Goodwill & ReStore operations readjust 8 months into pandemic

Masses of donated items require new cleaning procedures, volunteers needed
Published: Oct. 21, 2020 at 1:29 PM CDT|Updated: Oct. 21, 2020 at 10:24 PM CDT
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DANE COUNTY, Wisc. (WMTV) - It’s been 259 days since the coronavirus first hit Dane County. Since then, local nonprofits like Goodwill and Habitat for Humanity’s ReStore have continually reinvented how they operate.

The shelves at the Goodwill store in Middleton are keeping full, but there’s still a need for donations.

“Donations at the beginning of the pandemic, the sheer volume, was a lot. So we’ve seen the volume decrease a little bit,” says Tony Lawson, Vice President of Operations at Goodwill of South Central Wisconsin Inc.

Lawson notes that there’s also been less foot traffic recently, but says revenue is still high. “The volume of purchases are up. So when shoppers are here and customers are here they’re buying more.”

That’s keeping operational costs up and employees paid. Lawson says they’ve been able to retain their employees during the pandemic. There’s also a new process in place to clean all donations before they go out onto the sales floor.

“We have a process that we clean all the donations that come in, we sanitize them. There’s a holding period to make sure it’s safe before we put it out to our sales floor,” explains Lawson.

Over in east Madison, Habitat ReStore is missing its usual headcount of volunteers. “We work with a lot of retired seniors who put time into processing every item in our store. And a lot of them just can’t be here right now,” says Emily Trainor, the Restore Director.

They’ve also had to limit the hours people can shop and drop-off donations to allow extra time to clean. The process at ReStore is described similarly to that at Goodwill. “The amount of donations being dropped off is huge compared to normal. We are isolating small items for a certain number of days when they come to our store before any volunteer or customer touches them,” says Trainor.

ReStore and Goodwill are both asking donors to only drop off items during designated days and times.

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