To grow in his career and earn a family-sustaining wage, Mark Powell needed his high school diploma.
Goodwill of Central & Southern Indiana continues its celebration of Black History Month by spotlighting African American leaders across the organization. Ivan P. Cropper, Vice President of Marketing and Communications and Chief Diversity Officer at Goodwill, sees February as a pivotal time to set the tone for the rest of the year – an opportunity to reflect on the influence of African Americans and those who paved the way for future generations.
"Black history is American history, and although we emphasize it in February, it’s no less important throughout the year," Ivan said.
Black History Month provides a space to recognize Black people’s contributions to America’s successes, which have had an enduring impact. Ivan recalls being influenced by figures such as Jesse Jackson running for president in the 1980s and being drawn to the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. From Spike Lee’s thought-provoking films to Oprah Winfrey’s journey from actor to executive producer in "The Color Purple," Ivan acknowledges the challenges these individuals faced to achieve success.
Ivan's family history is intertwined with the Great Migration – a period of time between 1910 and 1970 when African Americans left the Jim Crow south behind in pursuit of opportunities up north. His mother, father and grandmother left Virginia and North Carolina in the 60s and 70s, with his grandmother selling her established corner store to join her son in Connecticut, where Ivan was later raised.
In response to the events surrounding George Floyd in the summer of 2020, Goodwill of Central & Southern Indiana looked inward to determine its role in fostering a better and more equitable world. The organization appointed Ivan as Chief Diversity Officer, entrusting him to lead the effort in championing diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) throughout the organization. Under Ivan's guidance, Goodwill incorporated DEI into its strategic plan, encouraging all departments to develop their own equity work plans that complement the organization's plans.
"Being the Chief Diversity Officer is understanding the broad spectrum of where people find themselves,” Ivan said. “It's about ensuring that programs and learning opportunities are in place to meet people where they are and allow them to continue their education within that space."
Ivan remains committed to collaborating daily with people from all walks of life. Similar to his parents and grandparents who sought to create opportunities for their futures, Ivan strives to create opportunities for the individuals we employ, educate and serve at Goodwill of Central & Southern Indiana.
"People of color have been on this continent for centuries, making contributions to American life,” Ivan noted. “I genuinely appreciate the people we work with day-to-day and what they bring to the table. Their open hearts and minds for people of all walks of life are evident every day. I’m happy to be a part of it."
A 1.83 carat Cartier diamond platinum ring sold at Goodwill of Central & Southern Indiana
The tradition of giving jewelry to loved ones dates back centuries. According to the American Gemology Institute, women in ancient Rome received rings made of ivory, iron and bone. Between the 14th and 15th centuries, naturally forming diamonds were cut and polished into what is known as point diamonds, the precursor to our modern round brilliant cut diamond. Engagement rings were introduced in America in the early 1900s. In 1948, De Beers, one of the world's leading diamond companies, launched its "Diamonds are Forever" campaign, marking a pivotal moment in the history of jewelry.
Thousands of pieces of jewelry are donated to Goodwill each year, giving these stunning accessories new life, and providing their owners with new opportunities to create memories. When jewelry is donated to Goodwill, it’s first sorted into categories and styles. A quality control member inspects and identifies the pieces, and specific brands will be submitted to a third party to ensure the piece is authentic. A precious metal analyzer is also utilized to help identify the elemental makeup of specific pieces, ensuring the listing is as accurate as possible.
Black History Month continues, and so does Goodwill of Central & Southern Indiana’s highlight of African American leaders contributing to our mission: changing lives every day through education, employment and health. Our next spotlight is on L’Tanya White, the director of The Excel Center® in Clarksville. She brings a passion for inspiring others and 20 years of experience to the school’s staff and students.
February is Black History Month, and Goodwill of Central & Southern Indiana is excited to highlight the African American leaders who contribute to our mission of changing lives every day through health, education and employment. Lakeysha Hamilton, Goodwill’s director of outlets, has been with the organization for over 20 years and looks forward to Black History Month.
