At least this year the stores are open and ready to accept donations and shoppers
VANCOUVER — A steady stream of cars lined up outside of the Fisher’s Landing Goodwill retail store in east Vancouver on Wednesday, taking advantage of a beautiful pre-Spring day to clear out some unwanted items.
What was trash to them, however, is treasure to Goodwill. The nonprofit banks on rites of passage, like the annual Spring Cleaning, to restock its retail store shelves for bargain seekers.
“Shopping is down, people are being careful on the shopping side,” said Dale Emanuel, spokesperson for Goodwill Industries of the Columbia Willamette.
However, that comes with a bright side, she added.
“Please know the pickings are really good.”
While shopping at a second-hand thrift store may not have been high on a lot of people’s list of priorities during a pandemic, donations have remained relatively steady.
Last year, people in central and northwest Oregon, as well as Southwest Washington, dropped off more than 176 million pounds of household goods. That included nearly 23 million pounds of textiles, such as clothing, 8.1 million pounds of books, and over three million pounds of cardboard.
Goodwill also took in 3.95 million pounds of electronics, much of which ends up being recycled through e-cycle programs in Oregon and Washington.
“That big, huge console TV with the big backside that’s been sitting in your garage forever?” says Emanuel, “it doesn’t have to work. Please know eCycle is a contract that makes certain that things don’t land in anybody’s landfill in any part of the world. So feel comfortable giving us things electronically, that aren’t functioning.”
When items don’t sell, Goodwill works hard to make sure it’s recycled. Last year, 77 percent of all items donated were sold, recycled, or salvaged. 46 million pounds of items were recycled.
Last Spring, most Goodwill stores were closed due to lockdowns in the early months of the pandemic, but items piled up outside anyway, prompting the company to urge people to wait until they reopened.
Emanuel says unwanted drop-offs are still happening, since about half of their donation centers remain closed due to reduced staffing even as stores reopened.
“To that end, what we ask you to pack your stuff and your patience, to please give it to us in times in which we’re open,” Emanuel says. “The weather might certainly get it, and folks who you don’t intend to get your stuff might get a hold of what you plan to give to help your community access free job services.”
Goodwill’s core mission includes job placement and training services, which are currently being done largely remotely. In 2019, they helped 11,676 people connect with an employer, and held 583 job fairs.
With the ongoing pandemic, Emanuel stresses that Goodwill is continuing to enforce the use of masks, physical distancing, and other safety measures in stores. They also are limiting the donation of certain items, especially anything that is wet.
“We wait for orders from (Washington) Governor (Jay) Inslee,” Emanuel said of their safety protocols. “But we’re really happy to tell folks that because of the support of Clark County, and our Oregon Community, we have been able to slowly bring back our payroll, which is really gratifying.”
For details on the company’s ongoing response to COVID-19, click here.