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Windermere Observer Wednesday, Aug. 22, 2018 11 months ago

Horizon West resident named CEO of local Goodwill Industries

Horizon West resident Nima Hodaei, 45, is taking the baton as the new CEO of Goodwill Industries of Central Florida.
by: Danielle Hendrix Associate Editor

When former CEO of Goodwill Industries of Central Florida Bill Oakley announced his retirement earlier this year, the organization knew it had some big shoes to fill.

Luckily, Horizon West resident Nima Hodaei was willing and ready to take the reins of leadership and continue Oakley’s legacy.

Hodaei, 45, recently moved to the area — along with his fiancee and her son — from New Jersey, where he previously spent nearly two years serving as vice president of retail for Goodwill of Delaware and Delaware County. 



Hodaei is a graduate of the University of Michigan — Ann Arbor, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in communications and journalism. Additionally, he brings more than 20 years of retail-industry experience after holding leadership roles with Discount Chains Inc., Forman Mills, Burlington Stores and Macy’s. 

“I was exposed to just about every variable and every facet of retail … and I did it across a multitude of different retailers,” Hodaei said.

Although he holds an extensive background in retail, his journey with involvement in community and nonprofit work began at a young age — something his parents, who had backgrounds in social work, instilled in him.

“That sense of giving, that sense of a deep purpose to what you do … even in my for-profit days, that didn’t escape me,” he said. “A couple of years ago, Goodwill of Delaware was seeking a vice president of retail position, and at the time, the retail piece certainly beckoned to me and was close to my heart in terms of what I’d been doing for 20 years prior. The mission-services side is really what sealed the deal for me. “

Knowing the position would give him an opportunity to make an impact that goes beyond the bottom line of a for-profit organization by focusing on making a difference in a positive manner, he decided to jump in.

“It’s funny that I’ve been able to take a craft I’ve been honing now for years and apply it in what I perceive to be a much more meaningful way now,” he said. “I went over into Delaware, and we had a successful run and were able to turn around retail operations and start bolstering their revenue, which ultimately feeds the Goodwill mission. As I collaborated with the folks out there, I just fell in love with the company. When the opportunity presented itself to apply for the position here with Central Florida, I didn’t even have to give it a moment’s thought. It was just a natural progression of what I had started in Delaware that I wanted to continue.”

“I’ve been very struck by how warm and inviting so many people have been. People have welcomed me with open arms and I’ve been delighted by that.” — Nima Hodaei

During the application process Hodaei sized up Goodwill Industries of Central Florida in terms of revenue generation, mission impact and financial-balance health. It was then he found this area has a vibrant Goodwill poised for even greater work in the community. He was offered the position in early June.

Hodaei worked with former CEO Bill Oakley until his retirement June 30 and for the last month has been focusing on getting situated and meeting his team. Now that his family’s move is complete, he’s ready to hit the ground running.

“I’ve been very struck by how warm and inviting so many people have been,” he said. “People have welcomed me with open arms, and I’ve been delighted by that.”



Hodaei said his No. 1 objective for Goodwill Industries of Central Florida is simple — increase the impact of its mission-integrated enterprise across all six Central Florida counties. Many people know of Goodwill from the donations and retail side, but he hopes to help them understand the full scope of what Goodwill does in the community behind the scenes through that funding.

This includes working with the homeless population and finding ways to reintegrate them into the workforce, finding employment opportunities for those who are not employed and facilitating  job-training skills and résumé-writing help. 

Goodwill Industries of Central Florida provided more than 47,500 people in 2017 with resources and training to help them find meaningful work. These services are funded by the sales of donated goods in its network of 28 retail stores.

“These are all things I think that this Goodwill does very well right now, but I also know that at the end of the day, that’s why we’re here,” he said. “We’re here to serve that mission, and what I’m keenly focused on right now is, ‘How are we making that impact across the six counties? From Orange to Volusia, how are we actually poised in each of those six counties? Where do we have job connection centers? How many people are we serving in each of those communities? And what services are we providing in certain counties that we may not be providing in others?’ My main objective here is to expand our mission services.”

He hopes to use his leadership role to work with his team in finding alternative revenue streams to fund the mission, engage community leadership and spark fundraising activities. The goal is to help Goodwill become more integral and helpful to the Central Florida area, and Hodaei wants his team to be able to serve, help and put those in need on a road to self-sufficiency. What drives him is knowing there are people counting on them.

“Because they’re counting on us, my leadership now has to be able to live up to that challenge and make sure we don’t let people down,” he said. “I’m in a position where I can really effect change, and that is incredibly exhilarating for me. … I think I’ve got a fantastic team here surrounding me, and I’m looking forward now to give them the guidance, vision and leadership to take it forward from here. Bill Oakley built a great legacy, he’s leaving behind a great Goodwill agency, and my job now is to take the baton from Bill and continue to climb the mountain, so to speak.”

Danielle Hendrix is the Associate Editor for the West Orange Times & Observer and the Windermere Observer. She is a 2015 graduate of the University of Central Florida, from which she earned a bachelor's degree in journalism with a minor in world comparative studies. ...

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