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Hidden Gems: Sweetwater Goodwill gives employee purpose, helps community

This story is originally from KTAB/KRBC's Hidden Gems segment. Click here to see more from this story and others around the Big Country.

A Hidden Gem isn’t always an item in a store or food in a restaurant. Sometimes, it’s the employees. An example of this is Dimitri Karnes, who is a well-known face for those who make the trip to Goodwill West Texas – Sweetwater.

Working there for close to 10 years, Karnes has spent a large part of his life in this store because they gave him the opportunity to work.

Diagnosed with cerebral palsy, which affects his ability to move and balance well, many places denied Karnes employment because of the disability.

“Some people say like, ‘this wouldn’t be a place for you and jobs are not always easy,'” Karnes repeated.

One store that ended up being a good place for Karnes was Goodwill West Texas – Sweetwater. He was offered a job which provided employment and offered guidance for his life. The guidance has even helped him renew his drivers license.

The non profit thrift store is now able to provide 15 to 20 jobs in Sweetwater for those who have barriers which may prevent them from gainful employment.

“In addition to having those local jobs available in Sweetwater, we also attribute to a more sustainable economy,” said Kaitlin Paonessa, Director of Communications.

Paonessa told KTAB/KRBC they do everything they can to help with the economy, especially during times of economic distress.

“Those items are not going to landfills or into the trash,” Paonessa explained. “So for example, last year across all of our territory, we diverted 3.1 million pounds from landfills.”

It was Goodwill’s sustainability that Paonessa said drew her in to the non profit in the first place.

“Eighty-seven cents of every dollar spent in our stores funds our mission programs,” Paonessa continued.

That money all goes back to the Sweetwater community, which goes towards helping local families by selling quality items at low prices. Right now, the low prices are helping families during back-to-school shopping.

Dimitri said he encourages families to come Goodwill West Texas – Sweetwater because of the lower prices.

“I’m like, you’re stealing almost, it’s so cheap,” he added.

Dimitri told KTAB/KRBC he is thankful for how this store has helped his life, “because it’s a job and it keeps my life going.”

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