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Holistic wellness programs energize organization’s workforce

By Karen Kramer

C of GoodCare“We put people first … all people.”
This value of Goodwill Industries of North Central Wisconsin (Goodwill NCW) is central in all aspects of the organization’s operations and guides the organization’s leaders and employees—called team members—in their relationships with others.

Goodwill NCW supports its people-first value through a commitment to care for team members as whole persons who have complex lives. The organization’s leaders recognize that any challenges that team members are facing in their personal lives do not disappear when they come to work. In fact, the weight of those challenges can hinder team members from bringing their best to the tasks at hand. The organization has responded by nurturing a culture of holistic wellness in the workplace.

Circles of Care program boosts organizational value 
Jeff Stieg (right) and Bethany Retzlaff (left)
Jeff Stieg (right), a health and wellness coach at Goodwill NCW, checks team member Bethany Retzlaff’s blood pressure

Goodwill NCW created the Circles of Care program to address team members’ life challenges—whether their difficulty is emotional, spiritual, psychological, physical, or financial. The disciplines in Circles of Care work together to provide guidance, care, and resources to help team members find stability and motivation to move forward with their lives.

Circles of Care comprises two health and wellness coaches, a financial wellness coach, and a full- and a part-time interfaith chaplain. They work in concert with behavioral health providers through the Team Member Assistance Program (commonly called an Employee Assistance Program, or EAP, in other organizations).

The Circles of Care concept began in 2007 when Goodwill NCW hired its first chaplain. The chaplain ensures that the organization is welcoming and inclusive for persons of all faith traditions and, when requested, provides confidential pastoral support to team members to help them deal with life issues at home and at work.

Three years later, Goodwill NCW hired a nurse as the second person in the Circles of Care program. The nurse’s role later transitioned into the two health and wellness coach positions. As team members’ enthusiasm for and participation in Circles of Care increased, a financial wellness coach joined the program, and in 2013 the organization hired a part-time chaplain to serve team members in the western part of Wisconsin.

Because Goodwill NCW’s more than 1,400 team members are located throughout a 35-county region, geography has been one of the hurdles Circles of Care has had to overcome. The coaches and chaplains schedule on-site visits at all locations in varying rotations. They also make themselves available to team members by telephone, email, text messaging, video chats, and one-on-one appointments.

Program yields positive benefits and appreciation
Goodwill NCW has experienced several measurable financial impacts since the Circles of Care program was launched, including:

  • Negligible increases in its health insurance premiums for the past three years.
  • A greater understanding and participation among team members in Goodwill’s other benefit programs.
  • Healthier habits among team members.

However, the largest benefit is in the hearts of the organization’s team members. They realize that each one of them is truly cared for and supported in a visible and tangible way.

Circles of Care frequently receives messages of gratitude and appreciation,” said the Rev. Dottie Mathews, chaplain and leader of Circles of Care for Goodwill NCW. “One came in the form of an unsigned postcard to me that read, ‘Just knowing you’re here for me makes me realize I CAN go through any struggles. I believe in you, and you believe in me!’ Sentiments like these are invaluable.”

Hand Up Fund reinforces Circles of Care concept
This demonstration of caring at Goodwill NCW recently took another step with the January 2013 rollout of the Hand Up Fund, which provides assistance to team members who are facing serious financial situations. A small committee reviews team members’ confidential applications and determines what kinds of assistance may be available. Although less than a year old, the fund has already assisted team members with funeral expenses, travel to visit gravely ill relatives, car repairs, food, and rent.

Two members of Circles of Care serve with the Hand Up Fund committee. Chaplain Mathews helps persons in emotional crises, and Jaclyn Banda, in her role as financial wellness coach, helps develop long-term solutions to team members’ financial struggles.

A team member who received assistance through the Hand Up Fund wrote to Banda, “Words just do not seem enough to express the gratefulness I have for you and the Hand Up Fund committee. My visit with my mom was bittersweet but would not have happened without your help. I hold a special place for all of you in my heart. I have never had the experience to work for a company who actually cares for their team members the way that Goodwill does. Goodwill is the family that I can count on to get me through anything. Again, thank you for all you did for me.” Dottie Mathews provides counsel
Goodwill NCW Chaplain Dottie Mathews (left) provides compassionate counsel to a team member who is seeking emotional and spiritual support

The Hand Up Fund is sustained through voluntary monetary contributions from the organization’s leaders and team members. Whatever amount a team member is able to give is welcomed and appreciated.

“Some people with the most significant challenges were the first ones to sign up to help with this new initiative,” Mathews said. “We see many 25-cent to 50-cent per payroll donations for the Hand Up Fund. It’s touching that so many team members view us (Goodwill) as their family.”

Organizational leadership underpins the success of holistic programs
A recent CARF survey report of Goodwill NCW observed, “The organization’s leadership strategy has created a culture for attracting highly talented individuals who expect and strive for optimum performance in an energized, joyful, and zany work environment.”

