Goodwill: It’s more than a thrift store


Calling all witches and ghouls: Goodwill of Delaware’s annual Halloween Costume Competition is under way.

“For Goodwill of Delaware, the month of October is our biggest sales month of the year, because everyone shops at Goodwill to get all the items they need for their Halloween costume,” said Ted Sikorski, vice president of marketing and development for Goodwill of Delaware.

“One of the things we wanted to do was have some sort of competition between people who are using Goodwill items to make their Halloween costumes. So, we came up with this photo contest.”

Those who wish to enter the contest must post entries by Nov. 5. The contest is open to customers of Delaware and Delaware County, Pa., stores who were 18 or older on or before Oct. 1, but parents can enter their child’s costume using the parent’s name and contact information. Entrants must use at least three items purchased from a Goodwill store between Oct. 1 and Oct. 31, and save their receipt.

“What we encourage people to do is shop at Goodwill, take the items they’ve purchased, make them into their Halloween costume, take a picture of it and then share those photos with us via social media,” explained Sikorski. “We ask they have at least three items they’ve purchased at Goodwill. It could be something as simple as a pair of pants, a bed sheet and something else that they’ve taken and turned into a Halloween costume.”

In order to better serve Goodwill customers, the stores’ Halloween footprints have been expanded to include a Halloween shop within each store.

“Traditionally, Goodwill has a lot of donated items that we then turn into Halloween costumes. This year, we’ve added a new-goods section: items that we have available for sale that we normally don’t get donated — tems like wigs, makeup, accessories, pre-packaged costumes, hosiery — all kinds of other things that will enable someone to make Goodwill their one-stop Halloween shop so they can get everything they need.”

Those submitting costumes to the contest will have the opportunity to win in one of two categories — Most Creative and Fan Favorite.

“This year, we have expanded it. Before, it was Most Creative, with a number of prizes for first, second and third places. This year, we changed it up a bit and have two different categories,” said Sikorski, stating that the Most Creative costume will be chosen by Goodwill staff.

“We’ve also added a Fan Favorite category. In that, we encourage people to post their photos on our Facebook page and link it to their Facebook page, and encourage their friends and family to vote for it.”

The entrant who receives top honors for Most Creative will win an iPad mini, and the Fan Favorite will receive a $250 Visa gift card.

Last year, more than 80 entries were received, and Sikorski said entries continue to get better each year.

“It has been growing year after year. Every year, people get more and more creative. Some of the winners in the past have been people who have made a group costume. One winner was a family that dressed up as sushi. One costume looked like a bottle of soy sauce, and another looked like sushi rolls. Another year, we had the ‘KISS Kids Band,’ a bunch of 6-, 7-, and 8-year-olds who dressed up like the rock group KISS.

“People are very creative. I’m always surprised but also encouraged by what I see every year. I look at things and go, ‘I never would have taken those items and created something that looks like that.’ We look forward to it every year.”

It’s not all fun and games, as Goodwill Industries is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization whose mission is to “improve the quality of life for people with barriers to self-sufficiency through the Power of Work.”

“There’s a mission behind the Halloween mischief this year,” said Sikorski. “Ninety cents of every dollar we raise goes back to support that mission. We’re very proud of that fact.”

Sikorski said Goodwill has been able to help those who have been affected by the economic downturn.

“For us, when the economy took a downturn, we saw more and more people turning to Goodwill for help. One of the programs we’re very proud of is a cashiers’ skills training program with Delaware ShopRite stores.

“We have a training classroom at our building here in Wilmington, and every five weeks we have a new class of cashiers that we train, that upon graduation go directly to work at on the area ShopRites in Delaware,” he said, noting that approximately 600 people have graduated from the program over the last five years. “That’s one program that continues to see strong interest because there’s a job at the end of it. It’s not just training for the sake of training.”

Sikorski said Goodwill has found that there are still people who are unaware that Goodwill is more than a store.

“That’s one of our challenges. It’s something we try to the greatest extent possible. We’ve done a lot via social media. We’ll routinely post things about our mission on our Facebook page. We also created a YouTube channel where we have video stories of people we have helped. Every year, we have a big awards luncheon and have 600 people at the Chase Center in Wilmington.”

In order to help spread the word, Goodwill is hoping to take their “story on the road” in 2015.

“We’re looking for speaking opportunities in the community where we can share with the community what we do. People know us for the stores, they know us as a place where they can donate items, but they don’t know what happens after that. We’re always looking for ways to tell our story.”

Sikorski said that Goodwill has even created a new tagline to help promote its mission: “Donate. Shop. Create Jobs.”

“In the simplest form that describes what Goodwill does. You donate your items, you shop, and we take those funds and create jobs and help people in the community.”

To enter Goodwill’s Creative Halloween Costume Contest, visit www.facebook.com/goodwillde. A Goodwill retail store is located at 339 E. Dupont Highway, in the Mid-Sussex Shopping Center, on Route 113 in Millsboro. To learn more about the organization’s work, visit www.goodwillde.org. To hear stories of those who have been positively impacted by Goodwill, visit www.youtube.com/channel/UCT5koyXk9I-o6bYZRUKRSAQ.