In between handling his recycling and disposal company, Thomas Goodall finds the time to volunteer as a mentor to sixth grader Dalen*. “Mentorship has played a huge role in my own life,” explains Thomas, who has volunteered through Big Brothers of Greater Vancouver since 2008.
“From when I was a young man going through my teenage years, through college and into adulthood and running a business, I’ve had many wonderful mentors along the way to guide and shape me,” says Thomas.
“Plus, when was the last time that you got to play CalvinBall?” he asks with a smile.
Thomas is referring to a children’s game popularized by the comic strip Calvin and Hobbes. “The whole idea is that there is no one way to play. Rules are made as you go along so the game is different each time. It’s one of the best games of all time!”
Thomas gets to channel his inner child once a week when he spends quality time with Dalen at his school. The weekly visit is arranged by Big Brothers and Dalen’s teachers. Dalen is Thomas’ third mentee (the others have graduated from elementary school). In 2016, Thomas was named “In-School Mentor of the Year” by Big Brothers for his dedication to the cause.
“Dalen* and I have only met twice so we’re still building rapport but he’s a super fun kid. Exceptionally good at Lego!” says Thomas.
Mentorship played a pivotal role in Thomas’ own life as a young man. “I had the opportunity to work under one of my mentors in Ottawa learning how a business runs. It inspired me to start my own recycling and waste diversion company in 2005,” explains Thomas, President of Fresh Start Recycling.
Thomas’ involvement with Big Brothers has been so meaningful that he started brainstorming how he could help even more children through his business. He found a natural tie-in with Big Brothers of Greater Vancouver’s clothing donation service, which provides funding for its mentoring programs. As Slav Gudelj, who manages the clothing donation service, explains, “We primarily collect used clothing and shoes, and some small household goods. But people often want to donate furniture or mattresses. As a charity, we just don’t have the space or people power to handle that. When people dump large items like that near our bins, it ends up costing us money to dispose of it.”
Thomas came up with the perfect solution: “We pick up large items that Big Brothers can’t, then we donate or recycle them if possible.” Fresh Start also donates a portion of its proceeds to support Big Brothers. “Our partnership has been so positive. It has allowed us to divert more from landfills, and donate more money to Big Brothers and other charities. It has allowed us to hire more people with and without barriers to employment. I can’t say enough about how wonderful it has been to be involved with Big Brothers both personally and as a business.”
“It’s possible that I’m having more fun than my Little Buddy,” he adds. “Playing Lego and Calvinball at age 38 isn’t sanctioned at very many places!”
*Names of children and youth have been changed to protect their privacy and confidentiality.