“Take it to Goodwill. They accept everything.” This is always my advice to clients who are looking to unload donation items. Yet despite encouraging clients to donate to Goodwill (and regularly donating there myself), I didn’t know much about this organization until recently, when I toured their Dayton headquarters with Kim Bramlage, Goodwill’s retail donations manager. I learned six surprising things that made me even more glad to donate to this organization. Hopefully they will inspire you to donate, too!
- “We’re more than just stores,” Kim said. While I was familiar with donating and shopping at Goodwill, I didn’t realize that they do much more than just run thrift stores. Their mission is to help people with disabilities find jobs and live independently. I used to think those jobs were solely within Goodwill stores. Not true. Goodwill’s goal is to help individuals find jobs of any kind. “We give you a hand up, not a hand out,” Kim said. And how do they do this? Read on to reason #2…
- Goodwill teaches people how to get jobs. About 30 minutes into our tour, we came across a young man crouched outside a classroom door. He looked up at us, slightly embarrassed. “Don’t mind me, I’m just doing a role play,” he said. He was participating in a class that helps people develop interview skills. Now who would have thought my bag of outgrown kids’ clothes contributed to something like this? Pretty cool.
- Ignore the nay-sayers. Goodwill DOES provide direct relief to the needy. I’ve heard people argue that Goodwill is not charity, often citing the salary of the organization’s CEO. However, Goodwill is a non-profit organization that DOES provide plenty of free services. Among others, the Dayton Goodwill has a vision center, which provides free low vision aides to individuals over age 55; a car seat safety center, which gives free, specially designed carseats to children with disabilities; and a medical equipment loan center, which loans free medical equipment to those in need. If you don’t think that’s charity, I’m not sure what your definition of charity is.
- Goodwill might have that vintage Star Wars lunch box you’ve been craving. Looking for upscale or vintage items? Goodwill runs an online auction and purchasing site–similar to Ebay or Craigslist–at www.shopgoodwill.com. You can pickup items on site or have them shipped. I browsed this site and was amazed at the selection — everything from Star Wars collectibles to DVDs.
- Goodwill runs a 24/7 radio station. This was perhaps the most surprising thing I found inside Goodwill headquarters: a group of volunteers reading the local news 24/7. I spoke with one volunteer, named Larry, who had just finished reading the Thursday sports. Larry’s service at Goodwill is highly personal. He had a blind college roommate and has a grandson with special needs, so he knows that, for people with disabilities, hearing another human voice reading the local news is important. Often this is the type of news–such as obituaries and even grocery ads–that can’t be accessed through major radio stations.
- Goodwill is the friendly scavenger of our consumer society. Hang with me on this metaphor. After my tour of the downtown headquarters, Kim took me to the Goodwill outlet, essentially the end of the line for unsold items in the Goodwill system. I’d always suspected that Goodwill trashed items they couldn’t sell. Not true. At the outlet, semi trucks of unsold items arrive daily. These items are sorted onto large blue trays and sold by the pound. The speed at which the trays move is staggering–every 15 minutes a new tray rolls out onto the floor to a line of waiting customers, eager to pick through and discover treasures. Anything not sold is broken down into it’s components–plastic, wood, metal, and glass–for recycling. The most impressive recycling, however, involves clothing. You’ve not understood the overconsumption of clothing in our society until you’ve seen “the bailer,” a huge machine that binds literally tons of unsold clothing into large rectangular blocks.
These blocks are sold by the pound to salvage companies who either ship it to third world countries (Ever wonder why those kids in needy countries have Pepsi t-shirts? Now you know.) or use it to create rags and recycled products, such as insulation. As we stood next to these immense blocks of unsellable clothing, Kim and I both commented on the same theme: Americans buy way too much stuff. And if not for organizations like Goodwill, all of this excess clothing would end up in landfills.
I am thankful that Goodwill exists in our community, not only because they provide jobs and services to the needy, but also because they offer a sustainable and responsible way for the rest of us to dispose of our unneeded items. I hope this post inspired you to consume less and support Goodwill’s mission through your donations and purchasing power. They are truly doing remarkable things in our community!
Rose Lounsbury is the Dayton, Ohio area’s up-and-coming professional organizer. After blogging about her own journey toward a minimalist lifestyle, Rose was inspired to start Less, a minimalist-minded professional organizing company. If you’d like Rose’s help with an organizing project at your home or office, please call her at 937-626-9030.