After a tough winter, Goodwill looks to spring

Steve Somer (right), assistant manager of the Pennsauken Goodwill store, helps Brian McHugh of Collingswood as he donates electronic items.
Steve Somer (right), assistant manager of the Pennsauken Goodwill store, helps Brian McHugh of Collingswood as he donates electronic items. (DAVID M WARREN / Staff Photographer)
Posted: March 06, 2014

The snow, ice, and freezing weather in New Jersey have created a drought of the decade for Goodwill, where donations and sales at local thrift stores have declined.

"I've never seen anything like it," said Goodwill CEO Mark Boyd, who has been with the company for nine years. "This is unprecedented for us."

The nonprofit has already closed a store in Atlantic City.

"After Hurricane Sandy, we just never recovered," Boyd said of the Atlantic County location that was hit by flooding in two consecutive years.

Donations across New Jersey and Philadelphia were down 15 percent in January compared with last year. In February, they were down 11 percent. Boyd and local sales managers hope spring cleaning will come early with an abundance of donations.

"We're hoping to get a jump start," Boyd said. "People like getting rid of stuff quickly and easily, and people know how important those donations are to the community."

Unlike other charities that discard donations that cannot be reused, Goodwill sells, donates, or recycles nearly all goods. Stained clothing or tablecloths are shredded into rags and shipped to poverty-stricken areas across the globe. Single shoes are bundled to melt for the rubber.

In Pennsauken, the store on Route 70 had a steady flow of shoppers on Tuesday. Monday, most shoppers stayed away during the snowfall, with $2,600 in sales.

That is half of what the store usually sells on a Monday, said Steve Somers, assistant manager.

"This is probably one of the worst winters we've ever seen," he said, passing through the donation center, where there were no goods to sort or put on display. "Normally, this store is filled."

The furniture section had several items in a sparse showroom that is normally filled, Somers said. He believes donations at the Pennsauken store dropped by 50 percent in a decline that started before winter and became exacerbated with each storm and freeze.

Jamie Nix of Tabernacle is a "thrifter" who was combing through shirts Tuesday. She said she usually shops every other week, buying clothing for herself and to sell online.

"Oh, no, it was snowing yesterday," she said about shopping Monday. "Of course I'm out today, because I had cabin fever something severe."

The snow did not stop Pauline Shakir of Camden, who returned Tuesday. She shops twice a week for her family.

"When the snow stopped, that's when I shopped," Shakir said.

Boyd said he hoped donations peak before spring showers deter people.

Goodwill spokeswoman Juli Lundberg also noted that those who register donations on Goodwill's computer can get a report for tax purposes.

"We have people call us and say they lost their receipts," Lundberg said. "They're so relieved when they find out we can print out a list of all their donations for the year."


bboyer@phillynews.com

856-779-3838 @BBBoyer

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