Goodwill of South Jersey seeks all donations

Jodi Segal (left) of Philadelphia looks for goods to sell in online while Barbara Majka (right) looks for things for her home at the grand opening of the Goodwill store.
Jodi Segal (left) of Philadelphia looks for goods to sell in online while Barbara Majka (right) looks for things for her home at the grand opening of the Goodwill store. (MICHAEL S. WIRTZ / Staff Photographer)
Posted: March 07, 2013

Goodwill wants your stuff: old sneaks, designer dresses, even that wine-stained tablecloth.

In this downsizing economy, Goodwill Industries of Southern New Jersey and Philadelphia is expanding its stores and drop-off centers, and has started the area's first regional outlet in Bellmawr, Camden County.

The nonprofit also is hiring workers.

Tuesday, local politicians joined Goodwill executives to open the outlet in an industrial park on Benigno Boulevard, off the Black Horse Pike. Large bins filled with treasures and scraps were wheeled throughout the 131,000-square-foot facility. Within hours, the center attracted bargain hunters, do-gooders, and the needy.

Everything is sold for 99 cents a pound. New bins are rolled out every two hours.

Grace Amoo, 49, of Sicklerville, came to America for an education she could not receive in Nigeria, she said. She works at a psychiatric hospital in South Jersey, takes classes, and buys clothes and shoes to send to Africa.

Monday evening, she bought 43 pounds of clothes and returned Tuesday for more.

"I came yesterday at [5 p.m.] and left" at 7:30, she said. She donates to her church and sends barrels of clothes to Nigeria's impoverished.

Goodwill of Southern New Jersey chief executive officer Mark Boyd said nearly all goods are reused. What is not bought in stores is sold for recycling. Computers and televisions are salvaged. Some clothing can be shredded to make insulation. Soon, carpets will be recycled, too.

"We try to maximize the value of everything brought in here," Boyd said. "We really limit what goes in the landfill."

Selling donated items is one of the services Goodwill provides, but it is not its primary goal. The top mission is to provide jobs for those not easily employed.

Workers include people who have not finished high school, the physically disabled, or reformed criminal offenders, with the exception of arsonists and sexual predators.

"From the very beginning, our mission has been employment," Boyd said. His dream is to generate enough money to create an alternative school for adults to obtain high school diplomas, not just equivalency degrees.

"We want to help people realize their economic potential," Boyd said. That means workers may train and stay for a couple months, or for years.

Goodwill was started in 1902 by a Methodist minister in Boston with the premise that poor immigrants could sort donations to be recycled. In 1948, Goodwill Industries of Southern New Jersey was formed, providing work for people with special needs.

Alfonso Bennett, 65, joined Goodwill in the 1970s after he lost a manufacturing job in Camden.

"I never imagined I'd be here for this long," said the father of three.

"If it weren't for the people out there who donate, we would not be here," he said, gesturing toward the warehouse where he had been sorting shoes, hats, and belts.

As Boyd passed a bin, he plucked a wooden mold in the shape of a foot that had been used to make shoes. He marveled at the variety, which included discarded frames with pictures of nameless faces, brass lamps without shades, and wooden sleds with red-painted metal.

"That's the great thing about Goodwill - you just never know what's going to come in," Boyd said: Designer labels, eBay specials, or bags of rags.

Clothes and shoes in good condition that don't sell are shipped to Africa. Medical supplies like wheelchairs, crutches, and even a doctor's examination table have been sent to a clinic there.

Stained and ripped clothing is torn into rags, baled and sent to poor countries.

Many rags were donated to Hurricane Sandy victims to clean their homes.

Shortly after the storm, Goodwill opened a planned donation center on Grove Street in Haddonfield.

Some philanthropic organizations only accept new clothing. As large donations arrived from the South and were rejected, some of the excess was given to Goodwill, said the organization's spokeswoman, Juli Lundberg.

The tight economy has generated more customers, said Boyd, yet the organization has received one-third fewer donations this year compared with the same time last year. Donations slowed about the third week in January, when taxes and gas prices increased and tax refunds slowed, he said. He suspects people are buying less and using more of what they have.

Hours of the Bellmawr store, at 330 Benigno Blvd., are Monday through Saturday, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., and Sunday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.


Contact Barbara Boyer at 856-779-3838, bboyer@phillynews.com, or on Twitter @BBBoyer.

  

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