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Goodwill NCW program receives Targeted Impact Fund grant

MENASHA — Barron County Restorative Justice, a program of Goodwill NCW, has received a $5,000 Targeted Impact Fund grant through Johnson Bank.

As a member of the Federal Home Loan Bank, Johnson Bank, which has a branch in Rice Lake, nominated Barron County Restorative Justice for the grant, which provides direct support to organizations that are addressing racial equity disparities in Wisconsin communities hardest hit by COVID-19 and that promote equity and opportunity for communities of color.

The Goodwill NCW program was nominated in the category of empowerment services for its work in serving populations hardest hit by COVID-19, including rural communities.

“In light of the country’s elevated conversations regarding systemic racism and social injustices, we felt the restorative justice program offered here in Barron County would benefit most from this Targeted Impact Fund grant,” said Mary Schnacky, Johnson Bank market president-Rice Lake. “For our rural communities, Barron County Restorative Justice demonstrates how they assist in keeping us safer by inviting open communication, not only between the victims and the offenders, but also by including the impacted community. It is through these well-needed conversations and educational opportunities where people are given a second chance to make a positive change in their lives and in their community.”

The grant program seeks to provide targeted relief for maximum community impact, according to Federal Home Loan Bank.

“We are incredibly honored that Johnson Bank nominated our organization,” said Monika Audette, program operations leader. “COVID-19 definitely has had an impact on us, and the need is much greater now. While our work continued during the statewide Safer at Home order, once it was lifted we felt an immediate call for our services in the community, especially in assisting our school families. We are grateful for this partnership and special community support from Johnson Bank and the Federal Home Loan Bank.”

About Goodwill: Goodwill NCW is a nonprofit human services organization whose mission is Elevating People by Eliminating Barriers to Employment across 35 counties in north central Wisconsin. The organization includes 27 retail stores and training centers in communities from Manitowoc to La Crosse, human services programs, unique shopping experiences at its boutiques and Appleton outlet store, plus online shopping at www.shopgoodwill.com. Goodwill NCW is a Platinum Level member of GuideStar.org, the world’s largest source of nonprofit organization information. Visit www.goodwillncw.org.

Consumers finding new ways to safely celebrate Halloween

MENASHA — While Halloween might look different this year, Americans are planning to celebrate and find ways to safely mark the fall holiday.

According to the National Retail Federation’s annual survey conducted by Prosper Insights & Analytics, more than 148 million U.S. adults plan to participate in Halloween-related activities.

“Consumers continue to place importance on celebrating our traditional holidays, even if by untraditional standards,” NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay said. “Retailers are prepared to meet the increased demand for seasonal décor, costumes and other items that allow families the opportunity to observe Halloween safely.”

There is still plenty of fun to be had by following health and safety precautions and getting creative. We encourage you to check with your local government office to determine if there are specific safety guidelines around Halloween before planning events.

Here are some celebration ideas:

  • Rather than having kids come to your front door, set up a decorated table in the front yard and hand out individual bags or cups of candy to keep contact to a minimum.
  • Host a neighborhood trunk-or-treat and pass out candy. Consider having designated adults who have washed their hands and commit to applying hand sanitizer give out the candy rather than encourage hands to reach inside the bowl.
  • Host a themed virtual Halloween costume party.
  • Throw a Halloween parade so costume wearers can show off their look. Or coordinate with your neighborhood and hold a reverse trick-or-treating drive-by parade where people in the vehicle throw candy at kids in costumes in their yards, much like birthday parades.
  • Plan a party for those in your bubble, including immediate family or close friends you have socially engaged with during lightened restrictions. Keep invitees to a minimum and hold outdoors or in the garage and wear masks.

Overall Halloween spending is estimated to be $8.05 billion, according to the NRF. Forty-six percent plan to dress in costume this year compared with 47% in 2019. Here’s what is expected to be popular this Halloween.

