16 July 2016

7/15/2016 MICHIGAN Kalamazoo - Going Goodwill

I belong to the Ladies' Library Association of Kalamazoo (www.KalamazooLadiesLibrary.org). It is an all female club dedicated to literacy and women's issues. We meet monthly at an historic building that we own and occasionally take educational side trips.

Yesterday we visited the headquarters of Goodwill Industries of Southwestern Michigan. Wow, I was soooo impressed. I had no idea of their huge and worthy operation.

We were met by Denise King, Director of Marketing and Communications. She might be the most bubbly, happy, enthusiastic, smiliest person I have every met. A perfect person for the job. 

We started in their board room to learn a little history of this non-profit organization. This is their 60th year in operation. In 2006, they had consolidated from several cramped quarters into this 80,000+ square foot facility. The building, along with most furnishings, was donated to them by the Stryker Corporation (an international medical supply company based in Kalamazoo). At that time there was a successful $3 million capital campaign to complete the turnover. This added an elevator and other features to assist disabled participants.

After the introduction we proceeded to tour the huge warehouse area. Goodwill may best be known for its donated used clothing and home goods sales. Much of the warehouse was dedicated to ensuring clean and good condition stock, which then is disbursed to 11 retail store locations in SW Michigan. The employee below is doing initial sorting and inspecting of clothing for the next step of the process.
This is the sorting area. Belts go into one box, shoes in another, etc. "Things" are also sorted by glass, kitchen, decor, etc. They check each electrical / mechanical type item to make sure it works before it is put out for sale.

Goodwill also purchases new overstock and off-season items at low prices. Then they re-sell them at a little higher price to gain a profit margin. Here are some fellows arranging new fans of various types. 

There is also a "contract" area. Here various companies contract Goodwill for product assembly and light manufacturing. Not sure what they were making here, but gluing these card board structures together. They contract with individual inventors to assemble their products, automotive companies, and even QVC and Home Shopping channels. You name it, they will build it. Goodwill also offers janitorial services.

Goodwill is VERY careful to be as green as possible. They find various scrapping companies to sell those items that are not salable. Here is a container truck loading unusable clothes for a scrapping company.
Goodwill also has a deal with Dell Computers to take all the donated computer components that don't work or are not purchased in a timely fashion. They are still looking for a place to recycle TVs though. If you know of some place, send a comment with the info. I'll pass it along.
Another area is set up to send new books to local children over the summer, so they have things to read. Books are mailed right to their home at no cost to the child. That is pretty amazing!!!
Then we got to the Treasure Chest area. This is where possible "treasures" of jewelry, paintings, and collectibles are evaluated. They are distributed to the various stores or put online for sale on their own e-Bay type site. Check: http://www.shopgoodwill.com
Goodwill is dedicated to providing family support through training, paid employment, and career support. This includes people with special needs. It is a long-term commitment (as long as 20 years for a person!). They offer initial evaluation in rooms like this, with various written and practical tests. They have an on-going GED program for high school graduation level. There is finance coaching, community resource navigation, etc. There are many other services to ultimately bring folks to full self-sufficiency.
They do not offer a permanent nursery program, but have a room available at certain times when it is needed (like when parents are taking the GED test). There are colorful walls painted by talented Kalamazoo artist Conrad Kaufman and lots of toys, tables and puzzles for the kids. 

Just had to share this pix. In the playroom is the smallest little commode I have ever seen. The pix does not really convey actual size, but it was only about 1-½ feet tall from bottom to top. Look how short it is next to the diaper changing table. There was a little sink to match. Very cute and practical.

Along with all the Goodwill training and services, there is cooperation with other service agencies to round out support for those in need. Extra space in the building is rented to other non-profits that can help folks get back on their feet. There is Housing Resources, Inc., Literacy Council, etc. Here is a photo of the Loaves & Fishes pantry on site.

After the tour a few of us went into the mini retail outlet they have on site. It is their smallest store, but has some big advantages. Here is the last ditch effort to sell items that have been at the bigger stores, but everything is half off sticker price. Some nice bargains to be found. I also discovered that the last Saturday of every month has everything in the big stores on sale at half off. Whoa! Here I come Goodwill!
I read this statement in Goodwill's annual report: "We can change the world one life any a time." After seeing their operation, a believe it!  Read more at: www.goodwillswmi.org

PS - If you live in Kalamazoo, attend the fundraiser PalletPalooza. This is an art event with entries made from wood pallets accumulated by Goodwill. It is Saturday, August 13, 2016 from 2-6pm at the Western Michigan Recreation building. There are a couple of categories--function, furniture, and art.

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