story by Ryan Saylor
Goodwill Industries of Arkansas continues its aggressive growth next month as it opens its eighth Northwest Arkansas location location in Siloam Springs on March 6.
The 15,000 square-foot donation center, career services center and retail store, located at 1001 South Mount Olive St., in the Highland Park Shopping Center, will be the non-profit's 36th location in the state.
"Goodwill continues to expand in northwest Arkansas because we want to make it as convenient as possible for people to be able to shop and donate with us," said GIA President and CEO Brian Itzkowitz.
According to Goodwill's Public Relations and Community Engagement Manager Rebecca Brockman, the growth of the organization has been not only steady, but rapid, since the financial collapse in 2008 and the subsequent Great Recession.
In figures Brockman provided to The City Wire, just from 2008 to 2009, Goodwill saw a 110% increase in the number of individuals served through the organization's career services centers and retail stores. From 2008 to 2013, that number ballooned 683.8% from 1,068 served in 2008 to 8,371 served in 2013.
During the same period, the number of people placed in jobs grew from 89 in 2008 to 1,279 in 2013, an increase of 1,337.08%. She added that "Goodwill has created approximately 500 jobs in the last five years. We are growing due to meet the demand of people in need."
The jobs created vary, but consist of of many individuals staffing the retail locations where anyone can purchase donated goods at discounted prices. Earnings from the donated goods, which are tax deductible, go back into Goodwill's career training services provided at their locations across the state.
"Three pairs of jeans equals 30 minutes of career training at Goodwill," she said.
Brockman said as the economy has continued to be shaky, those donations have been vital to the organization's mission, with a goal this year to serve 10,000 people.
"But we can’t meet that goal without donations," she said.
Among the programs Goodwill has been active in promoting is one that helps individuals leaving jail or prison to transition back into cities and towns "and make positive contributions."
According to the organization's web site:
• TEO (Transitional Employment Opportunity) participants are employed at Goodwill’s donation processing center where they acquire marketable skills processing donated textiles and computers and working on sub-industrial contracts from local businesses;
• Beyond building a resume and developing positive work behaviors, participants earn a weekly paycheck; and
• Once considered job ready (in no more than 16 weeks), a team of career specialists help them to search for competitive employment in the community.
The TEO program is just one of many that sees a constantly revolving door of staff at Goodwill's various locations, though Brockman has previously said an employee/trainee giving notice that they have found a new job is a sign that the company's training is working and helping those individuals move on to fulfilling careers to support themselves and their families, adding that Goodwill views turnover as a good thing.
As the organization prepares for its Siloam Springs opening, Brockman reminded the public that Goodwill's need is greater than ever, especially since donations have been down this year.
"Goodwill’s donations were severely affected by the winter weather this past season. We are need of donations and encourage people to do some pre-spring cleaning and get in those closets, garages and storage spaces."
Itzkowitz echoed Brockman's sentiments.
"Donations are the lifeblood of the organization. The funds generated through the sale of goods go right back into the Siloam Springs community to help people who need job readiness training and education."
Goodwill's grand opening of the Siloam Springs location will occur at 8:45 a.m. on March 6. Grand opening festivities will include the chance to win a 42" high definition television, as well as gift cards to Goodwill.