After 45 years, Goodwill’s ‘Number One’ is one in a million

Dec 13, 2017, 7:23 PM | Updated: Dec 14, 2017, 10:28 am
(KTAR News/Tom Perumean)...
(KTAR News/Tom Perumean)
(KTAR News/Tom Perumean)
LISTEN: After 45-years, Number One retires at Goodwill

PHOENIX — In 1971, 16-year-old Warren Alan Polk arrived for his first day on the job at Goodwill of Central and Northern Arizona on 16th Street and Van Buren Street, two hours early. Forty-five years later, Polk, whose nickname is Number One, is working his last day on the job.

Polk earned the nickname Number One because of a work ethic that is known by all who work there.

“He rides the bus, every day,” co-worker Bill Farrell related. “He’s here early, everyday, at least an hour early, never missed a day, just a model employee.”

That’s right, in 45 years Polk never missed a day of work. Let that sink in for a minute.

On Wednesday, Goodwill honored Polk as he winds down his career.

CEO Tim O’Neal praised his longtime employee.

“If you think about it,” O’Neal said. “How many people can say they worked at a company for 45 years and more importantly, how many can say they worked 45 years without ever missing a day? He really is one in a million!”

Friend and co-worker for the past 16 years, Farrell talked about Polk’s early days working at the old 16th and Van Buren warehouse.

“He started when we had no trailers, and everything was done in the dirt, and outside with no heat or air conditioning,” Farrell said. “To carrying things out, to sweeping the floor, you name it Number One’s done it!”

Polk reflected on the time at the old 16th and Van Buren Goodwill warehouse and its 2010 destruction by fire, “It burned down, lightning hit it — that was an old building, though. The whole thing leaked.”

As a result, Goodwill moved to a new 200,000 square foot building on  51st Ave and Van Buren, a lot closer to where Polk lives and easier to get to by bus.

And he still got to work an hour early.

And there’s another reason they call Polk Number One, his heart.

“On the weekend he goes to WalMart and Fry’s and buys gifts for all the employees,” Farrell said. “I’ve never had a Christmas go by, or a birthday, where Number One did not give me a present, there’s countless people in here who’ve had the same experience.”

At a retirement party on Wednesday, Polk was given a big screen TV and a special award from Goodwill Industries, the Prestigious Smiling G.

Reserved for Goodwill board members usually to honor their commitment, the Smiling G, patterned after the Goodwill Logo, was awarded to Al in recognition of nearly half century of work at Goodwill.

O’Neal says he’s going to keep in touch with Number One.

“He’s a gigantic baseball fan, so we’re going to take him to a Diamondbacks game — his first baseball game, ever, next year.  And he’s just going to go off and enjoy life.”

When asked about what he plans to do once he retires, the shy Polk responded, “Just take it easy… Take life easy…”

As the party began, with a big cake served up to honor him, accompanied by cupcakes for the guests and staff, the unassuming and quiet Polk helped himself to a single little cupcake — it was all he needed…

Job well done.

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After 45 years, Goodwill’s ‘Number One’ is one in a million