The Excel Center®, Goodwill’s tuition-free high school for adults, provided a priceless opportunity for Veronica McNeil to earn her high school diploma in a supportive environment.
Last year was a big year for Goodwill of Central & Southern Indiana as we educated, employed and served more individuals than ever before. Since launching our new Strategic Plan two years ago, we’ve made significant progress on our objectives and goals.
Goodwill Mission Coach Benjamin Hutto began his journey with Goodwill of Central & Southern Indiana in 2016 when he enrolled at The Excel Center®, Goodwill’s high school for adults. Previously homeschooled, Ben struggled to focus, which he later learned was related to undiagnosed attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder and autism spectrum disorder. But The Excel Center in Kokomo empowered him to earn the credits he needed to graduate at an accelerated pace.
Ben continued his education by earning an associate degree from Ivy Tech Community College in 2018, and his bachelor's degree from Indiana University Kokomo the following year. Then, in 2020, the pandemic happened.
Due to his laser focus on his education, Ben had no work history, and he experienced barriers to finding a job after graduating. His Goodwill Mission Coach encouraged him to apply for a leadership position at a local Goodwill store, which led to the next step of his Goodwill journey as a Retail Team Lead. Although Ben was later promoted, he strived to do something beyond the scope of retail. When the opportunity to become a mission coach emerged, he jumped at the chance and applied.
“I know it sounds cliche, but I really enjoy helping others,” said Ben. “I feel that, given my path at Goodwill, I’m uniquely qualified to help students and employees make those connections.”
In 2022, Ben was officially welcomed as the newest Goodwill Mission Coach. He now supports people with similar experiences, who have barriers to employment or education and can use a helping hand to reach their goals. As a mission coach, he connects Goodwill’s employees and students to a number of resources, like Goodwill New Beginnings, a reentry program for individuals previously involved in the criminal justice system, and The Excel Center – the first step in his own Goodwill journey.
“I really appreciate the chances Goodwill gave me,” said Ben. “They were willing to take a risk on me knowing that risks don’t always pay off. There are many companies that won’t do that, so when I’m working with our employees and students, I share my own journey to give them hope about what they can achieve at Goodwill.”
Bradley Sims believes that working for Goodwill is much more than a job — he considers it a family.
“The sober community here is unbelievable. I don’t think I would have made it without them. They had faith in me when no one else did,” Bradley said.
From a young age, Bradley faced a great deal of adversity while growing up with his grandparents in Brown County, Indiana. Both parents struggled with addiction, and his father also struggled daily to maintain his mental health. Watching his father struggle had a direct impact on Bradley’s own mental health.
“My father was suicidal, and it directly impacted me. I was never happy,” Bradley said.
Around age 15, Bradley was introduced to drugs. Shortly after, he discovered that his younger brother had taken his own life, sending him deeper into his battle with addiction. After finishing high school, Bradley and his girlfriend were incarcerated for crimes related to their addiction.
“Watching my girlfriend be taken away by the police was a turning point in me deciding to get sober,” Bradley said.
In addition, his mother passed away while he was incarcerated, leaving him a personal letter which would later help him enter rehab. He enrolled at The Amethyst House, a Bloomington based addiction treatment center. Here he was offered an employment opportunity through Goodwill.
In March 2021, Bradley started his new job at Goodwill’s Commercial Services in Bloomington. With the support of his peers and leadership, Bradley was promoted to the Line Lead position.
“Every aspect of my life has changed since joining Goodwill. I wake up happy, and I want to go to work,” Bradley said.
After joining Goodwill Commercial Services, Bradley obtained his driver’s license, purchased a vehicle and secured housing for his family. He continues to advance himself by mentoring coworkers and attending internal training to broaden his skill sets. He strives to overcome the adversity he faces each day.
“For me, the feeling of loving yourself and knowing that you mean something — that feeling of accomplishment is ten times better than drugs,” Bradley said.
Are you or someone you know looking for a career? Visit goodwillindy.org/careers to apply.