Goodwill Reaches out to South County

by Tom Casey, Berkshire Record
January 4, 2013
Lee, MA

With over a half dozen sites operating, Goodwill Industries of the Berkshires is continuing its expansion southward opening a new location in Lee. The site will serve as a donation drop-off center and store on Center Street in the building formerly home to the gift store Wares & What-notes.

The store will be their eighth donation center to open in the region that spans the county and southern Vermont. Company CEO Frank Engels said with the continued success of the businesses including the recent opening in North Adams and the mobile donation center in Great Barrington, opening in Lee was an easy decision.

"What we did is we really want to continue to grow in the region," he said. "When we saw this location it was small and a great place to start from a donation standpoint."

Engels said he anticipates the store to open at the beginning of February. The building will be completely renovated, which the company estimates will be a three-week process.

Goodwill Director of Facilities Bill Hall said the area is highly anticipating the new locations.

"People will be passing coming out of Joe's Diner and when they hear its going to be a Goodwill they are really excited to find out," he said.

Donations can range from clothing to electronics, as well as furniture, however because of the smaller size of the location, Engels said larger donations should call ahead.

The donations are part of a larger process that works to fund programming and workshops or job training and skill development, including the Suit YourSelf program that supplies free work place attire for interviews and subsequent employment.

"It's an incredible program," said Engels. "People don't just talk about how good they look but how good they feel and their confidence ...whether they get that position or not they leave with a new sense of confidence."

Employment issues have dogged the Berkshires through the Great Recession. In September, the Massachusetts Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development and the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston released a joint report that labeled the region's workforce as one of its biggest challenges. The release found that the mix of underemployed youth and an aging workforce present the Berkshires with a "talent and succession gap". The job training and Suit YourSelf program look to bridge that gap by offering courses in work assessment, job placement and career development, and soft skills training for those seeking employment but facing barriers.

The programs are currently run out of the site's Pittsfield location and certain retail locations. The program is accepting donations of new and nearly new work clothing and shoes both casual and dress at any Goodwill locations. The CEO said while the program is still in its early stages, he would also like to see it grow and conducted in Lee as well.

"We are looking for a locations," said Engels, "Right now we need a space and volunteers to help facilitate the seminars."

Engels said the town has been very receptive to the company's arrival. "I've heard nothing negative, only positive," he said. "It's kind of incredible."

To volunteer or for more information, visit goodwill-berkshires.org or call (413) 442 0061.

 

About Goodwill Industries of the Berkshires
Goodwill is a community enterprise that funds job training, employment placement services and other community programs by recycling initiatives including sales of donated clothes and household items at Goodwill retail stores.  For more information, visit www.goodwill-berkshires.org.