Recycling season
Westside Goodwill readies for annual donation rush before New Year’s Day

       This time of year while most everyone else is out looking for new goodies, Jason Lockhart and his staff at Goodwill Industries keep sorting through the old.
       He's the operations manager at the non-profit company's warehouse in the 2300 block of West Colorado Avenue, and his job is to make sure that as many public donations as possible make their way from the warehouse's rear-alley loading dock to the two nearest Goodwill retail stores - the one across the street and the one downtown.
       It's after the 25th that his job gets extra busy. Being in the Christmas spirit often means people clearing past favorites out of their houses to make room for future ones. Particularly fast-paced are Dec. 29-31, when lines of cars typically form outside the dock - people who waited till the last minute to make donations they can count on the current year's tax returns.
       Not that he minds so much. Lockhart is pleased at people's generosity, which make a broad range of items affordable - often in a state that's good as new - to many local residents. “We mostly get nice things,” Lockhart said. “A lot are brand new. We ask people to clean the things they bring in. Some of the clothes we get are even dry-cleaned.”
       The volume is not small. Figures are not available for the Westside dock alone, but Goodwill records show an average of 8,000 donations a week at the dock and the 11 other stores or drop-off points in El Paso County, Canon City and Woodland Park combined. In the same area, for textiles alone, there were 18 ½ million pounds donated.
       Items come into Goodwill's Westside dock on a regular basis. Company trucks bring in items left at the attended donation center outside the Eighth Street Wal-Mart or those picked up by appointment at people's homes.
       Another major source of donations is citizens who drive up to the Goodwill dock in their own vehicles. A request there is that people only do this during daytime hours (normally seven days a week), when staff is on duty. People who drop things off at night might be disappointed at what happens to their donations, Lockhart said. Goodwill has outside security cameras, and they show a surprising number of people walking down the alley throughout the night. In the cases of items that have been dropped off during off-hours, “we have footage of transients checking through things or even trying on clothes,” Lockhart said.
       After receiving donations at the dock, trained workers decide where to take donations for processing. The main departments are electronics, housewares, textiles and seasonal.
       The latter is broken out into categories such as Halloween, Christmas or Easter. This is also where a lot of the stuffed animals wind up, and Goodwill has a whole separate area for donated dolls.
       Electronics includes used computers. Goodwill's request is that they be a Pentium 2 or newer, have a USB port and be five years old or newer,” according to Laura Marth of Goodwill Public Relations. “We also encourage donors to clear all personal information and files off the hard drive before donating.”
       All electronics items are checked over to see how well they work. A worker in a sub-area processes the clocks and watches, seeing if broken ones can be fixed.
       According to Marth, it takes an average of one to three days for items to move through the processing plant and over to the retail store. The only catch there is that the store is run in many ways like any department store, with stuff rotating in and out depending on the season. For instance, Christmas things that are donated after the holiday will be stored away until the season rolls around again in 2008.
       Here's a question with an answer that may surprise some people: What percentage of the Goodwill donations don't have to be thrown out)?
       Answer (drum roll): 99 percent.
       Between the conscientiousness of donors and a secondary market for all kinds of products, most everything can be reused somehow, Lockhart and Marth explained.
       As a rule, Lockhart and his employees process donations that come into the Westside processing plant with the intention of selling them in either the Westside or downtown stores. Another option is Goodwill's Garage Sale Store (also called the G Store), a small building in the processing plant's rear lot. “Merchandise that does not sell in our stores, or what we do not think would sell in our stores, is sold there (the G Store) through an auction held daily at 9 a.m.,” Marth said. “It is open to the public and we have about 20 people a day.”.
       Typically present at the auction are brokers from other countries - often Mexico - who will buy many of these leftover items in bulk. “It's a way of recycling things further, instead of giving them to landfills,” she said.
       Added Lockhart, “We save everything we can that we can get any money for.”
       On the opposite end of the spectrum are donations that are quite valuable, such as antiques or paintings. These are sometimes sold in stores, but other times are only made available online, through an E-Bay type of bidding process. A painting that had been donated to a Goodwill in another state once sold online for $200,000, Lockhart said.

Westside Pioneer article