Goodwill has eight retail stores, eight donation centers and two housing developments in Acadiana — with more on the way.
Written by Lisa Hanchey
Photo by Robin May
In 1990, Sandra and Charles Purgahn came from Orlando to Lafayette with a mission — to launch Acadiana’s first Goodwill Industries. Back then, Goodwill was unknown to this area, and raising funds for a startup charity right after the oil bust was impossible. So, Sandra turned to her Mom, Gracie White Roberts, an Abbeville native, who loaned her $20,000 to start the first contract.
Initially, the Purgahns took over a sheltered workshop located in Southpark, which had 38 individuals working there. From there, the concept exploded. Goodwill’s first standalone location on Ambassador Caffery Parkway, launched in 1992, was funded through a grant matched by a no-interest loan from Mrs. Roberts. “We paid the money, and we’ve been growing ever since.” After Mrs. Roberts’ death, the board dedicated the Ambassador Caffery location to her.
|Goodwill’s corporate office on W. Congress Street|
Today, Goodwill has eight retail stores, eight donation centers and two housing developments in nine Acadiana parishes — with more on the way. “Goodwill is in the business of taking community donations, turning them into sales and helping people within the community,” Sandra explains. “All of the money that we raise stays here, and the services are defined on the community’s need.”
And raise money it did. Since its start in 1990, Goodwill Industries of Acadiana Inc. has served more than 40,000 people and made a community economic impact of over $481 million. To date, its centers have placed nearly 1,600 employees in jobs throughout the Acadiana region. Many of these individuals were hard to place – homeless, disabled, ex-offenders, down-on-their-luck. But, through Goodwill’s programs, they have completed their GEDs, learned how to interview for jobs, obtained training on computers and other office equipment and been placed in jobs ranging from cutting grass to banking. “It benefits the taxpayers, because we put individuals to work, either in our locations or out in the community,” Sandra says. “We are the best recycler in the world. We also help people who have a varied history of employment or unemployed and want to get additional education or training to get a better job. We have people who had master’s degrees who couldn’t find a job, one of whom is now a bank vice president. We don’t really care where they’ve been in the past; it’s where they want to go and if we can help them to have a place in this community. ”
In 2012, Goodwill closed its rented Johnston Street location and is now expanding its corporate office on W. Congress Street. The 5 headquarters will add 7,200 square feet to accommodate its staff, which totals 226 at all locations, as well as its services. At its Scott location, Goodwill is adding an 8,000-square-foot retail store adjacent to its warehouse. Coming soon is a new retail store in Carencro.
Brand new to Goodwill is its Good Buys store located on Highway 90 between Broussard and New Iberia. “We take everything that’s been through our retail stores and display it out there, and everything is $2, no matter what it is,” Sandra explains. “We also offer new donations at that location. We are trying to get as much value out of the donations that we can, because that’s how we fund our programs. We are really doing what people want us to do, which is turning our donations into services.”
Donations range from clothing to toys to small appliances. Recent contributions have included cars and even a shrimp boat. “Since we have started here, we have generated in excess of $59 million in retail sales, and we’ve had over two million donors,” Sandra says. “And, we’ve had over 6 million customers.”
Besides retail centers, Goodwill provides housing for the elderly and people with disabilities and helps to maintain 217 households. Additionally, Goodwill offers community outreach programs for crisis assistance. “We will provide them with a handout and put their names in a database system,” Sandra explains. “So, if they come back in six months and they are asking for another handout, we’ll give them a job and say, ‘We gave you a handout the first time. Let me help you help yourself by giving you a job.’”
Goodwill helps individuals find jobs through its work readiness programs. These workshops teach people how to dress and prepare for interviews, write resumes and get and maintain employment. Among its services is Supported Employment, which helps severely disabled individuals learn new skills and find work. “We send staff with them on the job, and work with them until they get proficient in the job,” Sandra says. “If the employer sees that the individual is not being successful, then we will work with that individual to help him or her keep and maintain that job. We have some fabulous success stories. It’s pretty cool to know that you’ve made that kind of difference.”
This year alone, Goodwill has served over 1,800 people in the Acadiana region. Many of them start out working at one of Goodwill’s locations, then move to the outside sector. “We are there to help fill positions,” Sandra says. “We have employees that are going to be at work on time and should know how to do the job. And, if they can’t do the job, our staff will go in and work with that person to be successful, because turnover is expensive. Any time anybody in this community wants great, qualified workers, give us a chance to fill those positions.”