A steady stream of cars, trucks and vans pulled up behind the new Goodwill store in Heidelberg on a recent Saturday afternoon with bags and boxes filled with clothes and household items that have outlived their usefulness.
Goodwill employees quickly unloaded them — even large items such as couches and a glass-topped table with metal legs.
An employee wearing a skirt and jacket, pearls and high heels was carrying the donations into the store. That was Goodwill district manager Pam Geruschat, pitching in to keep the line moving on a typically busy weekend.
One of the donors, Stephanie Howard of Mt. Lebanon, said this was her seventh trip in recent weeks, dropping off clothes and other things because she’s moving to Switzerland.
Donors received receipts for their items that can be claimed as tax deductions. They left without having to get out of their vehicles, except for one woman who pocketed her tax receipt, parked her car and returned to the store. She said, with a chuckle, that she was going inside to shop for bargains.
Donated items will be sold in the store or recycled, one way or another. Items that don’t sell will be sold to salvage dealers or sold overseas. Some clothing such as shoes and gloves that are missing their mates will be ground up to make other items so that “none of it is going into landfills,” said David J. Tobiczyk, vice president for marketing and development for Goodwill of Southwestern Pennsylvania.
“We like to consider ourselves recycling pioneers,” said Mr. Tobiczyk. The nonprofit organization is “a diversified human service agency” that has been operating and recycling for more than 100 years. “Every dollar brought in by this store supports the Goodwill mission” of providing job training and services that help clients “overcome various barriers to employment.”
The Goodwill location with the highest number of donated items also has the highest volume of sales — the Cranberry store, 20668 Perry Highway (Route 19). There’s an outlet store in North Versailles, 294 Lincoln Highway, which Mr. Tobiczyk calls “the store of last resort.” Items that have not sold in other stores get one last chance at that outlet.
Donation dropoffs and retail sales have been brisk since Feb. 12 when the 14,500-square-foot Heidelberg store opened at 1905 Washington St. The buff and blue building can be seen from heavily traveled Route 50. It’s the 31st store operated by Goodwill of Southwestern Pennsylvania.
The Goodwell store is a welcome addition to the community, said Heidelberg Mayor Kenneth LaSota. A landscaping business had operated at the site for decades. After the business closed, the lot was vacant for two years, he said. While Goodwill is a tax-exempt nonprofit, Burns & Scalo Real Estate Services Inc., the building owner, is not, so the property pays taxes.
The store has 24 part-time employees and four or five full-time employees — some of them Heidelberg residents.
“My wife and I have been doing spring cleaning and we’ve dropped off items,” Mr. LaSota said. “I’ve been browsing in there.”
A geology professor at Robert Morris University, he’s told his students about the store. College students appreciate the bargain prices, he said. Mr. LaSota and Mr. Tobiczyk both said that some college students also are looking for “vintage” clothes from the 1980s and like the philosophy of reusing and recycling clothes and household items.
Colleen Amos-Mezinze of Mt. Lebanon has been working in the store since it opened. Though she works full time as owner of Pawz Petsitting Services, she works 10-12 hours per week at the new store because she supports the Goodwill mission of helping people train for jobs.
“I may be tired when I go there” after walking dogs, “but I’m always happy to be there” because co-workers and customers are so nice and so supportive.
Store manager Kim Campbell of Canonsburg said employees are re-stocking the store all day, every day. She pointed out a few of the bargain items — a $28.99 couch, $2 for men's T-shirts, $4 for men's dress shirts and pajama bottoms, $4 for an Ann Taylor leopard print cardigan, $1.99 for one article of children's clothing and $3.99 for coats, jackets or suits.
Goodwill can’t recycle or sell everything. Among the items are baby cribs, children's car seats, major appliances, televisions, hot water heaters, ripped or stained furniture, mattresses and box springs, broken computer monitors, building materials, chemicals, firearms and items containing mercury (thermometers, batteries and light bulbs).
For Goodwill store locations: www.goodwillswpa.org.
Linda Wilson Fuoco: email@example.com or 412-722-0087.