Goodwill reopens most Wisconsin stores, donation centers

CEO says nonprofit is 'thinking about everything' to keep stores safe and clean

Goodwill’s back-of-house storage and sorting area.

Last updated on May 18th, 2020 at 01:09 pm

Goodwill Industries of Southeastern Wisconsin reopened the majority of its stores and donations centers southeastern Wisconsin on Friday, with limited hours of operation as well as new safety precautions for employees and shoppers.

The move comes days after the state’s Supreme Court struck down Gov. Tony Evers’ “Safer at Home” order, allowing businesses to return to normal operations.

Some cities and counties, including city of Milwaukee, city of RacineMilwaukee County suburbs and Dane County, have issued their own stay-at-home guidelines for businesses to follow. That presents a unique challenge for Goodwill Industries of Southeastern Wisconsin Inc., which has 26 locations across the state.

“Every Goodwill store and donation center will be following the local municipality orders, so that’s something we’re monitoring regularly to make sure we’re always in compliance,” said Jackie Hallberg, president and chief executive officer of Goodwill Industries of Southeastern Wisconsin Inc.

Limits on total shopper capacity vary based on the store’s municipality. The Janesville location only allows five shoppers inside at a time.

The nonprofit has also made some modifications to its donation process, which is key focal point of its operations and could potentially pose a risk if not executed safely.

Donation drop-offs are now contactless. Employees retrieve items, which must be contained in bags or boxes, directly from donors’ cars or provide donors with a bin where they can place the items.

All donations are then stored for at least 72 hours before being handled and processed. Donations with hard surfaces are wiped down.

In addition, employees and customers are required to wear masks while inside the store. Goodwill provides all employees with masks and gloves, and retail employees will be screened daily and have their temperature taken by a manager when they report to work. 

Throughout stores, Goodwill has implemented additional cleaning procedures, installed plexiglass partitions at registers and placed social distancing markers on floors.

“We are thinking about everything we can do to make a safe environment because people want to get out, and they want to donate and they want to shop,” Hallberg said. 

She noted that the donation side of the organization will benefit from the additional time people have had to organize and clean out their closets.

Prior to the COVID-19 shutdown, Goodwill Industries of Southeastern Wisconsin & Metropolitan Chicago employed 6,000 people across its 90 stores. So far, 383 employees in Wisconsin have been brought back from furlough. Its Illinois remain temporarily closed due to the state’s stay-at-home order. 

“We’re still making the phone calls, so that’s a work in process, but we will be bringing quite a few employees back to work, which we are very excited about,” she said.

New hires could be made in the coming months after Goodwill rehires as many furloughed employees as possible, depending on donation volume and how busy stores are, said Hallberg. 

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Maredithe has covered retail, restaurants, entertainment and tourism since 2018. Her duties as associate editor include copy editing, page proofing and managing work flow. Meyer earned a degree in journalism from Marquette University and still enjoys attending men’s basketball games to cheer on the Golden Eagles. Also in her free time, Meyer coaches high school field hockey and loves trying out new restaurants in Milwaukee.

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