his award presentation, Goodwill President and CEO Art Gibel noted that Gunter joined the Board as Goodwill was applying for its first accreditation from CARF, the leading independent accreditor of health and human service organizations. “Mike led the application process,” Gibel said. “This year, Goodwill received its ninth consecutive three-year CARF accreditation, which has served as the bedrock for our receiving grants, establishing strategic partnerships, and earning numerous awards for our service delivery.”
On Goodwill’s Board of Directors, Gunter served as Chair of the Finance Committee for 11 years, as member of the Executive Committee 20 years, as Secretary/Treasurer 10 years and as Board Chair in 1988 and 2002. His experience analyzing complex employee benefits situations was crucial as Goodwill expanded its programs and services.
In 2012, Gunter spearheaded the initiative to form Goodwill’s affiliation with Crosby Scholars Community Partnership. He was a determined advocate for expanding Goodwill’s scope of impact and addressing education as a root cause of unemployment and underemployment.
During Gunter’s tenure on the Board of Directors, Goodwill has grown from 11 to 47 stores and from $2.5 million to more than $65 million in annual revenue. The employee base has increased tenfold from 118 to 1,100. Goodwill has established innovative partnerships with 11 community colleges and countless government and nonprofit agencies. From a single training facility, Goodwill now offers workforce development services at 18 workforce development sites across the northwest third of the state, which help more than 35,000 people each year gain marketable skills, find jobs and reach financial stability.
When asked what he thinks people should know about Goodwill, Mike says it’s the real impact that Goodwill has in the community it serves. He goes on to say, “Goodwill makes things happen – when we say we help people we really do – it’s huge – and you can’t do it without the funding – it drives the train.”