Goodwill’s success is a rarity in a volatile economy

by The City Wire staff ([email protected]) 209 views 

BELLA VISTA — Part of the goal of Goodwill Industries of Arkansas is to make donating as easy as possible. At the Bella Vista donation center, a blue-and-white sign out front reads: “Pop the trunk and we’ll do the rest.”
Giving back to its faithful donors and shoppers is a big part of the Goodwill Arkansas’ year-long 85th anniversary celebration, said northern district manager Francy Ford.

“We have to say ‘thank you’ to the people who’ve made the last 85 years possible,” Ford said. “Without our donors and without our shoppers, there is no Goodwill. We’re all about the public and the communities we serve.”

The anniversary celebration kicked off Jan. 1 and will run throughout the year. A special anniversary section has been added to the Goodwill Industries of Arkansas website with a company timeline, as well as photos and newspaper articles from Goodwill’s 85 years of serving Arkansas.

Goodwill shoppers will be particularly interested in the regularly scheduled statewide anniversary savings days, one of which is scheduled for Tuesday (March 27). Clothing and goods can be had for up to 85 percent off.

“It’s a once-a-month celebration with some real drastic price-reductions,” says Ford. “And it will be something different each month.”

The nonprofit has taken to using social media and the Internet to get word out beforehand. Shoppers can log on to the Goodwill Arkansas website to sign up for email alerts or “like” them on Facebook to be notified in advance of the anniversary savings days.

In the words of Goodwill Industries founder Edgar J. Helms, what people need is “a chance, not a charity.”

During the last 85 years, Goodwill’s mission has been to assist those with disabilities — or other barriers to employment — gain the independence that comes with a regular paycheck.

Ford says the best part of what she does is helping people find jobs.

“One vision for everybody here is what we’re doing today may help somebody find a job tomorrow,” Ford said.

Goodwill of Arkansas is a rarity in the current economy, with store sales and donations on the rise.

“I think people donate when they understand the need and the fact that the donations they give are going to do good for someone else,” Ford says.

With more people looking for work, there’s a bigger demand for Goodwill’s career service training. The organization has two career centers in Northwest Arkansas (Fayetteville and Springdale) that offer free job-search assistance and adult education. Goodwill’s efforts are paying off, as the number of people placed in jobs has grown from 89 in 2008 to 648 in 2011.

Behind a new vision statement, the organization is riding a huge growth spurt in Northwest Arkansas. In the last three years, stores have been added in Bentonville and Fayetteville; donations centers were opened in Fayetteville and Bella Vista. A location on Townson Avenue in Fort Smith does it all: takes donations and operates a successful retail outlet.

Statewide, Goodwill has added locations in Mountain Home, Cabot, West Little Rock, Benton and Malvern.

With the exception of the West Memphis area, Goodwill Arkansas serves the entire state.

“As long as you have people, there are people to be served,” Ford says. “We are fortunate to serve the whole state, so there’s still a lot of room to grow.”

In addition to providing employment training and opportunities, Goodwill of Arkansas also keeps millions of pounds of household goods out of area landfills and recycles thousands of pounds of hazardous waste materials each year.