  • Top costumes for kids: princess, Spider-Man, superhero, ghost, Batman, witch, vampire, “Frozen” movie characters, pumpkin and cat.
  • Top costumes for adults: Witch, vampire, cat, Batman, ghost, pirate, zombie, nurse, princess and doctor.
  • Costume choices often are influenced by what we see on TV or social media. This year what’s trending is “Tiger King”-, “Masked Singer”- and Broadway musical “Hamilton”-themed costumes.
  • Every year pop culture impacts what’s hot. Unicorns, which have been big the past two Halloweens, will be out in force again this year. Our increased time at home this year also is influencing our costume choices, with couch potato, nurse and doctor being popular picks.
  • Pets: Dressing our pets has become a big part of our Halloween fun, and 18% of pet owners plan to dress their pets in costume. Not only does Goodwill have pet-specific costumes but that onesies, tutus, jerseys and other accessories also can be used to dress your dog or cat. Popular pet costumes this year will be pumpkin, hot dog, superhero and cat.

Since 1971, Goodwill NCW has served as the Original Halloween Headquarters.

  • Score secondhand costumes that are ready to wear or create your own unique look that frights or delights.
  • Find new and ready-made accessories, masks, makeup, wigs and other fun items to complete your costume.
  • Not only do you get a one-of-a-kind look with our donated treasures or ready-to-wear costumes, you also are helping your local community by providing job training and opportunities to people with barriers to employment.

About Goodwill: Goodwill NCW is a nonprofit human services organization whose mission is Elevating People by Eliminating Barriers to Employment across 35 counties in north central Wisconsin. The organization includes 27 retail stores and training centers in communities from Manitowoc to La Crosse, human services programs, unique shopping experiences at its boutiques and Appleton outlet store, plus online shopping at www.shopgoodwill.com. Goodwill NCW is a Platinum Level member of GuideStar.org, the world’s largest source of nonprofit organization information. Visit www.goodwillncw.org.

Free tax service found ways to stay open during pandemic

State of Wisconsin • DEPARTMENT OF REVENUE

By Patty Mayers, Communications Director

When the pandemic hit earlier this year, Jackie Zolp and her Goodwill Industries of North Central Wisconsin Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program team were well into the 2020 tax season.

Zolp coordinates the Goodwill VITA site in Menasha — one of about 200 sites in Wisconsin — where they help qualifying taxpayers with free income tax preparation services.

The 50-person volunteer force started the 2020 tax season in January as usual with classes in preparation to work one-on-one with taxpayers. Everything was smooth until early March when news of the pandemic’s spread became real, and businesses and organizations started looking to scale back and shut down.

“We had 27 of our 50 volunteers continue on at that point,” said Zolp, as some volunteers decided to sit out the season for safety concerns. Of the 27 who stayed, some chose to work behind the scenes during morning hours, entering and reviewing tax returns before taxpayers arrived.

Another shift from normal business practices at the site was a move from in-person to mostly virtual tax preparation services. One-on-one walk-in meetings with taxpayers were replaced with taxpayers stopping at the Goodwill VITA site at appointed times to drop off tax documents and give necessary information. The new appointment system improved safety by creating a constant flow of visitors to and from the site, reducing backups and people waiting in proximity of one another. Volunteers and staff followed sanitizing and social distancing guidelines. Preparers worked tax returns alone and questions once answered by the taxpayer sitting across the table from them now occurred over the phone through a secure password process.

But even with all the new safety precautions, uncertainty remained.

“We knew things might shut down,” said Zolp, adding that the uncertainty motivated volunteers. “They put in so many hours so we could do as many returns as possible, knowing there might be a shutdown.”

The next shift came when Wisconsin’s Safer at Home order went into effect in late March. When the site closed, the team immediately began to work on a plan to reopen and continue providing service under the new guidelines.

“We needed something secure that limited taxpayer and volunteer contact while serving as many people as we could,” Zolp said.

The solution was to reopen with appointed drop-off and pick-up times along with masking and other safety precautions. To further limit exposure, they scaled back the team to two volunteers and two staff members. Even with the limited crew, they processed an impressive 313 returns from March 16 to July 15.

The 2020 tax season provided many takeaways and opportunities to try techniques they may have otherwise never considered. Zolp said she will meet with volunteers before next tax season to consider techniques they can use moving forward.

