“Giving your gifts is how you live life. It’s not about getting.”
We heard the above remark from Trish Perry, but you could easily imagine her husband Jay using the exact same words. They stopped by our offices a couple weeks ago with Twyla, the young woman Trish has started mentoring through Goodwill-Easter Seals’ volunteer mentoring program.
Originally from Chicago, Trish wanted her first job after college to be “somewhere different.” So, she took a job as a buyer at a retail store in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Jay is a Louisiana native. One day Trish noticed him pushing a cart on the docks near where she worked.
They’re in Minnesota now – happily married for 25 years.
They’re inspirational in all sorts of ways, including being part of Goodwill-Easter Seals’ mentoring program. For Trish, the program matched her with Twyla, a single mom looking to start her own business.
Jay was just ending a role as a scoutmaster when Trish mentioned Goodwill-Easter Seals’ mentoring program. He thought it would be another good opportunity to volunteer. So far, he’s been involved in group mentoring with participants in Goodwill-Easter Seals’ Construction, Automotive and ReEntry programs. He may soon start working as a 1-on-1 mentor as well. “I love going to the group sessions and talking to people there,” Jay explains. “Almost everyone there has a similar story or shared experience. It helps people understand that they’re not alone – and it can be scary to take that next step.”
The mentoring program is an important piece of a Goodwill-Easter Seals’ volunteer program that saw over 40,000 hours of volunteer service in 2015. Both group and individual mentoring programs are offered.
Matching mentors with the right mentee is an important part of the program’s success. “We don’t match people just to match people,” says Goodwill-Easter Seals’ Mentoring Coordinator Melissa Brandel. “We want to ensure it’s a great fit.”
Part of what makes Trish and Jay great for mentoring is their desire to help others. “One of our values as a family is to give back,” Trish says. “It’s a part of who we are.”
A few years ago, those values were put to the test when Trish was faced with a series of personal challenges. She was laid off from her 20-year job in corporate America in 2009. In 2012 she was diagnosed with breast cancer. In 2013 her sister was diagnosed with cancer.
Her inspirational and compassionate response to the crisis will come as no surprise. Instead of letting the challenges derail her, she used them as a way to pursue a passion for coaching others. She started building a life-coaching business called “Harmonize” whose focus is to help people who have gone through trauma in their lives.
“I’d wanted to do coaching for a long time,” she explains.”Even though it was just a small part of my job before, I loved the team building, mentoring and training best. I worked in HR on pilot programs and knew this is what I wanted to do.”
Jay brings his own unique background to his mentoring role. A mechanical engineer with his own contracting business, he has masters degrees in physical therapy and education.
From Twyla’s perspective, she’s thrilled to have some support in turning her dream into something real. “If you want to go somewhere in life it helps to have a mentor,” she says. “When you’re all alone without help your dream feels far away. It seems much more possible when you have help.”