Article in The Albuquerque Tribune: Good turn for Goodwill

Throughout an interior aglow with polished tiles and flawless wooden desks, there is an aroma of something new – flower petals tinged with bleach, gentle but sharp, a jump-start of hope.

Cubicles, formed by soft gray dividers, many still awaiting their first piles of paperwork, fill the center of one room. Ringing them are offices labeled with slick silver placards in geometric shapes announcing who resides within.

The space has the professional polish of a lawyer’s office, the hip sleekness of a high-tech startup.

Welcome to the new Goodwill Industries of New Mexico.

With the recently completed $3.3 million makeover of the organization’s headquarters at 5000 San Mateo Blvd. N.E., staff members say things at the nonprofit are better and brighter – literally.

Where fickle fluorescent lights once hung over the facility’s donation sorting area, more reliable and brighter halogen lamps now rest, said Patrick Michaels, president and CEO of Goodwill Industries of New Mexico.

“The first thing they (workers) said was: ‘Our lighting is so much better. We can do our work more effectively,’ ” he said.

Other aspects of the renovation included new touch-screen cash registers, additional meeting rooms, a computer lab and more open space facilitating the flow of goods through the building.

And with the number of training rooms going from two to nine, the organization will better be able to accomplish its main mission: preparing people with barriers to employment to get jobs in the community, Michaels said.

“People were really excited to see how the quality of the facilities contributes to the quality of the training we can do,” he said. “The renovation for us created a much more efficient flow.”

Michaels said the renovations – begun in January 2004 and completed in March – will allow the building to accommodate training for up to 2,000 Goodwill clients, up from 1,200.

Clients typically have a problem – traumatic brain injuries, physical impairments or mental illnesses – that makes it more difficult for them to obtain work.

In 2004, Goodwill’s revenues hit $9 million, 190 people found jobs outside the organization, and 1,381 people received job training by serving customers who shop the store for clothes, books, antiques and other merchandise, according to a news release.

The number of Goodwill clients receiving job training was slightly above the 1,200 limit because new training rooms were opened up as they were completed, Michaels said.

The benefits of the upgrade extend into cyberspace too.

As e-commerce manager for Goodwill Industries of New Mexico, Kathleen Cates has put a lot of things up for sale on the nonprofit’s eBayesque online auction site: a $2,000 painting rescued from the trash, $50 to $150 porcelain ducks, even a boat that went for $8,000.

She said the renovation will make it possible to post monthly an additional 150 to 200 items on the organization’s Web site, already posting between 700 and 800 items a month.

The site, shopgoodwill.com, serves Goodwill nationwide. Browsers can search by item or by store location.

“It’s now grown to a pretty significant force,” Cates said, estimating e-commerce sales made up about 5 percent of the local organization’s total revenue.

Edna Padilla, assistant store manager, said Goodwill employees and customers have reacted positively to the renovations.

“A lot of people are like: ‘Wow! It’s big . . . it’s almost like a Wal-Mart now!’ ” she said. “You can see the difference in the attitude of everybody.”

A ceremony took place May 3 to dedicate the renovated building to Sen. Pete Domenici, an Albuquerque Republican who helped raise $1 million for the construction. Domenici won half of that amount with an appropriation from the U.S. Housing and Urban Development Department, according to the news release.

“Sometimes you get a chance to use taxpayer money in a special way,” Domenici said. “It has been a really rare opportunity to do something good.”

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