At an event rife with hugs, laughter and a few tears now and then, Cheri Bever, the president and CEO of Goodwill Industries of West Virginia since 2011, said goodbye to Goodwill at her June 12 retirement party.
Dozens of colleagues, co-workers and well-wishers, including representatives from Sens. Joe Manchin and Shelley Moore Capito’s offices, attended the informal, morning function, catered by Goodwill Hospitality Program students, at the Goodwill Prosperity Center on Charleston’s West Side June 12.
Bever is concluding a career with Goodwill that has spanned more than 30 years. In ascending to the president/CEO position, she worked in various Goodwill areas such as donated goods retail, business services, employment and training, community relations and satellite operations during her career. Prior to coming to West Virginia, Bever served as the director of workforce development with Horizon Goodwill Industries in Hagerstown, Maryland.
Acknowledging the event in her honor led to mixed emotions for her, Bever said, “It’s been quite a journey. Just at this Goodwill in the last eight years — I’ve been with Goodwill for 32 years — the transformations that we’ve accomplished here together are incredible.
“I think the most exciting part of them is the foundation they’ve laid for the future. Just to name one, this center we’re meeting in today wasn’t here until 2015. It has more than quadrupled the number of people that we’re able to help each year. And this year we’ll be building another one of these in the Parkersburg area. That expansion and that ability to reach out, just as our founder did 117 years ago, is an amazing feeling,” she said.
As for retirement plans, Bever said, “My husband, Richard, and I are relocating back closer to family, so, as we go through this wonderful process of aging, we have the support around us we need and some time to enjoy our family. We’ll be doing a little bit of traveling, but mostly just laying low for a little while and getting off the grid.”
During her tenure as Goodwill president and CEO, the agency added services and saw growth throughout its 20-county West Virginia coverage area, Goodwill Industries of Kanawha Valley Director of Community Relations Kathy McKinley said.
Through Bever’s leadership, single-year service numbers increased from 245 people assisted to more than 2,000 in the state. Additional Goodwill retail stores were added, development funds increased and additional collaborative partnerships were cultivated with community and technical colleges, government and business leaders and others, McKinley said.
She also commended Bever for her efforts on behalf of Goodwill’s staff as well as its clientele. “I feel she worked really hard to help the staff grow in their fields or interests. She accomplished a lot when it comes to that. We’ve been able to alter the scholarship fund; it’s now being offered twice a year for employees and their families. ... She’s encouraged professional staff to continue with education.
“I wish her well and know she’s made a big difference in my life,” she said. “Eight years is a significant amount of time to run an organization this large ... and she’s done an excellent job developing the strategy to move us forward.”
Goodwill Industries Board Chairman Brent Walker seconded McKinley’s thoughts.
“As president and CEO, Cheri has just really moved Goodwill’s mission forward,” Walker said. “She’s advanced it tenfold and really made Goodwill a staple in the community. She’s just done an excellent job from a PR standpoint. We’re sad to see her go.”
“We’re just very grateful for Cheri’s leadership,” Adam Krason, vice chairman of the Goodwill Industries Board, said. “She did a wonderful job while she was here, on focusing on the mission side of Goodwill Industries, which is helping to move people with challenges into the workforce. And the space we’re in now really demonstrates that. The fact that she really devoted the resources to create these great spaces for training, workforce readiness and even the Dress for Success program here where they give people the tools they need to enter the workforce.”
In addition to her work with Goodwill, Bever has served as chairman of the Putnam County Chamber of Commerce board of directors.
“We are extremely sad to lose her, not only as a board member, but for her leadership as the chair,” Putnam County Chamber of Commerce President Ashley Alford said at the reception. “Cheri is a huge asset to this whole valley. Goodwill serves a large region in West Virginia, and I think that whole region is going to feel a loss when she leaves. We’re really fortunate to have had her and her leadership here, not only at Goodwill but in Putnam County and throughout the state.”
Bever has also been involved with civic organizations such as the National Task Force for Inclusion and Diversity, the statewide Diversity and Inclusion Committee through the Herbert Henderson Office of Minority Affairs, the Charleston Area Alliance, the Charleston Rotary, the Beckley-Raleigh Chamber of Commerce and the Mid-Ohio Valley Chamber of Commerce.
Krason said an executive search is underway for Bever’s replacement.