Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Goodwill Duluth: employing and empowering

Caption: Clients work together sorting donated items using a conveyor belt at the Garfield Avenue work site. (Photo by Wendy Grethen)

By Wendy Grethen

“By unloading you are uplifting.” This is the new marketing message for Duluth’s Goodwill. And they’re right. Every day people are cleaning house and unloading heaps and heaps of donated items for redistribution and resale.
The people who benefit most from Goodwill Industries are the people who process the donations.

The state of Minnesota has two Goodwill Industries and one is right here in Duluth. Goodwill Industries is a private non-profit community rehabilitation program which helps people with a disability or other barrier to employment achieve the highest level of work productivity with respect to individual dignity.

Goodwill serves about 190 clients in the Duluth area with almost half from the Hillside area. The hours and tasks that the client works are selected based upon the individual.
Client work activities include sorting donations into usable or non-usable items and different categories, removing metal from unusable goods, which then go to a secondary market to be recycled, or electronics testing.

Some clients work off-site and perform janitorial services at the Federal Building and other sites in Duluth or help with lawn mowing. Goodwill also has services to blister pack or shrink-wrap and can manufacture items. The clients are the labor force providing the work, whose revenues support Goodwill’s rehabilitation services.

Currently, a 21- member board of directors along with the staff of 135 from the Duluth area help to make operations as efficient as possible, provide job opportunities for clients or supervise clients either in projects or at the 11 retail stores in the Northland.
Some funding for Goodwill Industries comes through the United Way, but 85 percent of Goodwill’s revenue comes from its retail, lawn care, and janitorial services.
Loads of donations are dropped off at the Goodwill main drop-off sites or its other sites throughout the Northland. Most of the donations are clothing.

“The goal is for 11,000 saleable clothing items to ship to stores each week. The goal is often exceeded,” said Goods Manager Greg Conkins.

Unusable goods going to secondary markets, beyond what is sold at the regional stores, may go to locations such as Africa, Afghanistan, Pakistan, or India. Likewise, unusable items that have recycling potential are separated out by category and then sold to appropriate salvage markets.
Substantial progress has been made in cutting down about half of the materials that would have gone into a landfill and often the recycled metals or glass can then go on to make new products.

So, go ahead and do a little back-to-school and fall routine-cleaning in your closets and garage. Goodwill welcomes drop-offs of clothing, shoes, garden equipment, bicycles, sporting goods, linens, glassware, kitchenware, books and furniture in good condition.

For more information, call Goodwill at (218) 722-6351 for a pick-up or to ask a question on acceptable items to donate. Your donations are tax-deductible, as provided by law.

There are 11 retail Goodwill stores in northeastern Minnesota and northwestern Wisconsin, including three in the Duluth/Superior Area: 700 Garfield Avenue, 4883 Miller Trunk Hwy, and 2401 Tower Avenue in Superior.
Visit the website at