SANTA CRUZ COUNTY—For many, Spring has always been the season to clear out unused and unneeded items from garages, attics and closets. And with people at home during shelter-in-place, Spring cleaning has increased exponentially.
“People are cooped up with nothing to do,” said Alan C. Martinson, Vice President of Retail for Goodwill Central Coast. “So they start cleaning.”
Goodwill saw a spike in donations after the outbreak of Covid-19. But stores themselves were closed. This led to people leaving piles of items in front of donation centers, out in the open where others could rummage through.
Martinson said it was a big problem.
“Most of the items couldn’t be donated after being on the street like that,” he said. “A lot ended up in the landfill. And it forced our employees, who should be staying home, to go and clean it up.”
Despite this, Martinson said that Goodwill Central Coast is doing well compared to others in the nation.
“It’s because of the people in our community, helping to get the word out,” he said.
Goodwill is a nonprofit that provides training, employment placement and other programs to people who have difficulty finding jobs—including veterans, those who lack work experience or who have been incarcerated.
When shelter-in-place began, all of Goodwill Central Coast’s stores, donation sites and offices in Santa Cruz, San Luis Obispo and Monterey counties were closed, and all but 20 percent of employees were furloughed.
“Our mission is to create jobs, but how can we right now?” Martinson said. “We are worried about our employees… we want to get them working again.”
One act the organization took was expanding its e-commerce store at shopgoodwill.com. In 2017 Goodwill moved its e-commerce office from Santa Cruz to Salinas. Martinson said they hope to triple the size of the facility and employ another 20 people.
“We know people are shopping online more now,” he said. “So we’re trying to focus on that.”
The online store takes donations and puts them up for bid. The shop offers high-end brands such as Coach, camera equipment, musical instruments, collectibles and jewelry. Martinson said that recently a Rolex watch sold for $15,000.
“A lot of people don’t know that the best items go straight online,” he said.
Goodwill Central Coast plans to open its stores as the shelter-in-place order is gradually lifted, but in a different capacity. Stores will have wider aisles, less crowded areas and safety standards for employees, including mandatory masks, gloves and shields. Break rooms will also be closed.
“Little things like this will be challenging for employees,” Martinson said. “But safety comes first.”
As for donations, Martinson asks for people to just hold onto things a bit longer.
“Don’t just leave it on a curb,” he said. “Hold on to it and keep checking our website. Trust me, there will be no mystery when we’re open again. We will let everyone know.”