Golden year: Goodwill Industries celebrating 50th anniversary with awareness-raising goal

What it is: On Jan. 22, Goodwill Industries of Erie, Huron, Ottawa and Sandusky Counties Inc. will begin a celebration of the big 5-0 that will continue throughout the year. 

Jason Stout, its new CEO, wasn’t around five decades ago when the nonprofit organization was founded – on Jan. 22, 1973, when what was then Goodwill Industries of Sandusky became independent from the Toledo Area Goodwill – but he has been for the last two, first as its auditor and then for the last eight as its vice president and chief financial officer.

Jason Stout, new CEO of Goodwill Industries of Erie, Huron, Ottawa and Sandusky Counties“It sure has grown,” he says in a recent phone interview that also included Crystal Michel, manager of communications and development. “We’ve always had a similar amount of stores, but revenue has grown, (the number of employees has) grown, our programs have grown. Everything, really, has grown over the years.”

Why it’s important: Its mission “is to provide quality, customized employment services that enable persons with disabilities and disadvantaging conditions to achieve their highest levels of personal, social and economic independence,” and the plan for this anniversary year is to work to educate the community about it.

“We’re all about our mission,” Stout says, “and we want people to know in the community that the store profits we have – or profits from our plants – that’s what funds our entire mission.”

Despite what you might gather from its website – Michel says a revamp is in the works, with a full redesign planned for next year – Goodwill offers 18 programs and services, including job development, job coaching and digital skills.

“We place people in the community who experience barriers to employment, and we also employ people who experience barriers to employment,” she says. “Seventy percent of people we employ do experience barriers to employment, whether that be they don’t have transportation or (he or she) be an individual with a developmental disability.”

According to a spokesperson, the organization employs more than 450 people.

Michel said among plans for the year are a fundraising gala in the fall, but the details are still being worked out.

How to get involved: Stout stresses that donations are highly appreciated.

“One of the misconceptions we face all the time is we’re taking people’s donations for free and we’re just … selling them and making a large profit,” he says. “All that money gets funneled back to our organization, and we use that to fund those 18 programs, so that’s very important.”