Breaking Barriers: Meet Jennifer


Jennifer Dinwiddie doesn’t “play around” with her career. A supervisor in the health care field, an enterprise management student, data entry extraordinaire and an individual with amazing work ethic, she knows how to get the job done. “I have always been a go getter,” Jennifer said. “Whenever I go to work… I work! That’s in my blood.”


At 19 years old, Jennifer had established her hardworking and tenacious character early in her career. Unfortunately, she had also experienced seizures for at least fifteen years. After a biopsy, her doctors determined that the tumor in the left hemisphere of her brain had to be removed. Before the surgery, Jennifer remembers asking, “Am I going to die?”

On August 18, 2008, Jennifer went into surgery; although it should have only taken three hours, unexpected complications extended the surgery to almost 10 hours. “I was in [the] neurology ICU for two weeks,” she recalled. “I could not move my whole right side for three and a half months. [I had to] relearn everything all over again: ABC’s, 123’s, and how to swallow.”

After physical, speech and occupational therapy Jennifer was faced with the daunting task of finding another job with a new set of challenges; she couldn’t enter data and had lost most of the function on her right side. “Having to accept my new body - that’s the hardest part,” she said. “I live with this handicapped body every single day. So I think of it every single day,” she said.

I’m glad that Goodwill offers these job placement programs.

Three years after surgery, Jennifer joined Goodwill’s work adjustment program to prepare to reenter the workforce. She spent over 300 hours working with Goodwill staff and said she rebuilt her mental and physical stamina.  

Working alongside a diverse and supportive group of people with a wide variety of backgrounds and barriers was therapeutic. “Whenever I was working in the store, I felt like, ‘So? Who cares?’” she said. She saw that everyone, regardless of their barriers, was able to contribute.

With the support of her Goodwill job coach, Jennifer is now beginning to search for a job; meanwhile, she continues to grow professionally, returning to school for enterprise management.  

“Thank you Goodwill for giving me the opportunity to start working and actually getting me back into that work environment,” Jennifer said. "I'm glad that Goodwill offers these job placement programs."

Goodwill Industries-Knoxville provides job training and employment services to thousands of individuals in East Tennessee each year. Our work is made possible thanks to the support of our donors and shoppers. Find out more about Goodwill’s job training programs or learn more about how you can help support Goodwill’s mission.