On Friday, February 17th, 2023, Goodwill in Manhattan had a grand re-opening after an interior remodel. I got an inside look at their refresh and the chance to talk to those involved; Melody Herren – the Community Engagement Specialist, and Shannon Burke – the Creative Services Manager. Goodwill is a non-profit agency that offers free assistance to help people get on their feet. Herren told me that she was drawn to Goodwill’s philosophy of improving the community from within, that it “starts at the grassroots.” If you want to see a change nationwide, it really starts with action locally. Melody continued, “Goodwill’s mission is to fuel the community again. To really empower that community, again.” The job-seekers who tend to use Goodwill’s programs are usually people who would otherwise have trouble getting into the workforce, such as people with disabilities, those formerly incarcerated, veterans, or anyone with a barrier to employment. Burke explained how she loves working with a non-profit, especially one with a mission she believes in. She stated, “Having a meaning you believe in behind the work that you’re doing is so fulfilling.”
Burke describes the remodel as “a nice little refresh of our branding and our organizational look in the store.” They got new paint, signage, organization systems, and a new breakroom. While some stores have already been renovated, Burke mentions they are still “doing some remodels on some stores” within this district. Herren explains how the renovation was possible “because our community helps… so much. Because when you shop at Goodwill, it directly funds our programming,” and this is their way of giving back to the community by enhancing their shopping experience.
I also got a tour behind-the-scenes of their remodel from employees Eric McCollum and Matthew Guerra. Jay Ketterling – Chief Financial Officer at Goodwill of Western Missouri & Eastern Kansas – joined along on the tour. Guerra guided the tour, starting at their donation door. This is the most important part of Goodwill “because, without them, we can’t really be here today,” Guerra expresses. Ketterling continues, “There’s a need for it … we all have a lot we can probably get out of our closets.” COVID played a big role in Goodwill’s recent success, as there was a huge influx of donations in 2020 due to the pandemic. Being stuck at home gave people a chance to go through their closets, garages, basements, storage, etc. McCollum states, “Those days were crazy, and it’s not been like that since.” Any donations that do not get sold on the sales floor usually end up going to the Goodwill Outlet to give the item a second chance to be bought. The Outlet is “where they dump [the items] out on tables and sell it by the pound,” McCollum describes. Guerra continues by explaining how if a book isn’t sold, “they actually go to different libraries [and schools] in need of books.”
Goodwill also has an online store, usually used for “high-value items” and items that are of greater quality. “It’s our version of eBay; that’s a good way of putting it,” says McCollum. The online store is nationwide, all across the country. Guerre explains how Goodwill tries to “make sure that everyone has an opportunity to get [those items], not just from [this store].”
As part of their store’s remodel, employees were taken into consideration. Employees got a brand new breakroom. Guerra explains that their old breakroom used to be a small room. McCollum continues, “Now [we] can actually have like 10 people in there” without being on top of each other. Another way Goodwill values their employees is through stars. They have a bulletin board of star cards in the back of the store. These are given to star employees – “employees who went above and beyond,” clarifies McCollum. Management wants to let them know their hard work doesn’t go unnoticed.
There are currently 15 stores in this district, but their goal is to have 40 stores within the next few years. They’re already adding 1 more this year in Kansas City after opening a small boutique-style store in Leawood, KS, in fall 2022. Ketterling explained, “We operate in 85 counties in eastern Kansas and western Missouri.” The Manhattan store is the farthest west store in this district. Ketterling continues, “Our big goal is to try and raise funds to provide FREE development training, which is focused on individuals interested in re-entering or starting in the workforce.” They offer resume writing, skill training, and job searching services. They also teach some courses and plan on adding more!
I used to complain about how high the prices had gotten at Goodwill compared to other thrift stores, but I didn’t realize that most of that money goes to those in need. I found out that 88 cents per every dollar earned goes directly back to their programs and mission to help more people. Goodwill is so much more than just another thrift store.