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Military Veteran Stories

Goodwill Military Success Stories

At Goodwill, we honor and respect the servicemen and women who have served our country and we're proud to share their stories with you.

John Toliver

Posted by Goodwill Staff on Nov 11, 2022 9:00:00 AM


Former Goodwill Team Member and U.S. Navy Veteran Recognized as Distinguished Nominee for Carol and Tommy Moore Veteran of the Year Award.

Goodwill® salutes former team member John Toliver for his recognition as a distinguished nominee of the 2022 Carol and Tommy Moore Veteran of the Year Award.

The Carol and Tommy Moore Veteran of the Year Award is presented by Goodwill Industries International to a veteran who has demonstrated outstanding achievement in overcoming barriers to employment.

John was nominated by his peers for exemplifying excellence and commitment to his work throughout his six years of service to Goodwill’s mission. While John has since moved to North Carolina to retire, his story is one of perseverance, heart and community.

Overcoming Adversity

John Toliver is no stranger to facing hardship. After being honorably discharged from the U.S. Navy at 29 years old, John knew he needed to find work to continue to support his family. A task that would not come easy as he transitioned into civilian life.

John managed the effects of an undiagnosed traumatic head injury and worked to overcome addiction following his service. He also faced tremendous loss when his mother, and one of his biggest medical advocates, passed away. The negative impact of these challenges affected John’s wellbeing and strained his relationship with his family.

These challenges led to John taking a variety of roles such as a blacksmith and grave digger and eventually to an early retirement. After a few years, he felt the calling to go back to work but this time in a role with a greater purpose.

Pathway To Opportunity

In 2016, John found a new homebase with Goodwill after receiving support to identify his interests, skills and workplace challenges. Employment with Goodwill enabled John to do what was important to him – supporting service members and veterans, like himself.

John held several positions at Goodwill through the AbilityOne program which connects government and corporate customers in need of products and services to a nationwide network of nonprofit agencies that hire talented people with disabilities.

He started in a scullery, lead worker position and later moved on to janitor at Goodwill Great Lakes , which provides food service, administrative, logistic services, and laundry to both Sailors and Recruits at the Navy's only boot camp—Naval Station Great Lakes in Great Lakes, Illinois. Most recently, he served as utility worker responsible for supporting Goodwill’s commercial laundry operation in North Chicago, Illinois.

John feels that if he had not started with Goodwill, he probably would not have been employed noting, “the support and opportunities I was provided were unlike any other experience I’ve had.”

A Renewed Sense Of Camaraderie

His employment with Goodwill led to a new sense of camaraderie that allowed him to grow his career.

At Goodwill, support doesn’t end when a person starts a job, that’s when it begins. John worked with case managers throughout each step of his journey receiving guidance and encouragement as he grew his career. His support team was invested in his success conducting weekly meetings and check-ins, identifying positions that work best for him and meeting him where he was at.

“Working at Goodwill helped keep me in a positive state of mind,” said John. “I knew there was always someone to talk with when I needed to.”

Goodwill provided John the opportunity to try new positions and grow through training and increased responsibility that led to a rise in pay and gained independence.

“My case managers were always open to me trying new things and helping me apply to different jobs. They made sure I got on the right track, and each job was the right thing for me,” said John.

Many of the qualities John possesses as a veteran helped make him successful in his work at Goodwill. At a moment’s notice he would receive calls for extra linen from around the hospital where he worked, and when that happened John delivered. The hospital staff knew they could count on him which means hospital patients could as well.

“John consistently showed his dedication to the job and was a shining example of Goodwill’s mission,” said Josh Latawiec, John’s former supervisor at Goodwill’s commercial laundry operation in Illinois. “John is a strong and successful self-advocate and through the supports Goodwill provided him, he grew to be very self-dependent and reliable.”

Paying It Forward

John’s work allowed him to pay it forward.

“I enjoyed working around other veterans and soldiers. I always want to help another veteran out, if they’re struggling, and I’m not, I want to talk to them, try to show them it’s going to be alright,” said John.

Despite his own challenges, John has a passion for helping others which extended beyond his daily job responsibilities. Outside of work, he spent time helping senior programs through different churches, serving meals, and distributing sleeping bags and hygiene kits to homeless veterans.

“I was extremely impressed with the way he approached his work at Goodwill’s commercial laundry operation in North Chicago as well as the many ways he supported his community in his free time,” said Brandi Langford, one of John’s former case managers.

“I am lucky to have received his positive and caring energy through working with him, and I’ve seen many other people benefit from it as well,” continued Brandi.

A New Lease On Life

Working at Goodwill set John on a positive path – one where he feels happy with the way life has taken him. Goodwill empowered John to thrive through meaningful work and he has since rebuilt his relationship with his family.

“Goodwill made a whole lot of difference in my life,” reflected John.

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