PORTLAND -- It's early afternoon at the Cedar Hills Goodwill store and 49-year-old Jim Barnette is on the job. He carefully takes VHS movies from a shopping cart and places them on a store shelf.
"Words on the outside, perfect. Great job Jim,” said a woman working with him.
They are words of praise he's heard for nearly a decade. But his life is not easy. Jim’s legally blind and has a seizure disorder. He can walk and move his arms, but sometimes it's a real challenge.
Jim's sister Shannon Phillips watches over him. "He's tried a lot of things. More than you can possibly imagine. Trying to find a life. Trying to find a place for him in life,” she said.
He's never accepted the limitations life tried to put on him. As a younger man, Jim ran a marathon in California, three years in a row.
He was determined to do something meaningful with his life.
“The world is very different in my eyes than your eyes,” said Jim. “Because, because um I have, because of my disabilities and stuff I just do it a lot slower and more careful,” he said.
He has a long-term girlfriend. He's also a collector of vinyl records. His Goodwill job allows the collection to grow.
We asked him what he liked about working. “Money,” he said. “Money. Simple and true, just money.”
But there's more to it than that. There's the pride each of us feel from being needed, from doing the job well. His sister's seen Jim flourish here. “He was so used to hearing 'no, you can’t do that,' that when he came here to Goodwill it was like a door opened,” Shannon recalled.
And he walked through that door, perfectly imperfect, determined to stretch as far as his imagination and not his limitations will allow.
It’s part of what earned him national recognition as Goodwill's achiever of the year. “We really, honestly could not be more proud of him,” said Goodwill spokeswoman Dale Emanuel. “We have been fans of Jim for years, nearly a decade. To share the capable man that he is with the rest of the world is such a gift, and we are so thankful,” she said.
Jim and his sister, Shannon are now appearing in a Goodwill TV ad. They’ll fly to Florida this summer to share his story at Goodwill’s annual meeting.