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Goodwill is more than just stores

By Nathan Tsukroff

GORHAM – Goodwill of Northern New England is more than just stores where used items are sold.

Goodwill NNE has multiple programs to help people and families in Maine, New Hampshire and northern Vermont to achieve better or more stable lives.

With a motto of, “A hand up, not a hand out”, Goodwill sees part of its mission as teaching people the skills to achieve personal stability, which includes skills like job preparedness and career training.

Headquartered in an industrial park area on Hutcherson Drive in Gorham, Goodwill NNE has additional offices in central Maine and New Hampshire, with retail stores sprinkled throughout the three states.

The stores are an important fundraising tool that support the work of Goodwill, including neuro-rehab services, cleaning services, and other workforce and healthcare services.

Nick Bennett, interim manager for the GoodTech department at the Goodwill NNE facility in Gorham, evaluates a donated video game system for possible resale. Donated computers, phones, games systems and peripherals are tested, refurbished if possible, and either sold in the stores or online. Items that can’t be refurbished are passed along to computer companies for parts, or to recycling companies. (Tsukroff photo)

In Maine, Goodwill manages 23 residential homes throughout the central and southern part of the state, for adults with an acquired brain injury, an intellectual disability or other barrier to independence that requires the support of Goodwill staff. 

There are also community support facilities based in Augusta, Waterville, South Portland and Lewiston, which are “safe places for adults with disabilities to come learn, play, and learn how to live more independently,” Heather Steeves, a spokesperson for Goodwill NNE, said.

Goodwill also provides neuro rehabilitation services at facilities in Lewiston and Scarborough. “That’s where our medical staff helps people recover, rehabilitate from a brain injury,” Steeves said. “So if you have a stroke, for instance, your brain might need help getting its function back.”

Goodwill also has “so many workforce programs!” Steeves said. About 28,000 people were helped by Goodwill NNE last year to find jobs or with job training.

Workers in the warehouse area at the Goodwill NNE facility in Gorham fill big blue bins with items for sale in the Buy The Pound outlet that is part of the warehouse. Other workers sort items into boxes for sale in the retail stores, or for eventual recycling. (Tsukroff photo)

At Take 2 YouthBuild, a Goodwill program in Lewiston, 17-24 year olds who have a history in the juvenile justice system learn new skills and give back to their community.

In Take2 young people learn construction skills in the National Center for Construction Education and Research program while working toward their high school equivalencies and learning valuable life and work-readiness skills. “They’re  rebuilding Lewiston’s dilapidated housing stock.” Steeves said.

To help people with multiple sclerosis (MS) in Maine and New Hampshire live active, independent lives, Goodwill is a contracted partner with the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.

Goodwill manages AmeriCorps programs that strengthen communities in Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont by placing volunteers in local nonprofits, municipalities, and schools. These AmeriCorps members support the long-term health of communities through their selfless commitment, according to Goodwill.

GoodTech

Goodwill NNE created GoodTech, a program where its trained staff refurbishes donated electronics. Donated computers, phones, game systems and peripherals all must pass strict testing guidelines before being sold in the retail stores or online. Not only does GoodTech keep electronics out of the waste stream, it creates jobs for people in the local community by training them in the skills needed to test, repair and recycle all electronics.

GoodTech is a Microsoft Registered Refurbisher and follows stringent guidelines for wiping previous owners’ data, repairing and testing PCs. All hard drives are wiped to U.S. Department of Defense Standards.

Items are checked to determine if they should be resold in stores or online. Items that are not acceptable for immediate sale are either refurbished or passed along to computer companies for them to refurbish. Items that are beyond refurbishing are transferred to companies that recycle the electronic parts.

Store Donations

Store staff accept lightly-used clothing, household items and electronics. Donations are made at the stores. The donation bins that used to be found at businesses and strip malls throughout the area, were removed as Goodwill found that people were leaving items that could not be sold in its stores.

Items are cleaned, then sorted and placed in the various stores. Items that don’t sell are marked down in price, then eventually pulled back to the warehouse and placed for sale in the “Buy The Pound” outlets in Gorham and in Williston, VT, and Hudson, NH.

Millet Jones cuts clothing into rag strips for Goodwill Wiping Cloths, which are eco-friendly wiping cloths for home and workplaces. The cloths are available in different fabric types- sweatshirt, color t-shirts, white t-shirts, flannel and terry cloth. (Tsukroff photo)

These outlets are distinct from the retail stores as there are no clothing racks organized by size, or pre-sorted shelves stacked with housewares. Instead, shoppers find large, waist-high blue bins on wheels lined up in rows and piled with donated goods of all kinds.

In one bin might be anything from a Maine-shaped wall clock to holiday decorations, infinity scarves, and an inflatable unicorn pool toy that appears to have never been used. There are also separate bins for clothing, shoes, glassware, and books.

Payment is by the pound, with the shopping cart being weighed at the checkout area.

Clothing items that are unsuitable for sale are repurposed into Goodwill Wiping Cloths, eco-friendly cleaning cloths for at home and in the workplace. These washable, reusable wipes are absorbent, more durable than paper towels, and available in different fabric types- sweatshirt, color t-shirts, white t-shirts, flannel and terry cloth.

Learn more at goodwillnne.org.

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