In a time when finding employment is a challenge, being a veteran with a disability can make the job search even more difficult. As a vocational training specialist at Goodwill Industries of Central Florida, Elizabeth Castro helps former service members prepare to find meaningful work or continue their educations. Elizabeth joined Goodwill in 1995, working at the organization’s Astoria, New York, location before moving to Orlando in 2007. She embodies a deep commitment to the Goodwill mission – and earns rave reviews from those she serves.
In her role, Elizabeth is equal parts advocate, mentor and manager. In addition to veterans, she works with people who are chronically unemployed due to substance abuse, criminal records or other barriers. She first assesses each individual’s capabilities for work. Then, she guides them through a 90-day on-the-job training program, where they learn transferrable skills such as customer service and inventory tracking.
Depending on the nature of their disability, they might work as a stocker in Goodwill’s retail stores, load trucks in its transportation department or list items for sale in Goodwill’s online store. Their work helps to increase revenue, allowing Goodwill to help more people in the community. Along the way, Elizabeth coaches them with setting and meeting individual goals – whether it’s returning to school, long-term employment at Goodwill or getting a job elsewhere.
Elizabeth builds an immediate sense of rapport with her clients by treating them with empathy and sensitivity. She balances compassion and firmness, respecting each one’s limitations while holding them to a high professional standard. Her upbeat, cheerful personality provides a much-needed boost to her clients.
During the past two years, Elizabeth has played a key role in developing Goodwill’s partnership with the state’s Veteran Administration and Department of Veteran Affairs. With an influx of veterans returning home, Goodwill plays a critical role in helping them reintegrate into civilian life. Having worked with many vets who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, Elizabeth provides perspective and encouragement to help them address their struggles and transition into the civilian workforce.
For Elizabeth, her job is a practical, meaningful way to honor vets for their service. “If someone can just tell you, ‘We’re here to support you and believe in you,’ sometimes that’s all you need to hear,” she says. “We recently hired a veteran into a full-time position. When he was first referred to us, he questioned why he needed this program. But then he fell in love with Goodwill, and he performed very well in his training. He tells us we changed his life, because he would be homeless without Goodwill. That’s the kind of success we’re working toward every day.”
Contact Elizabeth Castro for more information.