Good People & Goodwill

At a recent West Edmonton Business Mixer at Uncle Glenn’s Pub hosted by MLA Lorne Dach, I was able to connect with several Ward 5 business owners. I met professionals in dentistry, natural health practices among many other small business owners there and I also had the pleasure of meeting Dale Monaghan, CEO for Goodwill Industries of Alberta. Dale invited me to come for a tour of Goodwill’s operations after I mentioned I was running for City Council. Last week, I had the opportunity to follow up on the invitation to learn more about the work they do in Edmonton and across the province.

img_20161012_140044Dale graciously took time out of his busy schedule to spend an afternoon sharing with me how Goodwill is positively contributing to our community. The tour started with a one-on-one presentation on the history of Goodwill, which started in the United States and is now in more than 15 countries. I learned that Goodwill is more than just thrift stores to score good deals on clothing and household items. Dale and I had a great conversation about how the 160+ different Goodwill Industries around the world are unique and tailor made for the communities they serve. Here in Alberta, Goodwill is focused on improving the lives of people through the dignity of fulfilling employment, no matter what their abilities.  They employ 600 people in Edmonton to collect, sort, and repair donations, create products for sale, run their retail operations, provide commercial services to other business and provide employment training to people and businesses across sectors as part of a publicly-funded contract with Alberta Human Services. Whether or not you shop at Goodwill, you have likely been touched by the good work there are doing in our community.

donategoodsNot only is Goodwill working to provide meaningful employment for people of different abilities, they are also diverting waste from our landfills and giving useful items a second life.  By Goodwill Industries of Alberta’s estimates, they saved tens of thousands of tonnes of waste from Alberta landfills over the years. In 2013 alone, Goodwill diverted 3.7 million kilos of household items out of the landfill and recycled 13,879 kilos of clothing in post-retail operations. With twenty-two donation centres and thrift stores in seven cities across Alberta, including ten in Edmonton, they are helping our environment and supplying people with gently used and affordable items.

Before I visited with Dale at Goodwill, I knew about their donation centre and retail stores. What I didn’t know is that Goodwill Industries of Alberta is recognized by government and industry as a leader in training for employees and employers working with persons with disabilities. Goodwill currently holds an annual $2.5 Million contract with the Government of Alberta to provide employment coaching services. This contract employs nearly 50 career coaches in the province who match meaningful work based off their clients abilities and career goals. The coaches also provide on-site training for various outside employers looking to support people of all abilities in their workplaces.

img_1260After Dale shared a presentation with me about Goodwill, I was excited to join him on a tour of their south side facility. At this location, they not only run their administrative offices, they also have a donation centre, a sorting warehouse, a retail store, and a career centre. On the tour, I met Goodwill staff in every stage of their operations. In the warehouse, I met several staff who told me about how their role and how long they have worked for Goodwill. In our short conversations, I could see how proud they are to work at Goodwill and how they contribute to their workplace. Many of their employees could qualify for assisted living but they choose to work for the intangible benefits of building social skills and the pride that comes with earning your own pay.

Just like many businesses in Alberta today, Goodwill is also feeling the pressures of our economy. As a retail operation, this means less people are shopping, and less people are donating. Goodwill is looking for ways to stay competitive. As Dale and I continued to chat, I asked him how the City of Edmonton is supporting the work of Goodwill in our city. Dale was proud to tell me about their recent win at the 2016 Mayor’s Awards for businesses who employ persons with disabilities, supported by the City of Edmonton’s Accessibility Advisory Committee. However, he did point out other municipalities in the province, like Calgary and Grande Prairie, wave the waste disposal fees for unusable donations Goodwill receives. In Edmonton, Goodwill is forced to pay those fees, amounting to $65,000 per year. Knowing that the City of Edmonton is world-renowned for our waste management, I was surprised they weren’t doing more to support the landfill diversion work of Goodwill. Dale said waiving these fees could easily mean hiring another Employment Coach which in turn would provide over 1500 hours of services to the community. I’m committed to looking into this further for Goodwill and seeing if a partnership with the City of Edmonton would be possible.

img_20161012_154923Having worked in the non-profit sector for over 20 years, it still amazes me the amount of energy, time and quality of work done by the incredible organizations in our city working tirelessly to building an inclusive, more vibrant Edmonton. The innovative practices that come from trying to give the biggest impact with the smallest financial investment is something we can all learn from. Just like Goodwill, non-profits across our city are committed to making a difference and serving people in a variety of ways.

I would love to hear about the non-profit organizations you support with your time, talent, and treasures here in Ward 5 and across Edmonton. Share your comments below or send me a tweet!

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