The Day America Came Together

Nov 11, 2009 | Updated Nov 17, 2011

In some ways it is hard to imagine that it has been eight years since our nation was attacked. We all remember where we were on September 11, 2001. I was in my office in Alexandria, VA, and could actually hear the explosion at the Pentagon. It was a frightening and somber day, but also a time when America came together with renewed commitment to one another and the nation. I am so proud of my friends, family and fellow Americans who rallied together and refused to allow the fabric of this great nation to be torn apart. This coming together and commitment to service - not only on September 11th but every day - is one of the things that sets America apart from other countries.

At Goodwill Industries, our entire social enterprise is mission-oriented. We sell your donated items to fund programs and services designed to help empower people who are having a hard time finding a job. We provide employment programs that strengthen communities and families and promote independence and dignity for people who need it most. And the people of Goodwill believe it is important to give back in ways beyond our day jobs.

I am particularly proud of Goodwill Industries International's commitment to the 9/11 National Day of Service and Remembrance and our efforts with Greater D.C. Cares, the region's leading coordinator of volunteers. We are a team of 15 folks who are volunteering today at the Central Union Mission's Heaven Grocery Store in Northeast Washington, D.C. We are sorting items, stocking shelves, cleaning up and basically doing whatever needs to be done. We are just one team of thousands from across the country who represent organizations, companies and the local, state and federal government coming together to give back and help transform a day of sorrow into a day of service.

At Goodwill agencies in North America, volunteers help improve the lives of people in need. The people who donate their time are as diverse as the programs and services we offer. Families with kids serve meals at a Goodwill homeless shelter, while busy professionals lend their expertise to help others earn a living wage. Retirees teach ESL classes and mentor students while schools organize donation drives.

I'd like to mention one of our many volunteers. Doug Smith is a busy partner at one of Hawaii's top law firms. He championed an $11 million land and capital campaign -- overcoming zoning and other hurdles - to build a facility on the leeward coast of the island of Oahu. Thanks to Doug's tireless service the people of Oahu can now receive job training and career services without having to travel four hours a day.

Everyone has something to offer, including you.

You can mentor a young person by developing a one-on-one relationship and helping them gain skills, be successful in school, and advancing in life. You can help give a competitive edge to people searching for a career by teaching classes that improve job skills, reviewing resumes or conducting mock interviews. Or, you can help prepare taxes for people with low incomes so that they are sure to claim critical tax deductions and avoid predatory tax filing services. Goodwill volunteers are strengthening lives, families, and communities. You too can help by calling (800) 664-6577 or by visiting to find a local Goodwill near you.

I want to thank all of you who volunteer, whether at your local Goodwill or other organization in your community. While time passes and often heals, the pain and sacrifice of September 11, 2001, should never be erased from our hearts and minds. Nor should we forget the ways in which America came together that day. This coming together will always serve as part of what makes America strong and proud.