Goodwill sales back long list of little-known programs in region

Mar. 5, 2013
Team member Tammy Thompson sorts newly donated clothing Monday in the sorting area at the Green Bay East Goodwill at 1301 Brosig St. / Jim Matthews/Gannett Wisconsin Media

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Go to to see Goodwill store team leader Jeremy Pingel discuss how his store contributes to the Goodwill mission.

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Lots of people donate to Goodwill Industries, and lots more visit the organization’s retail stores to shop for bargains.

But not many people are familiar with where all the money goes: a list of high-impact Goodwill programs and services that assist people with disabilities or other special challenges.

Goodwill Industries of North Central Wisconsin includes Appleton, Green Bay, and Oshkosh, and helps nearly 50,000 people annually with everything from job training to paying taxes.

Cindy Flauger, the regional leader of family-related services for Goodwill, said the organization takes pride in the diverse services that are funded through the generosity of people donating merchandise to the retail stores.

“It’s very important to know, when you donate, it’s going to do the work you want it to do,” she said.

» Video: Team leader discusses the mission of Goodwill

» Video: Goodwill employee overcomes physical limitations, establishes career

This month, the community has an opportunity to support the nonprofit group’s programs and services as part of “March to Goodwill,” a campaign in partnership with Gannett Wisconsin Media markets in Appleton, Oshkosh and Green Bay that kicked off Sunday.

To participate in this year’s “March to Goodwill,” fill any box or bag with gently used clothing, shoes and other household items. Donation bags were distributed in Sunday’s print editions of The Post-Crescent, the Oshkosh Northwestern and the Green Bay Press-Gazette. Nondaily publications in The Post-Crescent’s coverage area will have bags inserted this week.

During the campaign, drop off the donations at any Goodwill Industries of North Central Wisconsin store, Donation Express site or Goodwill-branded donation bin.

Post-Crescent Media has partnered with Goodwill on “Sack It to Goodwill” since the 1990s as one of The Post-Crescent’s annual Do It! Community Challenges. “March to Goodwill” replaces it in the “Do It!” lineup.

The Post-Crescent, Press-Gazette and Northwestern will keep the donation drive front-of-mind this month with twice-weekly stories about Goodwill’s mission, services and programs.

Goodwill’s programs include organized baseball for children with disabilities, tax preparation for elderly and low-income people, restorative justice for criminal offenders and victims, community gardens to benefit food pantries, home ownership assistance through Habitat for Humanity, job training for high school students with special needs, and much more.

To fund those services, Goodwill Industries operates 24 retail stores throughout north-central Wisconsin, with another scheduled to open this spring in La Crosse.

Operating entirely on new or gently used merchandise donated by the public, the stores generate a combined $56 million a year in sales.

Jeremy Pingel, store team leader at the Green Bay East store, 1301 Brosig St., said donations have increased noticeably in recent years at his store, which at 18,000 square feet is among the largest in the region. The store is stocked with furniture, housewares, clothing, books, electronics and other goods.

Pingel and his staff work hard to maximize the value of each donated item, both of out of respect to the donor and out of a sense of duty to those who benefit from Goodwill’s programs and services. He agreed that most shoppers probably are unaware of where their money goes after they leave the checkout line.

“Everyone knows Goodwill,” he said. “They just don’t know what Goodwill is all about.”

Goodwill Industries makes an effort to understand programs already being offered in each community it serves. That way, the organization can avoid any needless duplication and ensure that its services have the greatest positive impact possible locally.

Flauger said it all goes back to assuring people who donate or purchase merchandise at the retail stores that their generosity is going for a good cause.

“What we try to do is look at the individual needs of each community,” she said. “We want to be good stewards for that community.”

— Scott Cooper Williams writes for the Green Bay Press-Gazette.

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