“It may be a hybrid system where those comfortable using technology can work virtually while we still offer in-person services for others,” she said.

Whatever changes, she says she is proud of what they accomplished this year and is optimistic for next year.

The VITA program is a cooperative effort by the IRS, nonprofit organizations including Goodwill Industries of North Central Wisconsin and many individual states, including Wisconsin.

Coronavirus expected to boost back-to-school spending to record levels

MENASHA — The coronavirus is impacting the back-to-school season in a way that’s never been felt before, and whether students return to the school year by being in school, at home or a combination of both, uncertain families are planning to spend a record amount on back to school as they prepare for the possibility of e-learning, according to the National Retail Federation’s annual survey.

Parents with children in elementary through high school say they plan to spend an average of $789 per family, topping the previous record of $697 they said they would spend last year, according to the NRF. Total spending for kindergarten through 12th grade and college combined is projected to reach $101.6 billion — exceeding last year’s $80.7 billion and topping the $100 billion mark for the first time.

Eighty-eight percent of consumers say the coronavirus will affect their back-to-class shopping in some form, with 30 percent saying they will do more comparison shopping.

Families can stretch their dollar by shopping thrift. By doing so, families also are helping their community. The average purchase supports more than one and a half hours of job training and opportunities.

Here are our budget-friendly tips on shopping thrift for back to school:

  • Donated items with the color tag of the week are 50% off the ticketed price. Shop clearance racks for extra savings.
  • Look for donated merchandise that has the original price tag and pay secondhand prices for clothing that never has been worn.
  • Go often. Frequency and quick decision-making can pay off. Goodwill and other thrift stores are in the business of donations, and what is donated is one of a kind. That means if you see something you like, buy it. You might never see anything like it again. Plus, if you go often you’ll have a better chance of scoring some of those amazing finds.
  • Jeans are a back-to-school staple, and children’s jeans at Goodwill start at $4.99. Adult jeans start at $6.99.
  • Don’t forget to go beyond apparel. Check the racks for belts, purses, backpacks, dorm-room totes, shoes, desk décor, blankets and more.

About Goodwill: Goodwill NCW is a nonprofit human services organization whose mission is Elevating People by Eliminating Barriers to Employment across 35 counties in north central Wisconsin. The organization includes 27 retail stores and training centers in communities from Manitowoc to La Crosse, human services programs, unique shopping experiences at its boutiques and Appleton outlet store, plus online shopping at www.shopgoodwill.com. Goodwill NCW is a Platinum Level member of GuideStar.org, the world’s largest source of nonprofit organization information. Visit www.goodwillncw.org.

Goodwill NCW to require shoppers to wear masks

MENASHA — Starting Monday, July 20, Goodwill Industries of North Central Wisconsin (NCW) will be requiring shoppers to wear face coverings or masks in all of its 27 retail stores and training centers across its 35-county region, joining team members who have been required to wear face coverings or masks since reopening on May 26.

The Goodwill NCW Outlet Store in Appleton, which reopened July 15, also requires shoppers to wear face coverings or masks.

“As an essential human services organization with a retail operation that fuels our mission, it’s important for us to do our part to slow the spread in our communities,” Goodwill NCW President and CEO Chris Hess said. “Our top priority throughout this pandemic has been and always will continue to be to protect the health and safety of our team members, customers and communities.”

Both the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization now recommend that people wear masks as a way to reduce community spread of COVID-19. As part of this effort, the National Retail Federation released a statement on July 15 encouraging all retailers to adopt a nationwide policy that requires customers to wear face coverings or masks to protect the health and well-being of their teams, customers and partners during the coronavirus pandemic.

Goodwill NCW retail store and training center team members will work with customers who come to the store without a mask to find a solution. Customers who cannot wear a face covering because of a medical condition will be accommodated and are encouraged to wear an alternative option such as a face shield.

Goodwill NCW adjusting donation drop-off locations, hours

MENASHA — Goodwill Industries of North Central Wisconsin (NCW) is adjusting its donation drop-off locations and hours across its 35-county region.

