Award-winning artist, Special Olympian, and cancer survivor, Jacob Simons, never lets his disability hold him back

Jessica and Jacob

Jacob Simons and his mom, Jessica

Jacob Simons, a native of Mobile, is an 18 year old senior at Alabama School for the Blind in Talladega. Five days before he turned two years old, he was diagnosed with cancer. He fought it for a year and lost his right eye, then fought it for another year and lost his left eye, so he was completely blind by the time he was four years old.

“He never complains,” said his mom, Jessica. “He has helped me more than anybody will ever know. It’s been hard for me to let him
do things, but who am I to hold him back? As much as I want him at home, it would be selfish of me to keep him from having an opportunity to better himself. He may be good at something, and how am I going to know unless I let him try? He does the standing long jump, shotput, and softball toss in the Special Olympics. He’s been on the wrestling, soccer, swim, and track teams at school. He rides horses. He ran an entire marathon,” she said. “He was also the only student in the entire school to make straight ‘A’s last year. Jacob loves life. Now he’s trying to convince me to let him drive!”

“I promise I won’t burn too much rubber,” said Jacob, grinning at his mom.

Jacob 1

Jacob at work in the summer job training program at Goodwill Easter Seals

Jacob came to Goodwill Easter Seals to take part in a six week summer job training program for teens who are blind, deaf, or have visual or hearing impairments after having spent the previous summer working at our Azalea Road Store. Two of our staff in Employment Services, Betsy and Maxine, have had the pleasure of working with Jacob this summer.

Jacob and Employment Services staff

GES Employment Services staff and Jacob in the workshop

“My experience with Jacob has been short, but the self confidence this young man has is amazing,” said Betsy. “He will try anything and he’s very independent. He doesn’t back away from any challenge. He really does bring joy everywhere he goes.”

Jacob will soon be finished with high school and ready to move on to the E. H. Gentry college
program, where they will let him try different trades to see which one fits him best. “Even though he is excited about college, he says he wants to stay here and work with Ms. Betsy forever,” said his mom.

“Ms. Betsy’s my sidekick. I’ve really enjoyed working with her,” said Jacob.

painting

Jacob’s award winning painting, which now hangs in the Tennessee Valley Art Museum in Tuscumbia County, Alabama

Jacob is not only an exemplary employee and a very determined young man with many talents and skills, he has also been painting for six years.

“He entered one painting in the Helen Keller Art
Show and won. That painting is now hanging in the Tennessee Valley Museum of Art in Tuscumbia County,” said his mom.

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One of the masks Jacob donated to benefit St. Jude’s Mardi Gras fundraiser

Jacob was also a patient of St. Jude’s. “They released him this past June, and he is considered a survivor now,” said Jessica. “One of the benefits for St. Jude’s is a Mardi Gras Ball, and he painted and donated masks for it, which sold for thousands of dollars. He donated the proceeds to help other kids fight like people helped him.”

“We don’t sweat the small stuff,” she said, “because you never know what’s going to happen. I’m proud of him. He does not lay around and feel sorry for himself or let his disability get in his way.”

Look out, world. Jacob is headed your way, and he has some very big plans for his very bright future.

GES Volunteers honored today at UWSWA 2015 Campaign Kickoff

IMG_0109United Way of Southwest Alabama held its 2015 Campaign Kickoff event this morning with a special presentation involving Goodwill Easter Seals: six volunteers from our Education and Financial Stability programs received the Volunteer Heart of Gold award.

Angelia Poellnitz (Education), along with Jim Brewer, Mary Ann White, Jayne Kennedy, Paul Bergman, and Chad Newton (Financial Stability) have selflessly given their time in order to help better the lives of others in our community.

IMG_0121Within the past year, Angelia Poellnitz , who previously mentored a teen in Goodwill Easter Seals’ GoodGuides Mentoring program, began assisting with a photography class with area teens to build marketable skills for future careers. The purpose of GoodGuides is to give high school aged youth a strong reason to stay in school, build skills toward future careers, and gain experience and transferable skills that can be used by the teen for present or future employment opportunities.  Angelia met with a class of eight students two times per week, then took on an additional group of students who have many challenges, to deliver the same instruction and photography practice, and ultimately, renewed her involvement as a mentor for the GoodGuides Teen Mentoring Program.

IMG_0119Together, our Financial Stability volunteers have devoted over 500 hours to the Goodwill Easter Seals Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program during the past year at multiple tax sites in Mobile, Baldwin and Escambia counties. Through the VITA Program, taxpayers not only get a tax return prepared and e-filed at no charge, they also receive guidance regarding withholdings, credits and deductions that will help them save money in the long term.  The volunteers spent extra time in researching tax laws independently as well as attaining certification in additional areas so their expertise is of great value to the agency and are the “go to” gurus for difficult returns and questions. With a dedication to the program and a work ethic that most employers would pay dearly for, our VITA volunteers never say “no” when asked to help out with special tax preparation events or to assist with tax sites as far away as Pensacola and Ft. Walton Beach, FL.

From the bottom of our hearts, THANK YOU to Angelia, Jim, Mary Ann, Jayne, Paul, and Chad for lending your Hearts of Gold to our mission and helping people on the Gulf Coast lead fuller lives and find brighter futures!

GES and Mobile County Jail are looking for a few good men and women who want to make a difference in the lives of inmates

iStock_000001780949_LargeSomething amazing is happening inside the county jail– inmates are finding Goodwill Easter Seals’ GED program, and are joining to get their high school education. If they succeed in passing the test, they have a 50% better chance of leaving the jail and NEVER COMING BACK. Classes are held inside the chapel at specific times during daytime hours.

Want to make a difference like never before? Help tutor or assist with classroom tasks like grading. We match men with men’s classes, and women with women’s classes. We have a critical need for more help for the men, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.

If you are interested in this volunteer opportunity or know someone who would like to help make a difference, please visit our page on VolunteerMatch.org or call Lydia at 251-380-7150.

#MilestoneMondays

It’s World Photography Day!

Even though it isn’t ‪#‎throwbackthursday‬, today is ‪#‎worldphotographyday‬!Goodwill-truck

Goodwill Industries has been in operation since 1902, helping people by giving them inspiration and self confidence to lead a productive life. During the early thirties when this photograph was taken, Goodwill was assisting people with disabilities and others in need. Here on the Gulf Coast in 2015, our co-branded organization, Goodwill Easter Seals, is still carrying on that same mission.

Photo courtesy of the Richard Bolt Collection.

easter seals adaEaster Seals, a national organization which we are still a part of today, also began nearly 100 years ago in 1919 with the mission to help people with disabilities. In the spring of 1934, the organization launched its first Easter “seals” campaign to raise money for its services. To show their support, donors placed the seals on envelopes and letters. Easter Seals has been instrumental in advocating for the passage of legislation to help people with disabilities achieve independence, including the Americans with Disasbilities Act (ADA), which was passed in 1990. This photo was taken from one of their campaign posters supporting the passage of the ADA.

Photo courtesy of Easter Seals.