Goodwill Upcycles Lives: Taking Another Chance on the Thrift Store

Several years ago, I wrote a post titled "Is Goodwill too Expensive?" I got a lot of response from it on my blog and I was just reminded of it when I saw a sponsored Facebook post this past weekend. The sponsored post that was intended to get people to shop at their local Goodwill had people sharing some of their own thoughts {as one does on the internet}. It saw a handful of comments, some of which expressed the same sentiments I've thought. Things like "you get the stuff for free, why are you marking it up so much?" and "your merchandise is too expensive" and "I can get brand new stuff at my local Walmart or Target in the clearance section!" 

After the blog post that I wrote about Goodwill being too expensive, I pretty much stopped shopping at the regular Goodwill store altogether. {Side note: I did continue shopping at my local Goodwill Outlet because I do love a good treasure hunt and their pay by the pound prices were far more affordable I thought}. I was recently invited to an upcycle event with my local Goodwill and it was like this event was created just for me because I do love a good upcycle. That day, I learned that Goodwill upcycles more than just donated items.
Goodwill thrift store
I'm a firm believer in second chances, not only for donated items, but for people and places too. And after my recent visit, I'm ready to take another chance on Goodwill and here's why.
education programs at goodwill

Goodwill Upcycles More Than Just Used Stuff: 
Goodwill Upcycles Lives

Goodwill thrift store shopping
Goodwill was a big part of my life when I was in high school. It was the very first job I had. I not only got valuable work experience, it also satisfied my undying love of digging through boxes and looking for gems hidden in piles of clothes. I met regulars like Mrs. Bryant, a recently released murderer {or so the rumor goes} who ended up suing Goodwill because I dropped a coffee mug on her foot. I also cut up her credit card but that's a story for another day. 
I didn't have much of an understanding of what I would be doing at this Goodwill upcycling blogging event. If you know me, or have been reading along for any length of time, you know how much I love to upcycle just about anything, so it seemed like the perfect fit.

Check out this upcyle

What is upcycling?

My spell check hates the word upcycle. I've been known to make up words, but I promise you, I'm not making this one up! It's been part of my vocabulary for years. It simply means to reuse a discarded object or material in a new way that will create a product of higher quality or create more value than the original. 
painted upcylce table

An upcycler is just a person who does just that. They are the people you see giving new life to old worn out furniture or taking an old radio that's no longer working and making it into a bar, just like the upcyclers that I was paired with did.
Harvey and Judy Hamm are a husband and wife upcycling team that have a booth at Inta Vintage in Sumner, WA. If you are even remotely local, you need to make a stop to Main Street in Sumner. It's one of my favorite places to shop in the whole wide world. It's where I go if I need to feel inspired to create and it exists because of people like this.
Goodwill finds turned into treasures

{approximately 150 years ago, in one of my first years of blogging, I took you along window shopping in this cute little town. I spent 4 whole days showing you my favorite things in the shops in Sumner, WA. Today, this would be an Instagram Story. Look how social media has changed us.}

My new upcycling friends and I had the task of finding an item at Goodwill that could later be turned into a planter at VanLierop Garden Market

In the process of finding an upcycled item and during our stroll through Sumner to learn more about the upcyclers behind the shops {Junker's Nest  and Blue is another favorite!} we spent the day with three women. 

They weren't bloggers and they weren't our pro upcyclers, they were women with a story.

It wasn't until after lunch that we got to hear the women share a little bit about the upcycling that Goodwill did for their lives.

Remember that definition of upcycle I talked about earlier? I'm pretty sure we can talk about how this relates to lives too. 

Goodwill thrift shop

You see these women, they needed a second chance. 

They told us story after story about how each of them found themselves in dire situations. Goodwill was the only organization that would take a chance on them. Their education program allowed them to make mistakes and learn from them in a world where mistakes are cause for termination. 

Goodwill didn't discriminate because of a history with the legal system, it didn't judge when they struggled with addiction, and it certainly didn't give up on these women when it seemed like the world around them kept knocking them down.

Goodwill was there with program after program offering them opportunities to upcycle their lives. They were valuable before, but Goodwill programming helped them really see just how valuable they were.

I guess I knew that Goodwill offered programs in education, but I'm the kind of person who feels that connection when I hear a story and can put a face to a situation. It's why I love traveling with World Vision so much.

I learned that 100% of the Goodwill retail proceeds support a $9 million dollar network of education campuses. Education that takes a chance on women {and men} of all abilities and skill levels, empowering and supporting them with program after program. 

These programs give people the opportunity to find meaningful employment and chase dreams they didn't think they could achieve. 

The woman who left an abusive partner to become homeless with her three kids? She's now a homeowner with a successful career thanks to Goodwill and the chance that they took on her.

In fact, about 9,000 people each year are helped in Goodwill's education programs in our region. 

I even chatted for a bit with the Vice President. I talked to him about why I had stopped shopping at Goodwill. He said they had noticed. Well, they didn't necessarily notice that I had stopped shopping in particular but they did notice that Goodwill stores might have lost the vision. But only with the best intentions. They were hoping that by increasing the prices on their donated items that they would be able to put more of those proceeds towards their education campuses. But that risk didn't really work and there has been an effort to lower the prices store wide.

I noticed when I was in the Goodwill that day that the stores prices were much more reasonable. But above all, I didn't just come away with a really cool new upcycled planter, I came away with an understanding of how Goodwill upcycles lives too.

Vanlierops farm in Sumner, WA

I'm ready to give Goodwill a second chance. Are you?

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