Goodwill's goal is to teach individuals self-sufficiency so they can lead a productive life.
Music from the 80s blasts in the background. Huge boxes filled with seasonal items line a back wall of the warehouse from floor to ceiling. Forklifts move heavy loads of items from storage units to the inside of Goodwill’s processing center at 3020 Brookside Drive near Bloomingdale. Metal hangers zip on rods, pushed by busy hands sorting clothing. Other clothing is neatly folded nearby. Books, household items, toys and electronics are all looked over to determine suitability for sale at local retail stores. But nothing is discarded, even broken items.
"We’re a very green company," said Phyllis Miller, Goodwill’s local director of operations. "Nothing goes to waste. We don’t throw anything away, even if it’s not in good enough condition to be sold at our stores."
Unusable items are sold to brokers or vendors. Metal and plastic items are melted and reused. Leather items can be re-purposed in third world countries and turned into crafts.
"Any reputable broker I can find, I’ll sell to," Miller said. "That way, items don’t go into the landfill. And it benefits someone else."
Goodwill’s mission is to provide employment and training to those with an employment barrier of some kind, according to Miller. Some have never held a job before, while others have been laid off. Still others include those who are working on their GEDs or single mothers entering the workforce. Some have disabilities. Regardless of the barrier, Goodwill’s goal is to teach individuals self-sufficiency so they can lead a productive life. Sales to retail customers and donations from donors make that effort a reality.
Miller has been with Goodwill for 23 years and calls her time with the company "an act of love."
"I can’t do anything about anybody’s disability. None of us here can," she said. "But every individual has abilities. You work with an individual, figure out what those abilities are, and build and expand on them. That’s what Goodwill’s success has been. Helping our employees overcome the challenges of life is why I come to work every day."
Locally, Goodwill serves 17 counties in Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia, and has 12 retail stores. Kingsport and Johnson City each boast three store locations. Bristol has two Goodwill retail stores. And Greeneville, Big Stone Gap, Chilhowie and Richlands each have one retail store. Between the retail stores, the processing center and its administrative building, Goodwill employs 133 people.
Goodwill also offers contract services for local businesses. Work can include assembly, recycling, shrink wrapping, packaging/labeling/inspecting, collating and janitorial. Revenue from those services helps pay for training and salaries for the employees at Goodwill.
For shoppers looking for even better deals than Goodwill’s retail stores offer, a Pound Sale is held at the processing center from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., every Friday. Shoppers pay only $1.10 per pound purchased. Items rotate weekly since merchandise leftover after the sale is then sent to a third world country.
Business hours at local Goodwill retail stores are 7 a.m. to 8 p.m., Monday through Saturday, and from 1 to 6 p.m. on Sunday. Ninety-three cents of each dollar you spend will be used to finance training and employment programs for people with barriers to employment.
Donations are a core support of employment and training programs. Every Goodwill store serves as a donation center. To find the store closest to you or to learn more about donating to Goodwill, or for more information about Goodwill, visit www.goodwilltnva.org.