WARNER ROBINS -- A huge crowd hit the racks at the new Goodwill Center which opened Wednesday on Lake Joy Road.
The 21,500-square-foot store, which replaces the retail/donation center in Perry, is the third in the Warner Robins area. Jim Stiff, president and CEO of Goodwill of Central Georgia, said the Lake Joy Road store is positioned well for future growth.
We did an analysis to see where do we want to be 15 to 20 years from now, Stiff said. Whats critical to a Goodwill store is being close to our donors, he said. The whole magic of transforming peoples lives doesnt happen without the donors.
The resale of donated items helps the organization fund its job training programs.
Last year in Houston County alone, Goodwill served 2,285 people, helped 506 find competitive jobs and completed 33,727 training days with clients, officials said.
Shopper Kristy Andrews of Bonaire expected Black Friday-like bedlam but was pleasantly surprised.
Everyones been very pleasant and cooperative. They even had security. Ive had no problems, said Andrews, waiting in a long but steadily moving checkout line. Her 4-year-old daughter Emory inched forward with her, riding a Hello Kitty bicycle she picked out from the toy section.
Goodwill and its Good Vocations program employ 213 full- and part-time employees in Houston County. The new store has 21 full-time-equivalent positions. All of the Perry store employees were moved to the new center, and 12 new full-time workers were hired, with good benefits, Stiff added.
Another 120 employees work at Robins Air Force Base. We clean 98 percent of the base, said Stiff.
Of those workers, he said, 78 percent have some sort of career disabilities that they were able to overcome through training at Goodwills Helms Career Institutes custodial program in Macon.
This store allows us to help people get their start from being unemployed to get back into the workforce or get into the workforce for the first time, Stiff said.
The new $3 million store features a drive-through donation area. Wednesday, it was well stocked with long racks of clothing for men, women, girls and boys, along with books, household items and other goods. According to Goodwill, Houston County donors have given about 4.4 million pounds of items this year, keeping the equivalent of 74 tractor-trailer loads out of the local landfill.
Andrews, who enjoys shopping at Goodwill stores for home decor, had already taken one shopping cart of items to the car. She said she was impressed with the quality of merchandise offered at the grand opening, though her second cart load included a doll whose head was unattached but in the box, no doubt chosen by her daughter.
Of course, she helped find some stuff. Andrews laughed. The absurd things people do to save money -- a headless doll.
Nicole Steedly of Warner Robins shopped with her 8-week-old son Josiah and her friend Bridgette Oglesby.
I found new baby stuff. They had a very good selection -- too much, Steedly said. It was very clean with a sufficient amount of employees to show you where you wanted to go. And quick check-out times.
The women both said they were surprised to see the amount of new merchandise in the store.
I think everything I bought was new, Oglesby said.
To contact writer Rodney Manley, call 744-4623.