Public relations manager discusses mission in wake of store opening

CONTRIBUTED - The Goodwill Outlet, also known as 'the bins,' is where unsold item go to be marked down and have a second chance to be reclaimed by a savvy thrifter.As the ribbon was cut in February at the new Goodwill location at 37201 Highway 26, 214 shoppers flowed in within the first 15 minutes.

The 54-employee crew saw 4,382 transactions over the four days of the opening event.

In a previous interview, Store Manager Joe Murphy said in one day at the old store his then-32 employees typically saw about 225 customers.

Dale Emanuel, public relations manager for Goodwill Industries of the Columbia Willamette, gave a presentation at the Sandy Area Chamber of Commerce's "Lunch & Learn" event on Wednesday, March 22, speaking about the nonprofit organization's mission and local impact, and sharing results of the grand re-opening of their Sandy store

About five people attended the informational lunch at Sandy Family Restaurant, 39024 Proctor Blvd., and visited with three representatives of Goodwill.

Emanuel shared that last year 2.1 million pounds of product was donated to the local store and processed.

"You had the sixth most attended grand opening of 39," Emanuel said. "That's a really great thing. Thrift is kind of embraced here."

She gave a brief history lesson on Goodwill, explaining that when the organization was founded in 1903 it was initially a much smaller entity focused on providing goods received from the "haves" to give to the "have-nots."

When simply gifting material goods to the less fortunate proved to be not much of a long-term solution, the Methodist pastor who started the initiative decided to open a store, putting those with little-to-no means to work and the more fortunate people's donations to use as retail product.

"He looked around the room and he realized something really basic about humanity," Emanuel recounted. "That while everybody had arms full of things, they had no way to sustain and take care of those things once they were of disuse. They still didn't have a way of buying anything more or paying for food. So, he asked everybody to put it down and he said 'We're going to open up a store. You're going to sell and repair. You're going to walk away with a paycheck, and other people are going to walk away with a good deal.'"

Also on the agenda of Emanuel's talk was the organization's Job Connections program. Brian Whistler, the program's senior employment specialist, also attended.

It was reported that during the opening weekend, Whistler provided 25 people with help searching for jobs and creating resumes.

The program is a free service, and the new Sandy store has an in-house office where specialists work to place applicants in positions in retail, customer service, production, data entry and several other fields.

Emanuel clarified that though there is a misperception that Job Connection only helps people obtain employment at Goodwill, less than 10 percent of the 10,000 people their 35 offices have helped ended up working for Goodwill.

"A lot of people think coming to a nonprofit for help is the lowest of the barrel," Emanuel said. "We don't believe that at all. If you've bought anything or given anything to us, you've paid for this already. We're just one more tool to help you get your feet square."

Finally, she discussed a question many have: Where does the unsold product go? As an organization whose main goal is funding and implementing mission services, it tries not to waste anything it receives.

The first stop for any unsold item is the nearest Goodwill Outlet Store, which for Sandy would be the location at 5950 N.E. 122nd Ave. in Portland. Items are sold in bins, which are frequented mostly by the thriftiest customers. If something there isn't sold, sometimes it will be donated to causes supporting third-world countries or recycled by the facility.

"If you see someone in a third-world country running by in an Armani or cool Nike sneakers, pat yourself on the back," she said. "It most likely comes from an American charity, because they can't make textiles."

Emanuel also praised those who frequent these outlets to refurbish and resell or repurpose items that might otherwise go to waste.

"It's really neat," she added. "They're really helping Mother Earth, and sustaining their bottom line. Then behind the scenes, we recycle plastics and electronics. No book goes to the landfill. No clothing item goes to the landfill unless it's just so muddy and gross, which that happens."

She explained the items that go to waste mostly end up unusable because people drop them off after hours, and the elements take a toll on their value or functionality. She also encouraged those in attendance to be aware of when donation centers are open and hold items if it is after hours.

"As we approach Earth Day, think about that," Emanuel urged of the April 22, observation. "Please wait."

The donation center at the Sandy store is open during store hours, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Sunday.

Job Connection services are available from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.