Times of the Islands - - Outdoors - Craig Gar­rett is Group Edi­tor-in-Chief for TOTI Me­dia.

• Good­will In­dus­tries of Southwest Florida Inc. has been awarded sev­eral top hon­ors in a va­ri­ety of cat­e­gories. Both na­tion­ally and lo­cally, Good­will was rec­og­nized for its work in re­tail, busi­ness and mis­sion sec­tors. • In July 2015, Good­will was voted best thrift store and best non­profit in a Southwest Florida poll. That same month, Good­will was also voted best char­i­ta­ble or­ga­ni­za­tion in a busi­ness poll; mark­ing the sec­ond year in a row that Good­will re­ceived the honor. • Good­will was also rec­og­nized by Good­will In­dus­tries In­ter­na­tional for its ef­forts in sus­tain­abil­ity. Good­will re­ceived Honor­able Men­tion for the Energy Chal­lenge Award, which uti­lized Good­will’s Energy Star Port­fo­lio Man­ager rat­ings. • In Au­gust of 2015, Good­will’s Busi­ness Ser­vices was also rec­og­nized by Good­will In­ter­na­tional for the most growth over the last year. It was the first year Good­will In­ter­na­tional gave the award. Busi­ness Ser­vices of­fers vend­ing, jan­i­to­rial and doc­u­ment de­struc­tion ser­vices. • Good­will In­dus­tries of Southwest Florida Inc. is a non­profit serv­ing Col­lier, Lee, Char­lotte, Hendry and Glades coun­ties. Rev­enue earned at Good­will’s 30 Southwest Florida thrift stores sup­ports Good­will’s mis­sion of help­ing peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties and dis­ad­van­tages by of­fer­ing life-chang­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties to achieve in­de­pen­dence. Good­will’s pro­grams in Southwest Florida in­clude Job-Link out­reach cen­ters, small busi­ness train­ing classes, dis­abil­ity-ac­ces­si­ble hous­ing, Good­will L.I.F.E. Acad­emy char­ter school and more. • In 2015, Good­will In­dus­tries of Southwest Florida helped about 42,000 peo­ple over­come their bar­ri­ers to em­ploy­ment and in­de­pen­dence. That is roughly one in ev­ery 29 Southwest Florida res­i­dents. Suc­cess sto­ries in­clude peo­ple with new skills, jobs, ed­u­ca­tion,

hous­ing, trans­porta­tion and more. and see­ing a smile on their faces. Life is all about help­ing oth­ers.”

Estrada’s story, how­ever, is one of thou­sands over Good­will’s 50-year his­tory in Southwest Florida.

Lynn Pot­torf, for in­stance, is prin­ci­pal of Good­will L.I.F.E. Acad­emy in Fort My­ers, a char­ter school where 50 mid­dle and high school stu­dents with in­tel­lec­tual chal­lenges at­tend classes. Most com­plete the pro­gram with a diploma or cer­tifi­cate of com­ple­tion, she says. The pro­gram started with a hand­ful of stu­dents in 2004, has be­come a busy com­plex pro­vid­ing aca­demic, vo­ca­tional and life skills train­ing to its stu­dents, ex­plains Pot­torf, a diminu­tive woman burst­ing with en­thu­si­asm for her mis­sion to as­sist those in great­est need. Most of the stu­dents will re­quire help in nav­i­gat­ing the bal­ance of their lives, she adds.

In her of­fice, Pot­torf shares the school’s mis­sion state­ment with a vis­i­tor while greet­ing and redi­rect­ing stu­dents pok­ing their heads into the room be­fore head­ing home. She is emo­tional in de­scrib­ing some of their jour­neys, ad­ding that the school’s class and lab in­struc­tors “are a spe­cial kind of teacher, cel­e­brat­ing ev­ery step” of a stu­dent’s de­vel­op­ment. “It’s the best job in the world.”

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