Success Stories

From Syria to Maine, Rajaa finds connection and support at her job at Goodwill

Rajaa Allahan, at her job at the Mill Creek Goodwill store, stands between  two racks of clothing.

Rajaa Allahan picked up a kids’ board game called Guess Who? from the blue hamper full of items. She deftly flipped it around, looked inside, and placed a $2 tag on it. Her hands moved fast as she reached for the next donated item. Once she reviews and tags the items, she places them on the sales floor. Rajaa can process 400-1,000 donated items when she works a five-hour shift as a production specialist in the backroom of the Mill Creek Goodwill store, in South Portland, Maine. Her favorite items to process are accessories because she enjoys seeing all the different bags, shoes, and hats.

“I get a good feeling about working and I feel connected to others. The people here are so kind and supportive,” Rajaa said.

Tagging and putting donated items to the sales floor is different from her 35 years working in Syria in the petroleum industry. Retired from the petroleum industry now, she and her husband wanted to be closer to their two sons: one son is in Maine and the other son is in New York City. Family is everything to Rajaa. She is helping raise her grandson since her son, a doctor at Maine Medical Center, is busy and needs help at home.

But Rajaa likes to keep busy and still has time in her day to work. Her job in the backroom of the Goodwill store allows her to connect with people in her community and practice her English.

Recently, Rajaa passed her US citizenship test. The Mill Creek retail team got a cake to celebrate with her. Moved to tears, Rajaa felt welcomed, accepted, and part of the team. She is proud of her work. Rajaa admits she does not need the paycheck, but she does need the connection with others. When she is working, she has a sense of purpose and dignity. Edgar Helms’ vision stands strong a century later.

Goodwill’s founder, Edgar Helms, understood the importance of work. He saw how a job can lift someone up, giving a sense of purpose and connection. Over 100 years ago, he saw Irish immigrants in Boston denied work. Edgar Helm created a model we use today – collect and process donations, sell them at a low cost, and create jobs. Built on that model, Goodwill is still providing opportunity for employment to anyone who wants to work. 

Rajaa putting items on the sales floor at Goodwill.
Like this? Share it: