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Goodwill and ABVI CEO Dr. Gidget Hopf announces retirement after nearly 34 years of service

Sep 10, 2019

Goodwill of the Finger Lakes and its affiliate ABVI CEO Dr. Gidget Hopf will retire on June 30, 2020, after serving nearly 34 years as the local not-for-profit organization's leader.

Rochester, NY - Goodwill of the Finger Lakes and its affiliate, The Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired, (ABVI) announce CEO Dr. Gidget Hopf will retire on June 30, 2020, after nearly 34 years in her role.

Through Dr. Hopf’s leadership, this not for profit organization has grown into a $50 million social enterprise with 90 percent of its revenue self-generated by four employment creating businesses: Manufacturing, Food Service/Hospitality, Contact Center and Donated Goods/Retail. These businesses generate net profits to support the mission services of the organization as well as other organizational needs. Currently, the organization has over 700 employees, many with barriers to self-sufficiency.

When Hopf joined the organization as CEO in 1986, ABVI was the only organization in a 7 county region providing comprehensive vision rehabilitation and employment for people who are blind or visually impaired.

In the late ’80s, Hopf spearheaded a relationship with the 3M Corporation which helped ABVI secure a major contract with the Federal Government to produce and distribute self-stick note pads worldwide through the AbilityOne program. This program creates job opportunities for people who are blind or have other severe disabilities by purchasing thousands of products and services required by Government agencies. For over three decades, this contract has employed hundreds of ABVI employees who are blind and launched ABVI as a world-class manufacturing operation that is powering future growth through other products and business lines.

“Throughout my tenure, I’ve always challenged myself and others, asking what we can do to remove barriers so that we can achieve more and make a greater impact on the lives of the people we serve,” said Hopf.

New and exciting employment opportunities followed the self-stick note pads success. Contracts for sewing of Coast Guard and Air Force Uniforms, production of a line of eco-friendly cleaning products, and a myriad of other products that are sold to New York State and Federal Government customers providing additional revenue required to fund local mission services.

Most noteworthy is Hopf’s determination to create upward mobility opportunities for her team members who are blind, thus conceiving the idea of developing a call center. Starting with just two people on the phones taking on small contracts, the current contact center employs over 100 individuals supporting a variety of commercial and governmental contracts. Early success came when ABVI was awarded a contract by the US Department of Environmental Protection. Under this contract, ABVI employees who are blind staffed the call center serving all of North America answering questions related to lead poisoning and toxic substances. Today, the combined ABVI and Goodwill Contact Centers offer a myriad of services to a variety of customers including 1-800-Goodwill and 2-1-1/LIFE LINE, a crisis and referral hotline for community members in need.

Hopf, an innovator with an entrepreneurial spirit, forged an affiliation with Goodwill Industries International in 1994 that would increase the positive impact that the organization was to have on the community. Currently celebrating 25 years as Goodwill, today there are 10 retail stores, two outlet stores, a Clearance Center, and 10 attended donation centers in the greater Rochester and Syracuse areas employing some 400 individuals.

Hopf will continue working to bring the first Excel Center to Rochester with the intention of providing adults who did not complete high school the opportunity to earn a regular high school diploma while gaining work credentials in high demand career fields which will empower them to meet the needs of their families and the community. A 2-generation solution, The Excel Center holds the promise of improving the academic performance of school-age children as their parents re-engage in their own education, thus beginning to break the generational cycles of dropping out and poverty

“It is with a mixture of joy and sadness that I move into this next stage of my life’s journey. It has been an honor and a privilege to have had the opportunity to make a difference in people’s lives and our community. I look forward to continuing to do so by working every day to bring the Excel Center to fruition,” Hopf said.

William Barnecut-Kearns, Chair of the Board of Directors has announced that the Board has appointed Jennifer Lake, Vice President of Donated Goods/Retail and People Resources to the position of President effective October 21, 2019.

“Jennifer has proven that she is dedicated to the mission of our organization. She is a vibrant and fresh voice who is ready to build on our successes and take Goodwill of the Finger Lakes into the future,” said Barnecut-Kearns.

Lake, who joined Goodwill in 2007, serves on the Senior Leadership Team overseeing the People Resources and Donated Goods Retail Divisions. She is also the liaison to the Board of Directors for Strategic Planning. She consults on all organizational development, learning, and change management initiatives.

“I’ve been very fortunate to work with Gidget, as she is such a stellar example of a transformational leader. I’m excited to work with our employees, community partners, shoppers and donors, and the people we serve. I plan to build on Gidget’s vision of empowering people with barriers to independence to be self-sufficient and contribute to their families and communities,” said Lake.

For more information on this announcement please contact Mary Boland, Vice President of Communications at (585) 232-1111.