The community members that founded Goodwill locally had a clear mission in mind: by collecting used household goods and clothing and then training people to mend and repair them, they could reinvest the funds that were raised back into employment programs. Goodwill Industries – Essex Kent Lambton’s mission is to change people’s lives through the power of work, and they have been doing this for more than 80 years.
In 2016 Goodwill received two prestigious awards from Goodwill Industries International: the Mission Support Mission Integration Award for investment in career services, and the Growing the Business Comparable Growth Award for the highest growth rate in their Donated Goods Retail revenue. These awards highlight not only the tremendous dedication of the Goodwill team, but also the community support for their work.
Goodwill currently operates five retail stores (including a bookstore), seven Attended Donation Centres (ADCs) and two Career Centres in Essex, Kent and Lambton counties. At the ADCs, Goodwill accepts donations of gently used clothing, furniture and household items. At the retail stores, Goodwill sells these items and trains employees in sales, store displays, handling cash and developing people skills. At the Career Centres, Goodwill offers services to anyone eligible to work in Canada, including employment counselling, training and job placements. This Employment Ontario project is funded in part by the Government of Canada and the Government of Ontario. “A job is more than just a paycheque,” explains Michelle Repuski, Director of Workforce Development. Goodwill’s Employment Consultants work with individuals to identify their employment needs and program or service options available to help them achieve their goals. “Our employment programs and services help people with employment barriers gain confidence, skills and independence.”
Sue Baert, the Director of Mission Development Services Training, who heads up the retail program, explains that many people who shop in the stores don’t realize that their purchases help fund local employment programs. “Every time someone makes a purchase, it is helping people in each of our communities,” Baert explains. “Cashiers continuously hear customers talking about the great finds they come across in our stores. We’re proud that our stores not only provide jobs, they also generate income for our programs.”
According to the 2015-2016 Impact Report, Goodwill served 4,859 people at their Career Centres and placed 1,620 people into employment, including 48 people who were hired at Goodwill. “We’re committed to making a real difference in people’s lives, their families’ lives and the communities they live in,” explains Heather Allen, Manager of Marketing and Communications. “When we say ‘You Donate, Someone Works,’ we mean it. Someone locally is going to benefit from the experience that they gain.” Goodwill also diverted more than four million pounds of product from the landfill last year, an achievement made possible through the dedication of the entire Goodwill team. Baert says, “For Goodwill, Sustainability means that we are committed to environmental stewardship, economic vitality, social responsibility and cultural diversity.”
This feature is part of an ongoing series on local organizations first published at “Year of Local” (www.yearoflocal.com). The features are also on a podcast which can be accessed here. For information on how to be involved, contact Rich Bouchard.