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Goodwill struggles with fewer donations as inflation continues

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Posted at 3:19 PM, May 13, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-13 18:09:55-04

MIDDLEBURG HEIGHTS, Ohio — The impact of inflation is quite noticeable on a budget. And we know behaviors and habits are changing to offset higher costs.

For some, that could mean holding off on re-decorating a room or updating dinnerware.

What may be less noticeable is fallout from the financial strain on an industry that relies on somebody’s old stuff to create new opportunities for Northeast Ohioans.

The formula at Goodwill of Greater Cleveland is quite simple: Stuff comes in, stuff goes out.

"Donations are our life-blood. That's what funds our mission work," said Maureen Ater, Goodwill of Greater Cleveland.

These days, however, there's been a significant drop-off in the number of drop-offs.

"Since the beginning of the year, our donations have been down considerably," said Ater.

As for why?

"It's not surprising to hear donations are down," said Michael Goldberg, Weatherhead School of Management, CRWU.

Goldberg said more people are likely holding onto what they have instead of replacing it because buying new now costs more.

"I think that the secondary market, of which places like Goodwill are right at the center of, is a really interesting dynamic and in some ways a bell weather of what's going on in society," said Goldberg.

Money generated from sales at each Goodwill store support nearly 30 outreach programs in Northeast Ohio, including job training.

"People with disabilities or other barriers to employment," said Ater.

Cole Robertson is among those who reached out for a helping hand getting hired.

"Oh, it feels great. I was really uncertain about the future for a while there," said Robertson.

Robertson connected with Goodwill's digital skills training program after suffering an injury and losing his job.

"Really relieved so much anxiety just having a path forward," said Robertson.

Without this chance to get his certifications in IT, we asked Robertson where he might be.

"Taco Bell probably, got to pay bills somehow," said Robertson.

Fewer donations coming into Goodwill locations is also problematic for those on a tight budget.

"During inflationary times, people turn to us for shopping," said Ater.

With less inventory, shoppers may struggle to find what they need.

"We're an inexpensive alternative for clothes and shoes and housewares, but we need those donations to answer the call to those shoppers and ultimately to our mission," said Ater.

A mission, which last year, helped 14,000 people in Northeast Ohio with job training, parenting programs, hot meals and a rape crisis center.