Goodwill SWPA President and CEO Michael Smith stands outside the Goodwill store in Washington.
By Mike Jones
After the COVID-19 pandemic descended on the region and crippled many businesses and nonprofit organizations last year, donations came pouring in from the community to keep the Goodwill of Southwestern Pennsylvania moving forward on its goal of helping those in need.
With its thrift stores closed for part of last year to slow the spread of the coronavirus, jobs for people in need of work and revenue for Goodwill’s social programs dried up.
But that didn’t last long.
Goodwill not only stayed afloat last year, but even thrived with the help of financial donations from area residents and other nonprofit agencies.
“I can honestly say I’ve never experienced anything that the COVID pandemic has had on our organization,” Goodwill SWPA President and CEO Michael Smith said. “The good news is we brought back almost all of our employees at some point and we’re probably at a better position now than we were pre-COVID, believe it or not, because of the decisions we made … to operate in this environment.”
The community was so generous the nonprofit decided to launch a “Giveback” program that issued $200,000 of in-store vouchers to distribute to agencies within Goodwill SWPA’s 17-county area in Western Pennsylvania and north-central West Virginia.
The vouchers were given directly to local agencies, which then gave them to their clients to use to purchase various items at Goodwill stores. It was the first time the nonprofit had done such a program, and it made an immediate impact, Smith said.
“It’s a way to give back to the community,” Smith said. “We’re fueled by donations and they were so supportive.”
IF YOU WANT TO HELP: For more information about the Goodwill of Southwestern Pennsylvania, visit www.goodwillswpa.org.
In Washington, Fayette and Greene counties, the organization has issued about $25,500 to nine different local agencies this year. So far, 389 people have been helped from July through November.
“We’ll continue this on through the rest of the year and increase it next year,” Smith said. “The hope is that that amount will continue to grow and we’ll be able to provide more (vouchers) to more providers. We’ve already gotten tremendous feedback from our provider agencies on how they’ve been impacted. … It’s been really rewarding.”
Mike Jones is a reporters with the Uniontown Herald-Standard. Readers may email him at [email protected]. Helping the Helpers is a cooperative effort between the Pennsylvania Capital-Star and the Uniontown Herald-Standard.
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