The report continued, “Leadership strategy is holistically integrated among all aspects and levels of the organization. The organization is noted for training Wisconsin businesses and many community organizations in strategic leadership. In recognition of its excellence, Goodwill Industries of North Central Wisconsin has been awarded a best workplace award by New North in collaboration with North Central Wisconsin Council on Economic Development. Goodwill Industries of North Central Wisconsin is positioned to offer leadership strategy training to other CARF-accredited organizations.”

For more information about the Circles of Care program, contact the Rev. Dottie Mathews, chaplain and leader of Circles of Care for Goodwill NCW, at (920) 968-6559 or Jaclyn Banda financial plan
Jaclyn Banda (left), Goodwill NCW’s financial wellness coach, meets with a team member to develop a financial plan that can help him realize his dream of buying a house

Tips for starting and operating a Circles of Care program
The Circles of Care program has been successful because it flows naturally within Goodwill NCW’s culture of caring. Other organizations can develop a comparable program if they truly value the people they employ and are willing to demonstrate their commitment.

Before beginning a similar program in your organization, consider:

  • A culture of caring must begin at the top of your organization. Without the support of senior leadership, a program like Circles of Care could not exist.
  • Starting small and allowing the program to grow gradually.
  • Adapting and refining the program to address the specific needs of your organization’s diverse workforce.
  • Being mindful of caring for the whole person through the services provided. Everyone has different challenges and abilities.
  • A holistic wellness approach includes (1) emotional and spiritual well-being, (2) health and wellness, (3) financial stability, and (4) personal safety.
  • Hiring the appropriate people for Circles of Care—individuals who are experienced and skilled in their areas of expertise and are passionate about what they do.
  • Assuring your employees that Circles of Care will treat conversations confidentially—unless there is a concern for an individual’s personal safety.
  • Continuing to build and maintain support for the program through all levels of the organization.
  • Never losing sight of the reason you decided to implement a program like Circles of Care in the first place: “Because it’s the right thing to do.”

Complementary benefit programs at Goodwill NCW
A recent CARF survey report commended Goodwill NCW for its “substantial investment in leadership training and coaching, learning and subscribing to corporate and industrial leadership models, and business practices that further continuous results and uncompromised attainment of critical strategic goals.”

In addition to the Circles of Care program and Hand Up Fund, Goodwill NCW offers its team members:

  • Caring Leader Series – Conducted over several months, this leadership development curriculum is designed to encourage the cultural integration of new leaders in eight days of multifaceted training. The Caring Leader Series builds a foundation for leadership expectations as well as contributes to each new leader’s overall success.
  • Talent Day – During a full day of interviewing, leadership candidates participate in a variety of exercises designed to show how individual candidates would lead in different situations. The observations of actual candidate leadership behavior have allowed Goodwill NCW to significantly improve the success rate of its selection process for new leaders.
  • Tuition Reimbursement – Available for courses taken toward an undergraduate or graduate degree from an accredited school, the reimbursement is offered to help further a team member’s education—both for personal growth and for developing skills that can be applied in the organization.
  • GED/HSED Program – Goodwill’s General Educational Development (GED) and High School Equivalency Diploma (HSED) program enables team members to earn a diploma. Personalized instruction, creative scheduling options, and wraparound supportive services are offered to meet their academic needs and to promote their growth and development.
  • Domestic Partner Benefits – Health, dental, and dependent life insurance benefits apply to same- or opposite-sex couples who share a committed and mutually dependent relationship similar to that of a married couple.
  • Wellness Initiatives – A yearly $50 reimbursement helps to pay for programs for maintaining a healthy lifestyle, such as Weight Watchers®, Jenny Craig, Curves®, or any health club membership. A lifetime maximum benefit of $200 for products and programs to aid in quitting the use of tobacco is also available.
  • Team Member Assistance Program (TAP) – The employer-sponsored counseling program is often known as an Employee Assistance Program, or EAP, in other organizations. This is a free and confidential counseling program for team members and members of their household.
  • Bereavement Leave – Goodwill’s policy doesn’t specify a set number of days for different family relationships, such as “three days for a spouse” or “two days for a sibling.” When team members are affected deeply by the the loss of a loved one, accommodations are made to work around the appropriate number of days they need for grieving.

About Goodwill Industries of North Central Wisconsin
“Elevating People, Transforming Communities” is the mission of Goodwill Industries of North Central Wisconsin (Goodwill NCW).

Goodwill NCW is a not-for-profit human services organization that helped improve the lives of more than 51,000 persons across north central Wisconsin in 2012 through its more than 25 programs and services. The organization serves 35 counties and includes 25 retail stores and training centers. A member of Goodwill Industries International and Rehabilitation For Wisconsin, it has been serving north central Wisconsin communities since 1971. Visit the website at

About the author
Karen KramerKaren Kramer served as the senior editor at Goodwill Industries of North Central Wisconsin between 2008 and 2013. Before serving with Goodwill, she was the public relations manager at Fox Valley Technical College in Appleton, Wisconsin.

Kramer has a background in journalism and was previously an editor and reporter for two Wisconsin newspapers. Her writing has been published in Transforming Teaching with Technology: Perspectives from Two-Year Colleges in the book’s chapter highlighting her past employer.

Kramer received a bachelor’s degree from the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point.

(Historical Newsletter Articles,Employment and Community Services)

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