When do you get to witness pure joy?
The Super Bowl confetti shower? The World Series dog pile? When soldiers return home and throw their arms around their kids? Kids opening presents on Christmas morning?
Pure joy is what happens every other Friday at Goodwill of Orange County’s Community-Based Services building, the hub for almost 500 workers with developmental disabilities.
Every other Friday is pay day.
Screams, hugs, tears, celebration. Hands in the air like you just don’t care. Pay day makes for a raucous afternoon in an office complex off East Dyer Road.
Goodwill workers, with jobs all over Orange County, begin arriving at about 12:30 p.m. The paychecks come in white envelopes, and when the workers open them, the look on their faces can be summed up this way: life-affirming happiness. Those paychecks mean they have earned their place in the world.
Goodwill Community-Based Services has a staff of 170 working with businesses across Orange County to get their program participants into jobs. Through this program, Goodwill provides people with developmental disabilities the opportunity to achieve their highest levels of personal and financial independence.
“It is so pure because they see the value of their work,” said Program Director Rick Adams.
Handing out checks “is one of the best parts of my job,” said Kathi Millett, Senior Program Manager. “We get to see a lot of happy folks, and they’re happy to see us.”
They start asking on Mondays. Is my check going to be ready on Friday? How much is it going to be? The anticipation builds until the Friday explosion of emotion.
Jolene, 33, who rolls silverware into napkins for a local restaurant chain, jumped in the air when she got her check.
“I’M GOING TO THE MOVIES!” she said.
Some of the people who get their checks don’t open them until they get to the bank because they want the bank tellers to know the checks are official with their names on the envelopes.
“I want the bank to know it is real,” said Helena, 26, who scans donated books.
Possibly the most joyous person picking up a check on the last Friday of February was Samantha, 22, who had just finished a shift at Cox Communications cleaning and putting batteries inside television remote controls.
It was her first Goodwill paycheck.
As she approached the table to pick up her check, she told the supervisor “I’m your new best friend” as the supervisor handed her the check.
Samantha didn’t know the amount. The supervisor told her to open the envelope slowly and NOT to shout the amount to the room. They like to keep the amounts of paychecks private.
That didn’t stop Samantha, who was so happy to see the amount of her check, she began shouting the amount for everybody to hear. She hugged a few of her co-workers.
“I will cry later in private,” she said.
Samantha lives in a group home in Laguna Beach. She called her mom to share her joy over the phone.
“I’m speechless,” she said, but she wasn’t.
“I could go to the movies because I want to see ‘The Lazarus Effect,’” she said. “I could get my hair done.”
Taylor, 23, also of Laguna Beach, picked up his check Friday just after Samantha. She gave him a big hug and they danced for a couple of seconds to celebrate.
“This is an amazing day,” Taylor said.