News Column

End-of-year Donations a Boon for Nonprofit Thrift Stores

Dec. 26, 2012

Tara Bozick, Daily Press (Newport News, Va.)

The end of the year translates into a busy donation season for thrift stores operated by nonprofits.

About 70 people stopped by to drop off used items at the Hampton Goodwill store by 1 p.m. Friday, said store manager Roger Fournier.

He said he expects the last three days of the year to be the busiest as people rush to donate to be able to claim deductions on their taxes. Donors also have time to purge their closets while on holiday vacation and may need to make space for those Christmas gifts, he added.

"It doesn't slow down a whole lot," Fournier said, adding a trailer provided storage for the extra items.

When the last day of the year falls on a weekend, that day could be four to five times busier than a normal weekend day, said Charles Layman, president and CEO of Goodwill serving Hampton Roads and Central Virginia. Donations have also increased 350 percent over the past five years as the organization expanded its number of stores and donation drop-off sites, which makes it more convenient, he said.

Other thrift stores expect a similar increase in donations.

The region's CHKD thrift stores expect donations to double in the last 10 days of the year, said Ridgely Ingersoll, spokeswoman for CHKD Health System.

At the end of the year, one store may get 100 donations in a day, Ingersoll said.

"We're definitely busy," said manager Donna Grubbs of the Boys and Girls Club Thrift Stores.

In the past year, the Boys and Girls Clubs of the Virginia Peninsula opened three stores in Yorktown, Newport News and Hampton. She expects the end of the year to be twice as busy as average for receiving donations.

Grubbs said donation drop-offs picked up as people began their Christmas shopping this past month. The money from sales helps keep the doors open for the clubs and help youth learn how to run a business in store apprenticeships, she said.

For Goodwill, selling donated items means the agency can provide job training, help people with disabilities overcome barriers to employment and get people back to work, Layman said. A donation worth $50 can mean eight hours of training, he explained and added 84 percent of the organization's total revenue goes back into job training and career development programs.

Specifically on the Peninsula, the Williamsburg Goodwill site trains physically and intellectually disabled people referred by state agencies, coaches them on interviews and landing a job and then helps workers adjust to new jobs with specific skills training, said Danielle Cronin, community relations manager.

Other sites like the Hampton store at 2165 Cunningham Drive provides a way for families receiving temporary financial assistance to meet work requirements through the Virginia Initiative for Employment Not Welfare program. The initiative aims to help families become self-sustaining, she added.

The Hampton site provides volunteer opportunities for court-ordered community service and works with the AARP to help provide job training to older workers, Cronin said. The overall goal of Goodwill is to help the unemployed or underemployed, Cronin said.

On Friday, David Brown of Hampton helped unload a steady stream of cars at Goodwill. Without the donations, the 39-year-old and others wouldn't have full-time jobs. After 15 years of digging and excavation work, Brown said he found himself without a job for six months when he was laid off.

"Until I got rescued by Goodwill," said Brown, who started through the Virginia Initiative program.

Joanne Smiley, 49, of Hampton, had been out of work for three years before getting hired full-time at Goodwill. She also started through the Virginia Initiative program.

The job is motivating, especially as it enables her to take care of her 12-year-old daughter like she had been wanting to, she said.

"She can have a blessed Christmas this year," Smiley said.

The thrift stores provide more service than simply reselling goods.

Goodwill's two employment specialists on the Peninsula also seek contracts to place workers in jobs, she said. For instance, Goodwill helped 30 people get work stocking shelves at the commissary at Fort Eustis through a government AbilityOne contract that requires 75 percent of the contracted positions to be filled by disabled workers, Cronin said.

CHKD operates six stores in the Greater Peninsula and one in Smithfield. All of the stores' profit, which is 20 percent of gross revenue after expenses, goes back to the CHKD Health System, which includes the Children's Hospital of The King's Daughters in Norfolk and the CHKD Health and Surgery Center at Oyster Point, Ingersoll said.

Last year, the CHKD health system received $3.1 million from the thrift stores, which is important in filling the gap in funding to help the health system provide care for every child regardless of ability to pay, Ingersoll said.

When Pat Jones, 54, of Hampton needed to purge some extra items without being able to have a yard sale, she knew giving it to the Hampton Goodwill store on Friday would be worthwhile.

"It can help other people," Jones said.



Source: (c)2012 the Daily Press (Newport News, Va.) Distributed by MCT Information Services


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