Goodwill NCW began taking donations last week with strict safety measures in place. Starting Thursday, May 7, the following retail stores and training centers will be open for noncontact donation drop-offs from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. daily, unless capacity is reached earlier: Darboy, Grand Chute, Green Bay East, Green Bay West, Lake Hallie, Marshfield, Onalaska, Oshkosh (20th Ave.), Plover, Rhinelander, Rib Mountain, Rice Lake and Wisconsin Rapids.

Donation Expresses at 2465 Lineville Road, Green Bay; 211 E. Ann St., Kaukauna; and 1033 W. Northland Ave., Appleton, also are open 10 a.m.-2 p.m. daily for noncontact donation drop-offs. The Shiner Center and Outlet Store in Appleton remain closed for donations.

The following locations will not be open to the public but will be used for sorting donations after they are held for 72 hours in accordance with recommendations from the National Institutes of Health: Antigo, Ashwaubenon, Eau Claire, La Crosse, Manitowoc, Menasha, Menomonie, Neenah, Oshkosh West, Shawano, Stevens Point, Tomah, Waupaca and Weston. The De Pere Donation Express also is closed.

As a nonprofit human service organization, Goodwill NCW uses revenue from the sale of donations to fund job training and other opportunities as part of its mission of Elevating People by Eliminating Barriers to Employment. In 2019, 91% of Goodwill NCW’s revenue was generated through the sale of donations.

The changes in locations and hours allow for Goodwill NCW to better care for its team members, ensure the safety of the community and team, and catch up with the generous donations it has received so far.

While stores remain closed to shoppers, Goodwill NCW’s noncontact donation drop-off features a drive-thru system follows social-distancing guidelines:
• Donors are asked to remain in their vehicles until they reach the donation doors and, once they exit their vehicles, to practice social distancing by maintaining at least 6 feet of space from others.
• Donors should place items in the designated bins or boxes instead of delivering person-to-person. Donors will need to sort donations into the two labeled bins according to soft goods such as apparel, handbags, shoes, bedding and towels and hard goods such as books, décor, kitchenware, household items and artwork.
• Signage at donation drop-offs walks donors through the process.
• Online receipts are available at goodwillncw.org/donate/receipt.
• All donation attendants will be wearing gloves and a mask or face covering.

Goodwill NCW urges the public to hold on to donations

MENASHA — With the statewide COVID-19 Safer at Home order in place, Goodwill NCW’s retail stores and training centers and donation drop-off locations across 35 counties are temporarily closed. The health and safety of its team and the community are Goodwill NCW’s top priority.

In the meantime, Goodwill NCW is strongly urging the public to hold on to donations until its donation centers reopen. Goodwill NCW has donation locations at each of its 27 retail stores and training centers, the Shiner Center and Outlet Store in Appleton and four Donation Expresses in the Fox Valley.

“As we all stay home and do our part to keep our communities safe, please remember how important donations are to Goodwill,” said Chris Hess, Goodwill NCW president and CEO. “The average donation creates more than three hours of job training and opportunity. As people clean and organize homes, we will absolutely need donations – but not just yet. We will be back open soon and will appreciate that support as we anticipate the need to be even greater when we emerge from this temporary shutdown.”

With donation centers closed, items left outside donation doors are exposed to the weather and can be damaged or ruined, creating unnecessary waste.

Goodwill NCW’s mission services and retail operations start with donations. As a nonprofit human service organization, Goodwill NCW uses donations and shopping purchases to fund job training and more to make a life-changing impact for the people it serves.

In 2019, 91% of Goodwill NCW’s revenue was generated through the sale of donations. Eight-seven cents of every dollar is invested in its mission of Elevating People by Eliminating Barriers to Employment.

Goodwill NCW will reopen when the Safer at Home order that is in effect until April 24 is lifted and will post updated information about its reopening on its website (goodwillncw.org) and on social channels. A list of all Goodwill donation centers can be found at www.goodwillncw.org/donate/where. Donation bins have been temporarily removed from business’ parking lots.

