PORT ORANGE — Billy Jack Howson is a tough man to keep up with in the aisles at the Goodwill store on Dunlawton Avenue. dave read.
Pushing a dolly laden with merchandise, Howson, 44, weaves among customers like a NASCAR driver, efficiently stocking shelves with books, lamps and less easily classified bric-a-brac.
"There’s always something to do," said Howson, a mentally disabled adult who found employment with help from Goodwill Industries of Central Florida’s Daytona Beach Job Connection Center.
Goodwill’s Daytona Beach Job Connection Center, at the corner of International Speedway Boulevard and Nova Road, served approximately 3,800 job seekers in 2018, placing roughly 1,200 in jobs.
Through September, the Job Connection Center already has surpassed last year’s numbers — serving approximately 3,900 individuals and placing about 1,190 in jobs. On average, the center sees about 1,700 people each month, including repeat follow-up visitors.
"We have different community resources," said Jennifer Robertson, manager of the Daytona Job Connection Center. "It’s not only about how to obtain employment, but how to keep employment."
Options include job fairs and range from job fairs to Goodwill’s ongoing "Job Works 101," a monthly program that focuses on strategies for creating a job-search plan, networking, interviews, applications and dressing for success.
All of the services are free, supported by donations from merchandise sales at the area’s Goodwill stores, such as the one where Howson stocks the shelves.
"If you want employment, there are opportunities out there," Robertson said. "This market is strong, particularly in construction and hospitality."
For Howson, who had been out of work for a year-and-a-half after previous jobs in grocery stores and restaurants, Goodwill offered instruction on computer skills and advice on crafting an effective resume.
"They welcomed me with open arms," said Howson, a longtime Holly Hill resident, who recently moved to Port Orange with his mother and two brothers. "Goodwill helped me get set up with an email address, a password, resumes. I attended a job fair."
Again, Howson isn’t the only job seekers in need of such assistance, said Howie Taylor, employment specialist at the Daytona Beach center.
"A lot of people come through the door lacking the computer skills necessary to apply for a position," Taylor said. "A lot of folks have a resume that’s pretty outdated."
In addition to employment assistance, Goodwill also can assist with social service issues such as housing, food stamps and issues related to the Department of Children & Families, Taylor said.
At the Port Orange Goodwill store, Howson has made a good first impression on his boss, store manager Kanani Rominger.
"He’s awesome," said Rominger, adding that Howson is on a short list of top employees that she would clone if she could. "He’s very polite and gets along with the customers very well."
On a recent afternoon, Howson helped a customer attach the stained-glass shade to a vintage table lamp.
Often, customers snatch up inventory from storage bins on Howson’s cart before he has a chance to place them on the shelves.
"You should see it," he said. "It’s, like, insane when the boxes come out. People don’t even wait."
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"I look forward to it," Howson said. "I’ve been in grocery stores a long time, restaurants, too. Now I’m doing something different."
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