Goodwill store, donation center celebrates grand opening
NATCHEZ — Economic commitments in the industrial sector have served as the impetus for a thrift shop chain to come to the area and spread a little good will.
Goodwill Industries of South Mississippi officially opened a new location in Natchez last week. The 8,400-square-foot space — at the Morgantown Plaza, 436 U.S. 61 North, next to Natchez Market No. 2 — was renovated to add cubicles, dressing rooms, new lighting and new carpet earlier this year. It is Goodwill of South Mississippi’s 13th store.
The store offers used clothing, furniture, appliances, house wares and odds and ends.
“The location of this store and donation center in Natchez will not only give folks here an opportunity to find multiple treasures at bargain prices, but will give them an opportunity, through their donation of slightly used clothing and other items, to partner with Goodwill in servicing local folks who have challenges to employment,” Goodwill Chief Executive Officer Ron Russell said.
The Goodwill movement has its origins in 1902, when its founder — Edgar Helms — hired poor immigrants to learn to work by sorting clothing he had collected from the wealthier parts of Boston, and the clothes were sold to pay the workers.
That’s the concept Goodwill still uses today. Store Manager Suzen Schatz said the company’s mission is to help those who have barriers to employment find work.
“A barrier to employment might be any kind of handicap or disability of some sort, anything that is anchoring them where they might not be able to be employed at a traditional workplace,” Schatz said.
Goodwill provides job counseling, skills training, job seeking and resume writing assistance and referral for outside services in addition to hiring within the company.
Schatz has relocated to Natchez from Gulfport, and she has hired nine local residents through the WIN Job Center. Future hiring will be done through WIN Job Center as well.
And while the company works to provide direct employment through its store, Goodwill’s Training Center Coordinator Mitch Bauman said the company will also invest in providing job training for the local community outside its store walls by providing pre-GED education and working with the Mississippi Department of Rehabilitation Services.
“We hope to partner with Copiah-Lincoln Community College — they seem to have a lot of GED classes, but they need some basic adult education for those in preparation for those classes,” he said.
Russell said the company would provide laptops and software for those pre-GED classes.
“We understand that the community colleges have taken a cut to their GED programs, and we are trying to fill that void with no cost to the community,” he said.
Russell said Goodwill has been interested in expanding into the Natchez market for three years after he met former Mayor Jake Middleton at a legislative day in Jackson.
The then-mayor told him about industrial commitments that had recently been made to the area, and Russell said that piqued his interest as offering job training was part of Goodwill’s mission.
“We thought that with that kind of activity going on, we wanted to be a part of the growth of the area,” he said. “If you’re going to grow your economy, you start with your industrial base first and then go from there.”
Goodwill is a non-profit organization, and Schatz said donations of gently used goods could be made at the store.
“Gently used” when applied to clothing means that the donated items are not stained or torn, Schatz said. But even those clothing items that don’t meet those standards can be put to use, she said.
“If we do get something that is torn or stained, we do recycle it,” she said.
“We send the bad clothes to Gulfport, where they get compacted into bales and sent to a center where the company sorts them and makes some into rags and sends others to third world countries.”
Goodwill’s Natchez location can be reached by phone at 601-897-0382.
Store hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 1 to 6 p.m. Sunday.