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MBEP Member Spotlight: Goodwill Central Coast: Bettering Lives Through the Power of Work

“We placed 1,272 people in jobs in 2019, and just over half of those were hired directly by Goodwill.”

Tom Moran

Goodwill Central Coast President and Chief Executive Officer

Shopping your local Goodwill store is a fun, frugal way to transform your wardrobe or refurbish your home decor, while doing some good for the planet.

Last year,  MBEP member  Goodwill Central Coast received close to 600,000 donations, diverting 15 million pounds of clothing, household goods and other items from landfill.

The organization’s most powerful impact, however, is in transforming lives through job training programs and employment opportunities that serve more than 4,000 people a year in Santa Cruz, Monterey and San Luis Obispo counties. 

Founded in 1953 as the local Goodwill affiliate, Goodwill Central Coast now employs more than 500 people; and is driven by a mission of removing barriers to employment. Its three career centers offer free employment services that can help people develop job skills and certifications, polish a resume, practice for an interview, and connect with available jobs. Subsidized employment programs, a culinary arts program, 15 retail stores, two outlet stores and a bookstore provide additional pathways to meaningful employment.

“We’re providing employment opportunities and bettering lives through the power of work,” says Goodwill Central Coast President and Chief Executive Officer Tom Moran. “We placed 1,272 people in jobs in 2019, and just over half of those were hired directly by Goodwill.”

Moran was recently named to the organization’s top post after a six-month stint as interim CEO. He had served as CFO since the beginning of 2018, and was on the organization’s board of directors from 2009-2014. He brings with him a long background in retail strategic planning and finance, with CFO roles at Conn’s, Inc. and West Marine; and prior experience at ARAMARK, Limited Brands, and CarMax Auto Superstores.

That experience will serve Goodwill Central Coast well at a time when the retail industry is rapidly evolving.

After weeks of being shuttered during the stay-at-home order, Goodwill Central Coast stores have reopened with new safety protocols to protect the health of employees and customers. Plastic barriers have been installed at the registers, increased deep cleaning and sanitation practices have been enacted, employees are required to wear masks, and social distancing is enforced.

Donation centers have been busy, thanks to all the de-cluttering inspired by the stay-at-home orders. “That’s good because donations are our lifeblood,” says Moran. “Our employees are really happy to be back to work, in part because we offer that stability in their lives; and as the economy recovers, our sales are trending back up.”

During weeks of furloughs, Moran said the organization opted to cover the full cost of employees’ health benefits so as to minimize the impact on their lives. It was able to continue some minimal workforce training services online.

Even before the pandemic, Goodwill was paying increasing attention to the demands and opportunities of the digital world.  In fact, they are in the process of determining how to deliver mission services virtually. A computer literacy program, in partnership with Cabrillo College and other local entities, aims to prepare participants for the technological demands of the workplace. “If you’re going to work in an office these days,” says Moran, “you have to know how to use a browser, or the Microsoft suite of products.  Since we have seen an increase in the amount of people with no computer experience, we are addressing this by offering training in the basics.”

E-commerce is increasingly significant, growing at a rate of about 20 percent annually; and giving Goodwill Central Coast an opportunity to reach audiences beyond the immediate geography of its stores. That, in turn, helps increase the funding flowing back into its job training programs. Unique or collectible items such as signed comics, luxury handbags and fine jewelry sell particularly well online. Certain hard-to-come-by cards from Magic: The Gathering, a wizardry-inspired game, can sell for thousands of dollars, says Moran; and a donated Rolex watch of a style worn by Steve McQueen recently sold on Goodwill’s e-commerce site for $17,000. The skills required to run the platform – from sorting, identifying and authenticating items, to photographing them and listing them online – create specialized training opportunities for highly marketable e-commerce jobs. In recent years, the organization has made investments in technology, and increased warehouse space to meet the growing demands of its e-commerce division.

Last year, Goodwill also purchased a specialized cardboard shredder so that e-commerce items could be shipped in recyclable packing material; a more sustainable option that also helps reduce costs and preserve the earth’s resources.

“In addition to workforce development programs, MBEP’s efforts around housing affordability are of particular interest to Goodwill Central Coast because of the challenges the region’s high housing costs create, not only for Goodwill but so many other employers in the region,” said Moran. “We’re looking forward to continued collaboration with MBEP.”