My three month, self induced challenge too shop first at Goodwill has ended. It started as more of a personal thing, to save money, while feeling good about donating to a place that helps people. It evolved into something greater than me. When the boys asked for something, they always said, “We’ll check the Goodwill first, to see if they have it.” I had the opportunity to meet with some awesome people who work with Goodwill. They showed me that Goodwill is bigger than a donation box and more than just a retail store.
Goodwill Industries of Colorado Springs is an incredible asset to our community. It is one of the top ten Goodwills in the country. It employs around 1,000 people in our city. They put about 90% of their donations and revenue back into the myriad of programs they have that support the community. Goodwill of Colorado Springs has the following programs:
- GCF LearnFree® Computer TrainingInteractive computer training to enhance skills.
- Goodwill at HomeA non-medical based home care service designed to assist individuals.
- Adult Day Care in Colorado Springs at Goodwill’s Life at the BluffsProgram provides service to seniors in need of regular daytime assistance.
- Employment and Training for Individuals with DisabilitiesA wide range of programs available including work skills and employment services.
- Programs for Individuals with Economic DisadvantagesOffers many types of programs to assist individuals with economic challenges.
- Adult Day Services for Individuals with a DisabilityDesigned to help quality of life for individuals with disabilities.
- Residential ProgramAssists individuals with disabilities and special needs in choosing a home.
There are nine Goodwill retail stores within 50 miles of Colorado Springs. They also run a janitorial service that services the Air Force Academy, a laundry facility that employs over 70 people and services VA Hospitals and other businesses, and they have a packaging and assembly program for businesses of all sizes. I was honored to visit the laundry facility and the day services program for adults with disabilities. The highlight of my day was visiting with the sweet people who work at the Subcontract Department work site.
I grew up with an aunt who is mentally handicap. She is now in her mid 50s, but will always have the mind of a three year old. From the time she was old enough and capable enough she went to her “workshop” and earned a paycheck. She takes pride in her ability to work and make money. She talks about her friends, the good ones, the bad ones and she never leaves out stories about her boyfriends. I know how important a place like that is, not only to her, but her family.
When I saw the many people with disabilities working to stuff envelopes and count keys, I saw my Aunt in them. They may have been discounted by others in the community, but Goodwill offers them a unique and supportive work environment. They are able to earn a paycheck. The cafeteria offers them a safe place to learn how to use money in a real life setting, where they won’t be taken advantage of. Most of the workers had a smile on their face and were proud to show me their work.
The day program for adults with disabilities was phenomenal. I was surprised that Goodwill offers such a place. It was filled with activities and programs suited to the specific needs for each person. There is an amazing room known as Snoezelen. It is a state of the art environment for sensory stimulation for adults with various sensory, cognitive and physical disabilities. There are many different lights and textures, even sounds, that the individuals can control. I immediately felt relaxed and wondered if I had finally found something that could get my four year old to sit still for more than two minutes.
The laundry facility was very interesting to me, I had no idea Goodwill had such a place. I had never been in a laundry quite like that. They have trucks bringing in laundry from as far away as Cheyenne, Wyoming. The washers and dryers were massive and bigger than most cars, holding hundreds of pounds of laundry. With those washers, I could get away with one load of laundry every two weeks. The manager of the facility was incredible, even though he is a Florida Gators fan, and showed me the process from start to finish. One inspiring person there was a blind man who worked folding. He would have very limited access to any job, yet thanks to Goodwill, he was able to work and be a part of a team.
The last part of my morning was spent visiting my local Goodwill retail store. This is the part of Goodwill most people see and associate with the blue G. I got a peek behind the scenes, from the point where donations are received to how the items get on the sales floor. Very little is thrown away at these stores. Clothes with holes or broken zippers and buttons are boxed up and sent to a facility that repurposes them. Items that aren’t sold go to a Goodwill Garage Sale store where anyone can bid on crates of clothes, electronics, even toys at extremely low prices. I got the inside information on how they tag items. Did you know that every week there are at least one or two colors of tags that offer even bigger discounts?
I felt so small in such a big organization and found myself wishing I could do more to support Goodwill. However, I realized that if all of us do a little, it can keep this organization going. I may only be able to donate a few times a year or shop at the retail store as my purse allows, but if there are hundreds of us doing that it adds up. I want to encourage you to check out your local Goodwill, especially if you are in Colorado Springs. They do great work in our community and give so much, with so little recognition.
I’d love to hear your stories about Goodwill. Have you utilized their employment opportunities? Are you a success story? Have you found the perfect piece of furniture or an outstanding deal? Here’s a great deal for Colorado Springs residents, Colorado Springs Goodwill offers an awesome Facebook Friday deal. If you friend them on FB you can get a coupon for 25% off on Fridays! Go, friend them and start checking out Goodwill. I know you’ll be surprised at all you never knew about them.