Goodwill CEO speaks to Exchange Club about mission

Published 9:00 am Wednesday, October 27, 2021

From gently used clothes to furniture and old electronics, Goodwill Industries has been the place to go if a family is on a budget, or a collector wants to find a rare gem.

Founded in 1902 by a pastor in a low income area, Goodwill today not only takes in gently used items and resells them after conducting any necessary repairs, but the company’s goal is to help people get on their feet through job skills training, said Goodwill Industries of South Mississippi Inc. President and CEO Tripp Harrison.

Harrison shared the story of Goodwill with members of the Exchange Club of Picayune earlier this month, during a recent visit to Picayune.

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He said that the company now operates in 156 territories and typically focuses their job skills training on those who need it most, such as the homeless, disabled and those being released from jail.

Not only do these individuals find employment with Goodwill, the company also has resources to help with resume writing, how to conduct themselves during an interview, and even provide them with means to purchase suitable clothing for that interview.

Other resources include providing financial literacy skills.

Harrison said the goal is to eventually break the cycle of generational poverty by providing those in need with a long term investment in themselves through job training facilities some of which are located in South Mississippi. Partnerships with other companies to help these people find jobs that provide a living wage and helps put them on the path to growth and opportunity, Harrison said.

Since the company is based on donations from the communities they serve, a lot of stuff comes in that may not be resalable. Harrison said at times donations include items with blood stains, clothing that is ripped and at times deceased pets. Other items Harrison remembers the local Goodwills receiving include Rolex watches, guns, grenades and $50,000 in the pocket of a coat. Harrison said the money was eventually returned to the proper owners.

That is why the company asks for only gently used items.

All donations are locally sourced and after it is determined to be of value it’s placed on the shelf 24 hours after coming into the store. There, the item will stay on the shelf for up to a month before it is sent to the local outlet.

Harrison said the stock is rotated every month to keep it fresh and ensure those who need clothes or other items have a chance to purchase them.

Once the items reach the outlet, they are sold by the pound. If those items don’t sell at the outlet, they are sold to salvage dealers or processed into rags.

Harrison said that the customer base at Goodwill includes those in need, but there are also collectors who scour the stores looking for hidden gems that they can resell or collect.