Goodwill: A People Recovery Enterprise

banner-green-labor-dayGoodwillBy James David, Communications Manager, Goodwill Industries of San Francisco, San Mateo and Marin Counties

While people around the world generally think about Goodwill in terms of our retail stores, we think of Goodwill as a value recovery enterprise, or in other words, one huge recycling center. As our retails stores demonstrate, we offer up people’s unwanted or discarded goods, and recover their value. Similarly, we take society’s unwanted or discarded people, and help them recover, and for many of them, discover, their value through training and work.

The people portion of the triple bottom line, which we too have embraced as our mission, is at the heart of every retail transaction, every material or financial donation, and every pound of goods we divert from landfill. Goodwill’s participants have been discarded by society due to substance abuse or addiction, incarceration, and seemingly insurmountable barriers to employment. These are people who are desperately in need of training and education, which we work hard to provide for them through the programs we offer.

Back on Track
A large portion of Goodwill participants have been discarded by society due to criminal activity. As is very common among people living in poverty, many Goodwill participants either cannot envision a life free from dependence on the street economy, or have few options other than crime when trying to feed their families or pay the rent. In partnership with the San Francisco District Attorney’s office, Goodwill’s Back on Track program allows first-time drug offenders to avoid a jail sentence, which would likely render them unemployable for years to come, by participating in educational programs and courses to gain skills and maintain steady employment. The employment opportunities that Goodwill’s training and education make possible benefit the society that discarded these workers more than you might think: in 2008, our employees, nearly 30 percent of whom were on public subsidies prior to Goodwill training, contributed $3,055,664 in combined federal and state payroll taxes.

For most families, poverty is an endless cycle in which parents have few resources to prevent their children from succumbing to it. Goodwill’s Community Jobs Program provides paid work experience, professional development, case management, and job coaching to individuals to help them transition from public assistance to self-sufficiency. The Bayview Hope Transportation Academy provides free eight-week courses in truck driving, and then helps graduates earn their Class A driver’s licenses and secure jobs as commercial drivers. We offer computer training classes that range from establishing and building general administrative skills that are required to gain employment in an office setting, to IT Technician Training, which prepares participants for IT help desk positions, repairing PCs, installing software, and troubleshooting.

While at its core, Goodwill is focused on creating sustainable practices for job creation, we have also built into our programs ways for participants to embrace a lifestyle of environmental stewardship. The ReCompute program takes donated electronics—computers, consumer electronics, and accessories, working or not—and trains Goodwill participants to refurbish them. The refurbished items are then sold at our retail stores, earning more money to pay for the training of more participants, and so on. Each year, our Goodwill ethically and safely recycles and reuses more than 2.5 million pounds of computers and electronics.

Despite our many successes in creating solutions to poverty and aiding workers in finding sustainable, fulfilling employment, we are still proud to be recognized by our ubiquitous retail stores, found all over the world, on every continent but Antarctica. In 2008, Goodwill of San Francisco, San Mateo and Marin Counties saved more than 7 million pounds of clothing and other textiles from ending up in a landfill. So if you simply think of us every time you clean out your closet, we’ll keep doing everything we can to put your communities back to work.

James David is the communications director of Goodwill Industries of San Francisco, San Mateo and Marin Counties. Find out more at

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