Goodwill of the Olympics and Rainier Region
Are you a Goodwill shopper? Have you ever donated something to Goodwill? Is it your first stop when looking for a Halloween costume? My answer is yes to all of these questions. I always thought it was a thrift stop with the best prices that offers educational programs. That’s all I knew. I had no idea this year Goodwill of the Olympics and Rainier Region will help 9,800 people with key skills and contacts to become independent self-supporting citizens with a higher quality of life. Of these, more than 2,800 people will be offered jobs including office, culinary, construction, barista, catering, retail, custodial, warehouse, transportation and logistics careers thanks to partnerships with 1,300 companies across Washington.
I was recently invited to Goodwill of the Olympics and Rainier Region to learn more about how they support their community. My 3.5-year-old son came with me. We spent the day with other bloggers and Goodwill staff members.
One of our first stops was their coffee shop. When I think of Goodwill, coffee doesn’t come to mind. But it should! They have a whole Barista School so students can gain valuable work experience and training. They serve Starbucks coffee and have specialty drinks, like their toasted marshmallow latte.
Along the same lines, Goodwill has a culinary program where students learn how to make restaurant-quality dishes. We were served roasted squash with sausage and kale, fried brussels sprouts and the most delicious pumpkin cake for lunch. Most days, they provide grab and go free lunch for their students. And my son reports they make a mean PB&J.
Across from their coffee shop is their resource center. Not only have they partnered with other non-profits, but each organization is represented in this REACH Center for youth. This is brilliant because it helps keep students on track. Instead of hoping students seek out resources available, staffers can physically walk with them and make introductions to contacts who will help them succeed.
Goodwill is such a resource for the community. They have a MATH Center, GED classroom, job resource room, tax center, financial education program, and more. We learned that the volunteers in their tax center have save the community more than $1 million dollars in tax credits and refunds.
While I was there, Key Bank donated $30,000 to support Goodwill’s community programs. It’s great when corporations partner with nonprofits who are using their resources well. I like how transparent Goodwill has been about where their revenue goes.
Another thing that surprised me about Goodwill was their YouthBuild program. YouthBuild helps at-risk young people complete their education by providing GED education classes while simultaneously training for the future in a variety of construction trades. This program features hands-on opportunities for students to learn how to construct houses. This is especially handy as they partner with Habitat for Humanity to build homes for low-income families.
We also got to walk through their online sales warehouse. It was incredible! I saw Dutch wooden shoes, German beer steins, and enough books to fill a library. And my preschooler saw toy trains, remote control cars, matchbox cars, viewfinders and more! I could have easily spent a whole day in here searching for travel-related decor and fun toys! So, it got me excited to start shopping!
Halloween is Goodwill’s Christmas
My son and I were inspired by the work Goodwill is doing to better our community. We headed to the largest Halloween Goodwill in the country, located in Spanaway, WA. There were racks and racks of costumes for people of all ages. Oh, and pets!
The extra cool thing about shopping for costumes at Goodwill is that the possibilities are endless. You can mix and match pieces of other costumes to create something new. While we were there, we saw people creating their own Wonder Woman costume and zombie bride. And they were creating these costumes out of “real” clothing, not just costume pieces. I think that’s my favorite part of a Goodwill costume: it doesn’t have to be flimsy.
Why You Should Stock up on Costumes for your Kids at Goodwill
Growing up, my cousin had a shed in her yard filled to the max with dress up clothes from thrift shops. We used to spend hours and hours trying on fun clothes, wigs, furs and create stories about the characters we’d create. It was a way for us to use our imaginations.
Now that my son is a preschooler, I’ve been reading about how important imaginative play is. It’s actually essential to their development. And dressing up is a great way for them to grow. Here are some of the benefits of imaginative play I’ve found through dress-up:
Playing dress up is often a group activity. Kids learn how to take turns with the costumes and interact with others. However, they learn so much more. Pretend play provides children an opportunity to negotiate, feel empathy, read social cues, consider other viewpoints, and participate in a group. Children learn how to initiate and sustain social relationships with peers. These are all critical social development skills.
Through dressing up, children create their own stories and use words they may not normally use. They also learn new phrases and colloquialisms from their friends. While pretending to run a grocery store, saving lives as a doctor or teaching a class, kids use vocabulary in the right context.
Children are able to become new characters and work through their emotions. They can become a doctor who has to give a patient bad news. Or an astronaut who has triumphantly landed on the moon. Or even a scared animal who is lost. Through pretend play, children can work out confusing, scary, or new life issues.
Imaginative play is all about creating problems that need to be solved. Maybe they are a train engineer who has ran out of track. Or a baker who has ran out of sugar. By dressing up, children can try out new ideas and ways of thinking. They can also act out past experiences and try out different endings.
Goodwill Can Help YOU
Stocking up on costumes at Goodwill is an economic way to provide an opportunity for imaginative play at home. They have a huge assortment of traditional Halloween costumes, like superheroes, movie characters, and princesses. They also have cultural clothing, real occupational uniforms, and other items that can be turned into costumes. Even just picking up accessories like construction hats, chef’s aprons, flower leis, and capes can lead to hours and hours of creative play. And when you are done with the costumes, you can pay it forward by donating them back to Goodwill.