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Goodwill - turning donations into local jobs

Oct 17, 2016 10:03AM ● Published by Today's Family

By Kim Miller • Today’s Family Publisher

Most of us have shopped at or donated items to a Goodwill store.  During a recent visit to drop off some toys and other items that my kids decided they would never use again, I started thinking about all of the stuff that gets donated, where it ends up and how items are prepared for display.  I spoke with Robyn Steinmetz, vice president of marketing and fund development for Goodwill Industries, for answers to some of the questions that were on my mind.

KM: We all know that Goodwill is a charitable organization, but how are the funds you generate used?
RS: The reason Goodwill exists is to help people become self-sufficient and be the best version of themselves through our programs and services.

At Goodwill, we transform “stuff” into monetary funding for our local employment training, social services and family strengthening programs throughout a 10-county area that includes Cuyahoga, Lake and Geauga counties. 

When you shop at or donate to Goodwill, you are helping people in your community to overcome barriers like a physical or mental disability, a felony conviction, poverty or even a lack of marketable skills to get the training and help they need to find and obtain a good job.  Jobs are powerful and the first step toward independence and self-sufficiency. 

KM: What type of items are needed the most and what items don’t you accept? 
RS: Currently we are in need of houseware items; dishes, lamps, small appliances, artwork, frames, etc.  And children’s toys and clothing are items that we can always use.

We gladly accept most items, but there are some things we simply cannot accept like:
• Large appliance (refrigerators, stoves, washers, dryers, water heaters)
• Automobile parts
• TVs (except flat screens)
• Building and plumbing materials
• Furniture that is broken, worn, torn, stained, missing parts, and sleeper sofas
• Mattresses
• Food
• Household chemicals, insecticides, cleaning products and cans of paint
• Weapons
• Trophies
• Pianos (upright or grand); organs
• Billiard/pool tables
• Medical supplies

Another thing to keep in mind when donating cribs, car seats, walkers, high chairs or other baby products is that they must meet the current safety products standards of the U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission for them to be resalable.

KM: Is there a preferred method for donating items?
RS: When you donate, please remove clothing from hangers.  Items can be delivered however you’d like.  Plastic bags are great for clothing donations, while boxes are more conducive for housewares and heavier items.  Goodwill tries to make donating as easy as possible, offering drive-up donation stops throughout the area as well as accepting donations at all store locations.  In Cuyahoga and Lake counties, Goodwill offers a home pick-up service for larger items in certain zip codes.  Visit GoodwillGoodSkills.org/donate/schedule-a-pickup to schedule a pick-up.

KM: I imagine a lot of the clothes and items are wrinkled or dusty.  Is there a preparation process before an item makes it to the sales floor?
RS: Good question!  Believe it or not, most of the clothing donations we receive are freshly laundered by our donors and oftentimes will have dry cleaner tags still attached, which is so appreciated.  We do not launder clothing donations ourselves, so we do ask that donors keep that in mind.  Items that are dirty or in bad shape to begin with do not make it onto our sales floor.

KM: I've seen the back room at my local Goodwill store and it looks overwhelming!  How long does it take to go through all the donated items and how many people are working on that task?
RS: Typically 4-5 people are constantly working through separating, sorting, inspecting and pricing donations to get them ready for the sales floor.  Since it is quite the process, they are never truly “done.”  We have employees dedicated to working on sorting, inspecting, pricing and hanging clothing donations, and employees who sort, inspect and price housewares and everything else.  For the most part, each store accepts enough donations to keep its sales floor fully stocked at all times––we want a full back room!  The more donations a store takes in the better.

KM:  What percentage of items donated are displayed and sold and what percentage are discarded?
RS: Goodwill is extremely environmentally focused, so we do our very best to divert as much from landfills as possible. Our goal is to put only the best quality merchandise out on our sales floors, which is roughly 95 percent of our donations.  Donated items that are torn, dirty or broken unfortunately have to be discarded, which makes up for about five percent of the donations we receive.  Of the items that make it to the sales floor, about 50 percent are actually sold, while the other half are eventually rotated off the sales floor to keep the selection fresh for our shoppers.  When those items are pulled, they are sent for one “last chance” to sell at our outlet store in Stark County, where items are priced by the pound (perfect for resellers, crafters and DIYers).  If those items don’t sell, they are baled and sold as salvage, and therefore we are still able to support our mission through these donations.

KM:  Are my donated items tax-deductible and if so, how is a value placed on what I have donated? 
RS: All donations to Goodwill are tax deductible and you can get a donation receipt from the donor door attendant.  He/she will mark on the receipt how many boxes, bags or items you’ve donated, but ultimately the donor is responsible for assigning a value to the items.  On our website (www.goodwillgoodskills.org/donate) there is a link to a valuation guide for Goodwill donors which can provide some direction.

KM: The Painesville location that opened a few years ago features a contemporary atmosphere with modern displays.  Have any of the other locations been updated with that same look and feel?
RS: Our Painesville Township store is one of our “new model” stores, which we are extremely proud of!  Our Mayfield Heights store is also a new model store.  Our goal is to eventually renovate other existing stores as well.  But, no matter which store location you visit, all of our stores feature department signage that is easy to navigate and clothing that is sized and colorized within different categories, making it easy for shoppers to find what they are searching for.

Local Store Locations
Painesville Twp. Store 
(new model store)
2175 Mentor Avenue
Painesville, OH 44077
 
Eastlake Store
33459 Vine Street
Eastlake, OH 44095
 
Mayfield Heights Store 
(new model store)
6605 Mayfield Road
Mayfield Heights, OH 44124
 
Shaker Square Store
2720 Van Aken Boulevard
Cleveland, OH 44120
 
Lee & Harvard Store 
(new model store)
4071 Lee Road, Suite 110
Cleveland, OH 44128
 
Garfield Store
12650 A Rockside Road
Cleveland, OH 44125


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