Bill Oakley’s 44 Years of Service
By Ryan Randall
After 44 years of service to Goodwill across multiple regions, Goodwill Industries of Central Florida President and CEO Bill Oakley has announced his plans to retire, effective June 30. Oakley joined the nonprofit in 1974, serving in leadership roles at Goodwill organizations in Savannah, Georgia, and Greenville, South Carolina.
In 2010, Oakley became the president and CEO, and was part of a team that made a massive difference in Central Florida. Oakley and his staff have driven the nonprofit’s growth through new retail stores, donation centers and Job Connection Centers across Orange, Seminole, Osceola, Lake, Brevard and Volusia counties. The sales of the donated goods in its network of 28 retail stores led to funding services that provided more than 47,500 people with resources and training to help them find jobs last year.
Under Oakley’s leadership, Goodwill has expanded its offerings to adapt to the community’s changing needs, adding programs to assist military veterans, the homeless and other job seekers in need. The employee experience has also improved during Oakley’s tenure, and he is very proud of the quality of the benefits and programs the company now provides for its employees, including wellness, financial literacy, employee assistance, diversity, and training and development.
The Evolution of a Career
Shortly before Oakley graduated from Indianapolis’ Butler University in 1974, the social sciences major knew he wanted to assist people. A college recruiter showed him around the local Goodwill, which led to Oakley filling out an application. Oakley has worked in the Goodwill family of organizations from that time until today. Starting out at an entry-level position, Oakley worked his way up the corporate ladder through four different Goodwill corporations in four states. During his time working at the company, Oakley has learned many things, experiencing firsthand the resiliency of many of those utilizing the services of Goodwill.
“One of the most important lessons I’ve learned, and it’s been reinforced over the years, is that many people are incredibly strong when they find themselves in tough circumstances.”
– Bill Oakley
“One of the most important lessons I’ve learned, and it’s been reinforced over the years, is that many people are incredibly strong when they find themselves in tough circumstances,” he said. “In fact, I think many of those people are stronger than I am or would be if my circumstances were similar to theirs. This represents a very humbling element of the work we do, when you see what people can bounce back from and cope with on a daily basis.”
Working in Central Florida all these years, Oakley has come to know the generosity of the region. Goodwill has approximately 90 percent of its goods come from donations. Oakley applauded the local community’s responsibility in recognizing serious social problems, such as homelessness, with inspired leadership from the Orlando Economic Partnership, Heart of Florida United Way and Central Florida Foundation.
“It’s been a joy to be a part of a community that cares so deeply and works so carefully to ensure we’re effective in the development and applications of resources to make a difference,” he said.
Allowing for Useful Change
While Bill Oakley will retire this year, he hopes to support Goodwill in some fashion, not only in Central Florida, but across the country. He is also looking forward to spending time with his family, including his nine grandchildren.
And while Oakley has seen much change at Goodwill over his 44 years, one thing that has stayed consistent is the organization’s dedication to the community.
“The one thing that has always been the same about Goodwill from the day I started in 1974 to today is our commitment to helping people who need us most to grow in employability and independence so they may provide for themselves and their families at a level they aspire to,” Oakley asserted. “We’re an organization that works with people; we don’t do things for or to people. We use a lot of support, encouragement and sometimes the setting of expectations, which allows for useful change.”