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More than just donations, Goodwill marks century of service

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Colleen Morrone, CEO of Goodwill of Delaware | PHOTO COURTESY OF GOODWILL OF DELAWARE

WILMINGTON – Goodwill of Delaware began in 1921 by collecting and repairing used goods and clothing, but today it does far more, including handling 616,000 donations in 2019 and running many job development programs.

“It’s not just the power of work,” said Colleen Morrone, CEO of the nonprofit, riffing on its main slogan. “The power of education is another key driver in improving quality of life.”

Goodwill began in 1902 with the Rev. Edgar Helms, a Methodist minister in Boston. Goodwill of Delaware was the 16th Goodwill incorporated.

In 1968, Goodwill of Delaware separated from the Methodist Church, making it the oldest, non-religious nonprofit providing vocational services in the state. In 1992, it absorbed Delaware County, Pa., into its territory, and today Goodwill of Delaware and Delaware County includes 16 stores, two job resource centers and diverse operations.

In the early 2000s, Goodwill leaders decided to diversify from collecting, sorting and selling donations to other revenue streams, with industrial/janitorial and staffing services being the most important.

In 2019, Goodwill generated almost $46 million in revenue, 55% from selling donations, 42% from its contract services and 3% from other sources. The pandemic forced stores to close for at least two months, stalling retail revenue, but other services grew, proving the importance of that diversification. Goodwill supplied workers to the state to handle unemployment claims and to New Castle County to staff coronavirus testing sites. It ramped up its industrial services from janitorial work, construction labor and the like to the deep cleaning and disinfecting that so many businesses suddenly wanted.

When Morrone started working at Goodwill as an administrative assistant in 1989, it had less than 100 employees working in five stores. Staff today includes more than 1,200: 600 in temp staffing, 400 in retail, 100 in industrial/janitorial services and 100 in administration.

A Goodwill clerk assists a customer during check-out | PHOTO COURTESY OF GOODWILL OF DELAWARE

Goodwill has continually adjusted over its century. Today, its training often revolves around basic digital skills, instilling confidence in people that “what they’re doing on their phones can be applied to work,” Morrone said, and developing higher-level skills that will lead people up the career ladder.

That training also includes critical soft skills, said Leah Coles, Goodwill of Delaware’s director of business and community development, including team building, emotional intelligence, conflict management, self-awareness and leadership. Of course, people displaced by the pandemic’s economic fallout are getting help, too.

Goodwill of Delaware and Delaware County is a leader among the 152 Goodwills nationwide.

It was the first, in 2020, with Amazon lockers in four stores, as a customer convenience and to draw new shoppers by hosting spaces that people can use to receive deliveries from the e-commerce giant.

It was the first, in 2018, with the Career Connection, a digital collection of job listings, resume tips and mock interviews. In the latest feature, participants record answers to computer-generated sector-oriented questions, with videos offering insight into themselves and their career counselors.

It is the second-largest Goodwill in temp staffing and in the top 10 in industrial/janitorial services.

But those well-known donations remain a bulwark of the business.

“It all starts with community donations, generating the ability to help the community,” Morrone said. “We’re just the vehicle.”

Many items are sold in the stores where they are donated, but some of the most valuable items are set aside for online sales at shopgoodwill.com, particularly jewelry, musical instruments and authenticated haute couture.

Lesser-quality items are sold by the pound at the New Castle outlet, with the dregs sold half-ton to recyclers, still generating revenue and reducing landfill use. Morrone said the goal for the next 100 years is to recycle even more.

By Ken Mammarella

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