Goodwill's mission reaches beyond thrift stores

 

We read with great interest Wesley Brown’s June 10 compelling story in The Augusta Chronicle regarding the growth in the number of “thrift” stores in the Augusta area (“Thrift shopping on rise in Augusta”). Goodwill is proud to count itself among the notable stores in Augusta and those mentioned in the article.

For many in the community, that’s all they know about Goodwill: It’s a convenient place to donate used clothing and household items, and to browse the stores for wonderful bargains on gently used goods.

But that barely scratches the surface of Goodwill Industries and its mission of providing “a hand up, not a hand out” to those in need.

 

FOUNDED BY a Methodist minister, Goodwill Industries serves more than 160 autonomous territories in the United States and Canada, operating more than 2,000 retail stores. The Augusta area is part of Goodwill Industries of Middle Georgia and the CSRA, which encompasses 31 counties in Georgia and four in South Carolina.

There are 11 Goodwill retail stores across that broad area, from Aiken, S.C., to Dublin, Ga., along with nine donation centers – with more on the way. The donations brought into those centers and sold in those stores provide more than 55 percent of the annual revenue that fuels Goodwill’s missions.

Those missions do far more in the community than just provide a source for inexpensive, fashionable clothing.

When the Rev. Edgar Helms founded Goodwill, he developed a vision of accepting donated goods, providing paid training for unskilled workers to learn to repair those goods and then selling them in retail stores, with the profits returned to provide more training. That, in a nutshell, is what Goodwill still does, more than 100 years later – though on a vastly larger scale than perhaps Helms envisioned.

Last year, for example, Goodwill Industries of Middle Georgia and the CSRA provided employment for nearly 600 people, paying nearly $16 million in salaries and wages. Goodwill’s training programs last fiscal year helped nearly 3,000 people find jobs with an average starting wage of $10.34 per hour, removing a burden of nearly $37 million from taxpayers in the form of unneeded governmental assistance.

In addition to helping job-seekers on such basics as preparing résumés and working on interview skills, all free of charge, Goodwill’s Job Connections offer free GED and job readiness classes to the public. Those programs assisted more than 15,000 people last fiscal year, improving their opportunities to become self-sufficient.

In addition to those programs, Goodwill Industries of Middle Georgia and the
CSRA provides more than a quarter-million training hours annually to individuals with disabilities and other barriers to employment, developing workers who provide stocking and cleaning services at Fort Gordon and at Robins Air Force Base in Warner Robins, Ga.

The mission continues to expand from entry-level assistance to one that also helps workers further develop their talents through post-secondary education. To that end, Goodwill last year opened in Augusta a second campus of Helms College, including a culinary school that soon will begin offering associate degree programs, and expanding the college’s mission to other areas of identified employment needs such as health sciences throughout the CSRA and middle Georgia.

 

DESPITE THESE tremendous missions and their continued, growing success, we know many people regionally and nationally are aware of Goodwill only through their donations. In addition to sharing our message, it’s also important that we demonstrate good stewardship of your generosity. We’re proud to note that Goodwill was rated A-plus by the independent Charity Watch organization for, in part, returning more than 83 percent of philanthropic support to Goodwill’s missions.

So when you drop off those gently worn shirts or the books you no longer need, you can be confident that your donations will help Goodwill in its mission to build lives, families and communities one career at a time by helping people develop their God-given gifts through education, work and career services.

 

(The writer is treasurer of the Board of Directors of Goodwill Industries of Middle Georgia and the CSRA.)

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