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Mom of Four Overcomes Homelessness with Help from Goodwill

Vivianne Flanighan’s face lights up when she talks about how Goodwill helped her become a success. “When I look back at where I was then, compared to now, I can’t believe I did it,” said the mother of four.

Flanighan was unemployed and homeless, staying in a Norfolk shelter with her family in 2010. She had worked many jobs, but none were stable or fruitful enough to provide the life she wanted for her family. “I was living off food stamps. It was hard, and I wanted to do better. I just needed a chance,” she said.

Flanighan qualified for benefits from the Temporary Aid for Needy Families (TANF) program through the Virginia Department of Social Services. As a TANF recipient, Flanighan also participated in the Virginia Initiative for Employment not Welfare Program, which provides job skills training and employment opportunities through various workforce partnerships. One of those partnerships is with Goodwill and its Transition to Independence and Employment (TIE) program.

Through Goodwill’s TIE program, participants receive 12 weeks of paid, on-the-job training at its College Park retail location and six weeks of job readiness workshops. Those workshops teach job search skills such as interviewing, resume writing job searching and dressing for success as well as financial literacy and conflict resolution.

“The TIE program is facilitated in a small group setting where individuals can get more personal, one-on-one support,” said Sharon Hunter, Goodwill’s TIE program manager. “The program takes into account the fact that these individuals have barriers to employment, and we can provide more intensive and supportive training,” she said.

Flanighan began to flourish as an employee at Goodwill’s College Park location. Her strong work ethic and friendly disposition became a hit with her co-workers, and her supervisor noticed her ambition.

“Vivianne always jumps in and helps where it’s needed without being asked,” said Kim Loveland, retail operations manager for the College Park store. “She’ll hop on a register and cash out customers, hang clothes, set up housewares and serve as a donation attendant when people drop off goods,” said Loveland.

Loveland also praises Flanighan’s commitment to delivering good customer service to Goodwill’s shoppers. “Vivianne is a sweet and caring person. I know many of our customers visit the store just to say hi to her,” said Loveland.

Five years later, Flanighan’s initiative combined with her knowledge of the store lead her to earn a promotion to Lead Associate. That job includes many responsibilities, such as helping to open and close the store, making cash deposits, delegating tasks to other associates and working with other managers on production and store operations.

“It felt good to achieve that. I work hard and I am proud of myself. It’s great to work for an organization that lets me move up as an employee,” said Flanighan.

That pride is echoed by Hunter. “Our TIE participants strive to help themselves and their families by moving from public assistance to self-sufficiency. Vivianne’s story is one of many successes made possible through Goodwill,” she said.