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Sustainability

Goodwill and 16 Million Pounds of Fun

Goodwill

Thrift Shoppers Help
Goodwill
Keep Items Out of Landfills

There are a lot of reasons people go thrift shopping at secondhand stores. They’re looking for bargains or sticking to a budget. They’re hoping to find unique gifts. They’re seeking vintage items that aren’t on the market anymore. They enjoy the thrill of the hunt.

But there’s another benefit people don’t always think about. By shopping at the stores operated by Goodwill Industries of Central Florida, they’re helping keep 16 million pounds of items a year out of local landfills.

“We take in, on a daily basis, 13 tons of textiles,” said Kim Praniewicz, vice president of marketing and mission advancement. That equals 26,000 pounds a day of mostly clothing but also bed linens, towels and other items from six counties the nonprofit serves: Brevard, Lake, Orange, Osceola, Volusia and Seminole.

“If they bring it to us, a lot of good things happen,” Praniewicz said. “One, it stays out of the landfill. Two, it provides some creativity to someone who wants to upcycle a piece, create their own fashion and become a trendsetter. Most importantly, it is the fuel that runs our social enterprise.

“When you drop off your donations of unwanted household goods or clothing, you are truly building a sustainable community. Plus you are providing revenue. Those items are sold in our stores, and those revenues go right to job placement and job skills training here in our community.”

Goodwill

In Central Florida, Goodwill employs more than 1,200 people to operate its 30 stores, 20 donation express locations, central warehouse, trucks, job placement services and administrative offices. The operation takes in donations, sorts the goods, transports the items to stores, stocks and displays items, and handles sales transactions. It also trains workers for its own operations and other employers.

“We’re very happy to say we have more employees now than we did right as the pandemic hit,” Praniewicz said. “Unfortunately, when the pandemic happened and everyone had to close, we were closed about six weeks. We had to lay off a tremendous number of people. And we were able to bring the same number of jobs back if not more.”

Goodwill typically receives about 4,000 donations a day in Central Florida. Collectively, the stores record about 10,000 transactions daily.

But at the beginning of the pandemic, when a lot of people were stuck at home, many used the time to clean out their houses and garages. That meant an uptick in donations. “We were very lucky people were generous during that time,” Praniewicz said.

The organization noticed another trend when it reopened during the pandemic, when not everyone was comfortable venturing out yet: “Even though the transaction numbers had gone down a little bit, the amount folks were spending in our stores had gone up. Part of that was because we are affordable. We sell low-cost, quality goods, and during a very uncertain time, people could count on us to have what they needed at an affordable price.”

Praniewicz herself has become a secondhand shopping aficionado over the years. One of her favorite sources is the Goodwill Central Florida online boutique, www.goodfindscfl.com, where shoppers can find handbags, jewelry and other accessories.

“Our generous donors donate high-end luxury items to us,” Praniewicz said. “Some are gently used and some are brand-new with the tags still on them. If you have a desire for a Michael Kors or Coach bag, I would tell you to look there first.

“There are great bargains,” she said, “and again, all of this goes back to job placement, which is so important right now, as well as job skills training. Many people are trying to make the leap from hospitality to other businesses right now, and our job skills training is key to helping them.”

Sports fans and people looking for collectibles should try Goodwill’s auction site, www.shopgoodwill.com or the local version www.shopgoodwill.com/Orlando if they want their purchase dollars to stay in Central Florida. Collectibles include musical instruments, vinyl albums, Star Wars items, Legos kits, baseball cards, autographed items, fine art, movie memorabilia and theme park items.

“We create jobs that build lives that work,” Praniewicz said. “That’s our mission. As a social enterprise, 90% of everything that comes in as revenue goes to job skills and job placement services.”

Leaders in Central Florida can help. “Think of us as you are downsizing your office and need a place for the furniture or equipment to go,” Praniewicz said. “If you would like to conduct a drive for household items and clothing to be donated, think of us. You can do it with your company, your church or your neighborhood. Also think of us in your personal life. As you have unwanted items, know that someone may want them, and you can truly impact the life of someone here in your hometown by helping them get a job or helping them receive the skills to find better employment.” 

About the author

Diane Sears

A career journalist, author and advocate for business growth, Diane Sears is the CEO, editor and publisher of i4 Business. She is also the founder and president of DiVerse Media LLC, which has handled content marketing projects including nonfiction books, white papers, executive speeches and scripts since 2000. She is co-founder of the nonprofit Go for the Greens Foundation, which helps connect women-owned and minority-owned business owners with growth opportunities internationally.

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