Goodwill closing affects more than employees

When Goodwill employees showed up for work Jan. 17, none of them expected to be locked out and laid-off.

But this was the harsh reality more than 430 employees of Goodwill, an international non-government organization that aims to help people with disabilities, had to deal with that chilly Sunday morning.

The Goodwill website had also taken down content and replaced it with messages posted by public relations firm Brown and Cohen Communications & Public Affairs, explaining in the words of CEO Keiko Nakamura exactly what had happened.

The first post from January 17 told site visitors that the organization was facing a cash flow crisis and had to shut down its 16 stores, 10 donation centres, and two offices.

Oshawa’s donation centre located at Harmony and Taunton was one of 10 affected by the closures. Durham Region hasn’t had a retail store since an Ajax location shut down in mid-2013 which, according to vice-president of business services David Chu, closed due to the location “performing poorly for five or six years.”

The exact number of employees displaced in each location due to shutdowns is unclear according to Tim Lai, the Brown and Cohen associate in charge of Goodwill, who said “I’ve been asked many questions by journalists and I can’t answer a lot of them due to a lack of communication from Goodwill’s end.”

 At a press conference on Monday, Jan. 18 Nakamura told the public they were exploring all possible ways to re-open in Ontario. However, it doesn’t look too bright for the future of Goodwill as the registered tax filings showed the company had more than $1-million more in expenses than it did in earnings for 2014.

So what happens to all those things you were meaning to take away for donations but never got around to?

In a January 22 post on the Goodwill website, Nakamura asked people to stop dropping off donated materials outside closed locations and thanked the Canadian Diabetes Association for collecting the donated items while also listing alternative organizations that are giving back to those who are in need as Goodwill has for decades.

These alternatives include:

  • The Salvation Army
  • Society of St. Vincent de Paul
  • Habitat for Humanity

The Furniture Bank, another donation centre aimed at changing the lives of those less fortunate, also suggests it will accept donations, or recommends people donate to the Canadian Diabetes Association or Value Village.

Some organizations like the Canadian Diabetes Association will even let you know when they’re in your area so they can come and pick up any donations you might have without you having to hustle to your local donation centre.

“I’ve usually always left my donations on the front porch for the Canadian Diabetes Association… but some things like these electronics and furniture I would have taken to Goodwill near where I work,” said Jeffrey Thomas, while he donated some things to a Value Village in Oshawa.

For those who work at Value Village they have indeed seen an increase in the amount of donations coming into their centres.

One supervisor at a Value Village in Markham could not specify exactly how much more donations have come in since the Goodwill donation centre in Oshawa closed, only saying “we have seen an increase in donation, but I don’t think it has to do with Goodwill.”

Employees who have been fired don’t have to look far for jobs, according to media reports. Mark Wafer, the franchise owner of six Tim Hortons restaurants across Scarborough has extended job offers to recently unemployed Goodwill workers.

Like Goodwill, Wafer prides himself on hiring people with disabilities at his restaurants which comes out to almost 20 per cent of his workforce.

For those of you who do not live near any of these donation centres, look for donation bins in some local grocery store parking lots, or your local homeless shelter.