Goodwill again taking donations with changes to limit exposure

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The greeting from a worker at a Grand Rapids Goodwill store shows just how much has changed in the last two months.

“I like your mask,” she told a person who was unloading a box of donations at the store on Michigan Street at Diamond Avenue NE.

“Thank you!” the donor answered.

But it was also a sign of a slow, cautious return to normal.

On Friday morning, Goodwill stores throughout West Michigan opened their donation centers once again, attracting steady streams of vehicles.

Goodwill has set up a touchless system for gathering donations that allows the items be collected and at the same time limits the potential for exposure to coronavirus.

“It is one car at a time. As cars move through, we have people directing them up,” explained Goodwill Industries of Greater Grand Rapids spokeswoman Jill Wallace.

Donors place the items in labeled bins lined up outside the store. Goodwill employees wearing masks and standing a safe distance away help.

“So really, they’re bagged, they’re boxed and there’s no touching involved, essentially,” Wallace said.

It’s been tough times for Goodwill and other charities while they couldn’t take donations of clothing and other items. Now that it has resumed, the donated items will help Goodwill’s recycling and job training programs as they get back to business.

“Yes, they are back,” Wallace said. “We are social distancing. We are following all of the state requirements. So yes, this is very helpful. It is getting people back to work.”

But not everybody waited. When donation sites were closed, some people turned drop-off locations into dumping grounds. With early pandemic precautions in full swing, Goodwill officials didn’t want to take any chances with the items.

A mess of donations pile up outside the closed Goodwill on Michigan Street NE in Grand Rapids. (March 27, 2020)

“I don’t have a cost figure, but I can tell you about three quarters of a million pounds had to go into the landfill,” Wallace said.

Donation centers for another major charity, Salvation Army Family Stores, remain closed.

Like Salvation Army, Goodwill retail stores remain closed, but you can shop online for curbside pick-up.

Goodwill drive-thru donation hours:

  • 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday, Tuesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday
  • Closed Wednesday and Thursday.