Non-Profit Economy Part 1: Goodwill 

Many of us have felt the effects of the recession, including organizations that help those in need. Goodwill of Northern New England’s programs served more than 30,000 people last year. While many have donated items or shopped at a Goodwill store, few realize the stores are a means to support these programs and the real good will this organization does.While customers are combing the racks at Goodwill in Bangor, employees are busy behind closed doors sorting through donations.They come in all shapes and sizes, but the system works the same way no matter the donation. That’s important, because even on a bad day, this store takes in 2,000 items.”They take the donation. They put it in what we call cages and then when the customer has left, they take the donation over and they sort it, men’s, women’s, kids, whatever is appropriate for the donation,” explained store manager Shirley Hall. While they’re sorting and pricing the items, employees are looking for things their customers will want.”Customers want good quality so if it’s not better and best quality, we recycle it elsewhere,” said Hall.The stores are a way to support what Goodwill is all about and the better quality the item, the more likely customers are to make a purchase.”Whenever you donate to any of our stores and whenever you shop at any of our stores, the revenue from those sales directly supports all of these programs that help people get back to work. We have workforce centers all over the state of Maine where people can come and get help finding a job,” said Michelle Smith, Communications Manager for Goodwill of Northern New England.The job centers only scratch the surface of the programs offered through this non-profit. Programs that more people have sought out since the economy took a turn for the worse.”We definitely have more people looking for work especially,” said Smith.They’ve also noticed more frequent shoppers.”There’s a lot more people coming in. People who maybe only came in a couple times a year are coming in more often but more importantly, we’re seeing a lot of new people come in who maybe only shopped brand new before and only shopped at the mall, are finding in this economy they can’t afford to do so anymore,” said Smith.While donations have generally stayed steady during the recession, after the holidays, they notice a difference.”The biggest lull is January and February. In March, it starts picking up a little bit,” said Hall.But even during those lulls, the racks have new items every day.”A lot of customers that do come in seriously take over an hour to shop through because they want to get that good deal before their friend does,” said Hall.Goodwill has found a sustainable system that works. Those who shop, those who donate, and those who work at Goodwill stores and services are all part of it, spreading a little good will every step of the way.To find out more, visit Goodwill of Northern New England’s website.