“The impact of the temporary shutdown of our retail stores and training centers will be substantial, and community-based human service organizations like Goodwill will be essential to our response to this crisis and the challenges we face locally and statewide,” Hess said. “We are bracing for an increase in individuals needing services and are pressing ahead to meet those needs, but we need the communities’ donations to do so.”

A letter to our communities

Goodwill NCW has been serving 35 counties throughout Wisconsin since 1971, using donations and shopping purchases to fund job training and more for neighbors in our communities through our mission of Elevating People by Eliminating Barriers to Employment.

We exist to provide opportunity to people with disabilities and disadvantages in the communities we serve, and we know that the lasting impact of the COVID-19 crisis will disproportionately affect those who have limited resources, options and access. Our commitment is to stand by and with the people who need us most.

The impact of the temporary shutdown of our retail stores and training centers will be substantial, and community-based human service organizations like Goodwill will be essential to our response to this crisis and the challenges we face locally and statewide. We are bracing for an increase in individuals needing services and are pressing ahead to meet those needs.

Hold onto those donations

As we all stay home and do our part to keep our communities safe, please remember how important donations are to Goodwill. The average donation creates more than three hours of job training and opportunity. As people clean and organize homes, please remember we need donations – but not just yet. We will be back open soon and will appreciate that support as we anticipate the need to be even greater when we emerge from this temporary shutdown.

Mission at work

Our mission starts at home, and Elevating People by Eliminating Barriers to Employment is what we do every day in our retail stores and training centers. Because of the temporary closure of our 27 retail stores and training centers, donation drop-offs and Outlet Store, the opportunity to elevate people within the stores also is paused. But our mission is still at work. We currently are focusing on what we can do right now to help the people we serve by providing:

  • Cyber counseling to help consumers with creating a spending plan that matches household income, developing financial capabilities like paying bills on time and spending less through our Financial Information and Service Center program that provides financial and debt solutions.
  • Digital and social skills training as well as assisting with interview practice, application and resume completion, and job searches through our Employment and Training Program that supports people with disabilities in obtaining and maintaining employment in the community.
  • Emergency assistance through the distribution of gift cards to agency clients through our GoodNeighbor program that provides free merchandise to people in need.
  • Representative payee and bill-paying services for people of all ages who receive Social Security benefits, veterans’ benefits or pensions and who find themselves unable to manage their finances through our Payment Partner program.
  • Victim-offender restorative conferencing, accountability workshops, mentoring, and restitution services through our Restorative Justice programs in Eau Claire, Barron and Marathon counties as a way to help adults and youth make healthier choices to become more productive and successful at home, in the workplace and at school.

Our Goodwill family

These are unprecedented times — a time of uncertainty and a new situation for us at Goodwill NCW as well. We’ve had to make heart-wrenching decisions in the short term to protect the long-term financial health and future sustainability of the organization.

As a mission-based nonprofit, we care about the well-being of our team members who help individuals in our community every day. We continue to care for our people during these challenging times. We are committed to the well-being of our team and continue to work hard to identify the options, resources and support our valued team members need.

Many people are depending on us to keep them healthy and safe while at the same time supporting them to sustain their families. It’s a responsibility we take seriously.

Part of our Goodwill family is continuing to work remotely around the state on building recovery plans, and we have team members with an unwavering commitment to the people we serve who are working on the front lines, providing on-site coaching to individuals who are working at businesses deemed essential. They have our profound respect and admiration.

Moving forward

At an appropriate time, we will resume our normal operations and work together to rebuild stronger communities. By improving lives, we improve communities. It’s at the very heart of what we do.

I firmly believe we will come out of this unprecedented time stronger than ever and that we only will get there together. We encourage others across north central Wisconsin to join us in celebrating the possible and thank you for your support as we continue to move forward to help those who need us the most. We have much work to do.

With gratitude,

Chris Hess
President/CEO
Goodwill NCW

Goodwill NCW receives $10,000 AT&T Foundation grant

ANTIGO — Goodwill Industries of North Central Wisconsin (Goodwill NCW) received a $10,000 grant today from the AT&T Foundation today to support its School-to-Work program during an event at the Goodwill Retail Store and Training Center in Antigo.

