Goodwill’s Midtown boutique: those are jobs you’re buying

This long and difficult recession has forced many Sacramento nonprofits to reconsider their basic funding models.  Organizations that have depended on grants, government funding or even individual and business donations have taken steps to diversify their income, and many have started social enterprises related to their missions, like St. John’s Shelter’s Plates Cafe.

One organization in Sacramento has relied on social enterprise funding of  its mission since 1933: Goodwill Industries.

From the looks of things this morning (more than 100 people had filed through the door within the first hour), Goodwill is about to get a big boost in support of its job training and placement mission from the opening of its new boutique in Midtown Sacramento.  (For photos of the store and its opening, go to Goodwill’s new Facebook page.)

Sales of those 1,100 pairs of trendy shoes on the wall racks will help cover the training for disadvantaged and disabled Sacramentans.

In the first five months of this year, 515 people were supported by Goodwill’s employment and job training program.  The training program prepares people for employment in custodial and retail jobs, and the new boutique adds to the organization’s opportunities for hands-on learning.  How long someone remains in training depends on a person’s needs.  One of the store greeters, Sam Timoti, has been in the program for two years, and was enjoying his first store opening.  His fellow greeter, Harry Clinton, is a veteran of the program with eight years under his belt; he said he’d been on-hand for the opening of 21 stores.

I had the chance to ask Joe Mendez, CEO and President of Goodwill locally, about his hopes for this latest initiative:

How is the Midtown store a departure from what you’ve done elsewhere?

The Downtown Store on L Street is a departure from other Goodwill Stores because it will specifically feature brand name clothing, business wear, and vintage styles for men and women. The store’s boutique feel is especially appealing to fashion enthusiasts looking for reasonable prices.

Everything Goodwill does is ultimately about job creation for disabled and disadvantaged people. How do you expect the store to contribute toward your mission? What will you be able to do that you can’t without the store?

Not only does Goodwill provide jobs, Goodwill also provides job training to help people develop the skills they need to be competitive in the job market. Over 90% of revenues directly fund Goodwill’s training programs, mission related activities, and payroll. The Downtown Store will directly employ mission related members of our community and its revenue will contribute to mission by providing training and work experience to people with disabilities and other special needs.

What do people not understand about Goodwill that you wish they did?

Goodwill is not just a place to drop off donations and buy used clothes. Goodwill takes donations and turns them into jobs and job training opportunities for people with disabilities and other special needs.

Besides its job training messages, Goodwill seems to be emphasizing its eco-friendliness. How important is the “green” aspect of Goodwill’s operation here and how does the store opening relate to it?

Goodwill provides our community an opportunity to help save the planet. Goodwill recycles more than 30 million pounds of donations a year in the Sacramento Valley. The Downtown Store will help Goodwill collect, recycle, reuse, repurpose, and employ people in our community.

A number of local nonprofits are just developing or starting social enterprises to help fund their missions. How much of Goodwill’s operational funding here comes from sale of goods or recycling, vs. charitable donations?

Our major source of mission funding is from the sale of used clothing and household goods donated by individual members of the community.

What are you most interested in motivating people to do to support Goodwill’s mission? Donate goods? Recycle? Shop at stores? Volunteer?

Donate goods to support and fund Goodwill’s mission. When people donate they help someone find work or obtain training while helping to divert usable goods from landfills. It’s fast, it’s easy, and it’s beneficial for the entire community.

According to Goodwill’s parent organization, “Every 42 seconds of every business day, a person served by Goodwill earns a good job.”  Hopefully the Midtown boutique will not only introduce new audiences to its merchandise, but to its mission.


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