Q&A with Goodwill Partner Shari Battle of Bank of America

Goodwill of Orange County honored 35 community partners in May for their contributions to helping change lives through the power of work.

Shari Battle, Senior Vice President, Global Marketing and Corporate Affairs, was among the honorees for her years of tireless advocacy for people with disabilities.

ShariBattleWe recently connected with her to learn more about her passion for giving back.

Goodwill: Tell us about Bank of America Foundation’s history with Goodwill.

Shari: Our history with Goodwill of Orange County goes back more than 10 years and was strengthened further when Goodwill of Orange County received the Bank of America Neighborhood Builders award in 2010. The Neighborhood Builder grant connects nonprofits with leadership development as well as $200,000 in flexible funding to help empower them to meet the changing needs in local communities.

The Neighborhood Builders recognition really speaks volumes about Goodwill because the winner is chosen not only by Bank of America, but by members of the community as well, based on the impact they have in the Orange County marketplace. Once an organization receives the Builders award, they are part of the Bank of America family. Following Goodwill’s award, I wanted to make sure that we continue our growing partnership and do what we can do to expand their mission of changing lives by the power of work.

Goodwill: What initially made you want to partner with Goodwill?

Shari: For me – you can’t think of Goodwill without a smile on your face, you just can’t. It’s the smiles that Goodwill puts on the faces of the people they put to work everyday that made me want to partner with them. They are giving people empowerment and independence.

In my office, I have in one of the centerpieces from a past Goodwill Community Appreciation Breakfast – it’s a little tree and hanging from the branches are little tags that say things like, “groceries for my family,” “a birthday present for my dad,” etc. What these words symbolize are a few things that Goodwill program participants did with their first paychecks. It grounds you. It’s a reminder every day of the great work Goodwill is doing.

There are many different little businesses operating within Goodwill all for the purpose of putting paychecks in people hands. It’s an incredible model and you see the young men and women from Goodwill programs working with a sense of pride and smiles on their faces. It’s their mission that made me want to partner with Goodwill. And they are very sincere about it.

Goodwill: How many people do you employ in OC? Any stories you can share about some of Bank of America’s employees with disabilities finding success at work?

Shari: We employ about 5,000 people in Orange County and there is one employee story that comes to mind. We have a gentleman who works at our Brea campus who is completely blind. He works in one of our call centers and uses a system called JAWS (Job Access with Speech) to enable him to work and serve his customers. JAWS is a computer screen reader program that allows blind and visually impaired users to read the screen. Bank of America provides assistive technology and this is just one example of how we can help accommodate employees with disabilities or special needs.

Goodwill: Bank of America places several high school students with Goodwill each summer for internships – tell us about that program, how did it come about?

Shari: The Bank of America Student Leaders program recognizes community-minded high school students and connects them to paid summer internships with local nonprofits, along with trip to Washington, D.C. to participate in the Student Leadership Summit. In Orange County, we award five local students and for the past three years, we have three of those students intern at Goodwill of Orange County. These students are truly amazing. They show an aptitude for community service and have a passion for giving back. One of the students from last year is actually coming back this year to be part of the program again. That says a lot about her internship at Goodwill.

Goodwill: Most recently, Goodwill of Orange County was awarded a Workforce Development grant from Bank of America. Tell us why you selected Goodwill for this special grant? What about the Goodwill job program made them an ideal candidate?

Shari: Goodwill of Orange County is one of the only entities in OC that is making a significant impact and dent in this space. Goodwill has a track record and it’s very significant. They are also set up to not only serve and help people find employment in Santa Ana, but with their stores scattered around the county, they can offer services to individuals throughout Orange County. Because Goodwill is well respected in the community for putting people back to work and are positioned to expand even further, they were an ideal grantee for the Workforce Development Grant.

Goodwill: What else does B of A do to support the community?

Shari: With Bank of America, we really support community by forming partnerships and building relationships. In addition to providing more than 1 million in grants to 50 local nonprofits last year, our employees logged more than 36,000 hours of community service. Bank of America employees also serve on 83 OC nonprofit boards, provide pro bono expertise and of course, give their time to various organizations such as Goodwill.

We should not underestimate the power of volunteers and Bank of America’s volunteer network is important to how we can continue supporting our partnerships. Our volunteers are so passionate about giving back to the community and they deserve a huge thank you! I feel really blessed to be surrounded by them and to work for a company that has always put an emphasis on giving back. Bank of America not only supports it but also encourages it – paying full-time employees two hours of pay time per week to volunteer.Shari Challenger cropGoodwill: What are some basic financial tips you’d provide to our program participants?

Shari: We have many resources with great financial tips and advice for program participants. One is the website: www.BetterMoneyHabits.com. Bank of America partnered with Khan Academy to create this comprehensive site to help guide people learn about money, covering topics they want to learn about, using terms and example they can understand. The site is packed with quick, two-minute videos that are great for learning.

For individuals with special needs and their families, Bank of America also created a tailored toolkit and workbook to help parents and caregivers navigate financial matters. You can access the introduction brochure here and workbook here.

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