Mark Desotell, City of Antigo; Vickie Basar, Goodwill NCW; Robyn Gruner, AT&T Wisconsin; Jennie Moore, Goodwill NCW; and Chris Hess, President and CEO of Goodwill NCW.

The $10,000 AT&T Foundation grant will support Goodwill’s School-to-Work program, which provides work and training experience for high school students who have barriers to employment. The goal is to provide students with temporary work opportunities at Goodwill retail stores and training centers to help them gain skills for future employment.

“Through our School-to-Work program, our goal is to help high school students gain the skills, training and work experience they need to secure jobs in the future,” said Chris Hess, President and CEO of Goodwill Industries of North Central Wisconsin.  “We are excited to receive this generous grant from the AT&T Foundation to support our programming and our efforts to eliminate barriers to employment for students with disabilities.”

School-to-Work is a cooperative effort between Goodwill and area school districts, including Antigo, Rhinelander and White Lake, that provides valuable work experience for high school students with disabilities. These work experiences help to bridge the gap between the classroom and working in the community.

“For more than a century, education has been a priority for AT&T,” said Scott T. VanderSanden, president of AT&T Wisconsin. “On behalf of the AT&T Foundation, we are proud to support Goodwill Industries of North Central Wisconsin and their efforts to provide job experience, training and skills for students who will need extra help transitioning from school to work.”

Students participating in the program earn a paycheck while learning basic work skills and expectations to help them with the transition from high school into community work opportunities.  Goodwill meets with area school districts to present the program and identify students with barriers who would benefit from the training experience.

The $10,000 AT&T Foundation grant will help Goodwill NCW provide temporary work opportunities for up to 25 youth during the 2019 and 2020 summer and school years.

Barron County Restorative Justice, Salvation Army partner

MENASHA — Barron County Restorative Justice, a program of Goodwill, and the Salvation Army are announcing a new partnership that will support more people in the Barron County area.

Starting Oct. 1, the Salvation Army will be providing Barron County Restorative Justice with a budget of $700 a month to help BCRJ clients with rent, housing, transportation, food, household items, utilities, home repairs as well as substance abuse treatment. The money is raised through donations to the Red Kettle campaign. Based on the program’s approval, clients can receive up to $300 in assistance annually.

Barron County Restorative Justice works to build safe communities through alternative resolution processes that address conflict and crime. BCRJ offers several programs for youth and adult offenders, victims of crime, at-risk students and people in conflict.

“We are absolutely thrilled with this new partnership,” said Monika Audette, Barron County Restorative Justice program operations leader. “Some of the challenges our young clients face can seem insurmountable; this funding will help us give them a hand up when they are working to get their life on track. It is very difficult to think about going to school or to work when a family is in a dire financial crisis situation. We know school success leads to career success. This partnership, which is actually a partnership with the whole community because the money comes from Red Kettle donations, means that people in our community take care of each other.”

“Restorative Justice has made a significant impact in Barron County with its outreach programs, focusing on substance abuse, teen traffic violations and victim witness panels,” said Tom Bremer, district representative of the Salvation Army, which covers the Wisconsin counties of Ashland, Bayfield, Barron, Price, Rusk, Taylor and Washburn as well as Gogebic and Iron counties in Michigan. “The Salvation Army crisis funds will assist program participants as they complete Restorative Justice programs. The Barron Salvation Army is looking forward to this new partnership.”

About Goodwill: Goodwill NCW is a nonprofit human services organization whose mission is Elevating People by Eliminating Barriers to Employment across 35 counties in north central Wisconsin. The organization includes 27 retail stores and training centers in communities from Manitowoc to La Crosse, 24 human services programs, unique shopping experiences at its boutiques and Appleton outlet store, plus online shopping at www.shopgoodwill.com. It offers four Donation Express sites and 10 convenient donation bins throughout the Fox Cities. Goodwill NCW is a Platinum Level member of GuideStar.org, the world’s largest source of nonprofit organization information. Visit www.goodwillncw.org.

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