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Goodwill to lay off 50, end furniture pickups

By MARK ALBRIGHT, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published January 7, 2003

After picking up donated used furniture for 48 years, Goodwill Industries-Suncoast Inc. is dropping the service because most of what its crews retrieve is junk.

More than half the furniture -- and two out of every three sofas -- fetched had to be carted off to the dump, the nonprofit corporation said. Goodwill ended up paying solid waste disposal fees to ditch furniture too far gone to be resold.

Goodwill-Suncoast, which employs 1,200 people, meets about half of its annual budget by selling new or donated goods at 18 stores spread over 10 counties in west-central Florida. The rest comes from government grants.

Goodwill said it will stop dispatching trucks to pick up donated furniture and other large donations after Friday. Fifty employees, about half of them disabled workers at the regional headquarters in St. Petersburg, face layoffs as the transportation and pickup service unit is disbanded.

"It is a sad day here at Goodwill," said Michael Ann Harvey, marketing director at Goodwill-Suncoast. "It was a very painful decision to make, but we are trying to transfer as many employees as we can and offering severance and job retraining services to those we cannot."

New Goodwill Superstores located in Brandon, Ocala and Lakeland are the wave of the future. The larger stores offer an assortment of used goods and new budget-priced merchandise. They also have drive-ins for motorists bringing in donated goods.

Many other charities such as the Salvation Army or thrift stores continue to dispatch trucks to pick up donated goods for resale. In many cities, sanitation crews also will cart off old furniture with advance notice.

-- Mark Albright can be reached at albright@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8252.

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