Unicorns, Peace Signs and Cats

As a mom of three young girls (two of which are school age), I’m focused on buying the essentials for back to school. What are the essentials? To me, that means practical purchases that will last my little ones through the school year.

On our way to a Goodwill shopping trip this past weekend, I asked my seven and five year old daughters what they thought were ‘essentials’ as they headed into second and first grade.

After explaining what the word ‘essential’ actually means, they gave me their answer: unicorns, peace signs and cats.

Okay. This should be interesting.

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After years of being a savvy thrift shopper at Goodwill, my focus has always been on shopping with an open mind, and not shopping for a specific item. You know….like unicorns, peace signs and cats.

I was going to have to work hard to either find these ‘essentials’ or convince these little ones that this isn’t the way thrift shopping is really done.

By the time we entered the sliding doors of the Massillon Goodwill store, my daughters’ list of essentials had become more specific. Unicorns were now pink unicorns. Regular cats would no longer work; they had to be kittens on the clothes, now. And, peace signs needed to include sparkle.

Anxiety was creeping in.

Without sharing the step by step shopping experience, which may or may not have included a few ugly mommy moments, here’s a spoiler alert: We found unicorns, cats and peace signs. And, here’s how we did it.

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  1. Bribe them. Our Goodwill had a massive bin filled with all kinds of little toys and gadgets near the register. Everything in the bin was $1. We made a stop there first and they each picked out a favorite tchotchke. The catch? Mommy will buy this toy for you if you behave while we shop for our ‘essentials.’
  2. Always get a cart. Even if you think you won’t be buying much, you will need a place to put your purse. I hang items for each daughter on either side of the cart. It allows me to have a clear idea of what we might be purchasing.  It makes it much easier to find tops or bottoms to match.  Once we have a match, it goes into the belly of cart.
  3. #defineyourself That is the theme for this year’s Back to School Shopping at Goodwill. Really, it’s one of the few places I can let the girls pick what they want and create a personal style, while staying in budget. Most of the items we purchased were $2 or $3 each, and some were the Color of the Week tag which only cost $1. Maybe that hashtag should be #defineyourselfatgoodwillbecauseitdoesnotbreakthebank. Probably too long for marketing purposes.
  4. Shop sizes smaller and larger.  Although my seven and five year old daughters technically wear the size in clothes, their body types are very different. As a result, we are best to search other sizes for our treasures. Leggings, for example, can fit up to two sizes smaller or larger than what they typically wear. These bad boys are meant to stretch! Also, one size up works for many sweaters or cotton shirts that may have shrunk. The result? A perfect fit for my gals. 
  5. Check out all departments. Keeping the kiddos occupied and engaged during an hour-long shopping trip is not an easy task. I mixed it up with frequent stops in the wares section where they could peruse through bins and shelves filled with toys, pre-teen décor and new products. As a result, we walked away with some great toy organizers and some cute décor items. BTS Mo 6

The trip was awesome all around. Goodwill is big enough to have a great variety (even those ‘essentials’ they wanted) and small enough that I wasn’t worried about losing my kids in a mega-store. Prices were more than fair and I was surprised how many Color of the Week $1 items we found without even trying. I can’t imagine anywhere you can purchase three overflowing bags of back-to-school fun for less than $65, other than your local Goodwill.

The total haul:

  • 6 tops
  • 2 sweaters
  • 1 scarf
  • 4 pairs of pants/leggings
  • 1 jean jacket
  • 4 toys/misc décor items


Boymom Shops Goodwill!

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As a boymom with two kids ages 2 and 9 months, I have yet to experience the “Back to School shopping” panic. But the “shopping with a toddler and a baby in public” panic on the other hand, I know that feeling quite well. It’s one of the main reasons my husband and I signed up for Amazon Prime two weeks after our second was born. 

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So needless to say, I was a little worried to venture into Goodwill’s Middleburg Heights Store for some shopping with my kids. But this mama was smart and we brought Grammy along for our shopping adventure. Our goal was to find a few fall clothing items for the boys and maybe a treat or two. Get in and get out as quickly as possible.

 Items in our cart at checkout?

  • 2 sweaters - $2.00 apiece
  • 1 Winnie-the-Pooh outfit - $2.00
  • 1 pair of overalls - $2.00
  • 1 Cars3 coloring book - $0.50
  • 1 slinky - $0.50
  • 2 dog toys - $3.00
  • 1 Fisher Price Little People Wheelies City Skyway with car for Grammy’s House - $7.00
  • 1 Minnie Mouse Shopping Cart - $2.00

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Total? About $20.00. In my opinion, you can’t beat that!

BTS Crista 3How did the kiddos fare? Pretty well!

We made the trek across the Goodwill parking lot without incident and my toddler let me hold his hand (Phew! He’s been exercising his independence lately, which is great, but not in parking lots). After we got inside the store I quickly got the baby in a shopping cart and my toddler decided he wanted to walk – but only after we got a special shopping basket for him to carry around his green frog stuffed animal in, of course. BTS Crista 4

We headed towards the kids clothing first and I was genuinely surprised at how easy it was to quickly find things right away. It’s so nice that Goodwill stores size and colorize clothing. I can’t even imagine trying to find the right size hanger by hanger with my kids in tow!

BTS Crista 5I immediately went back to MY childhood when I pulled a Winnie-the-Pooh sweat suit off the rack. It’s clear this outfit had been worn once or twice as a Halloween costume or something. It’s practically brand new with the sweat suit material still super soft. And for $2.00 I just couldn’t pass it up (even though I knew the hubby would role his eyes at it!). I think Disney is so expensive, so I was happy to find this deal.

The sweaters I picked up were from OshKosh and Children’s Place (awesome, but expensive brands). Again, both in like-new quality and for $2.00 apiece. And I finished up with a cute pair of bear overalls from Koala Kids. BTS Crista 7

Even though I have two boys, they were born at different times of the year. I’ve had to add a few seasonal items into the baby’s wardrobe and found Goodwill is a great place to find brand new or like-new baby clothes for $1.00 or $2.00 apiece.

BTS Crista 8On our way over to the toy aisle, we stopped to pick out dog toys for each of our dogs. The dog toys are brand new and are one of the products shoppers can always count on to find at Goodwill with our “New Goods” program. 

The kids toy aisle was actually fun. The toddler played with a couple cars and a fire helmet while my mom and I shopped. Grammy found a great deal on a Fisher Price Little People Wheelies City Skyway car ramp for her house. Both my boys are really into cars. I was so happy she found it!  

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The Minnie Mouse shopping cart? It was either buy it for $2.00 or endure a public toddler meltdown at my place of employment. You’ll guess which option I wisely chose. 

Finally, on our way over to checkout, I noticed fabulous closeouts for new parents or grandparents. Goodwill had three brand new pack n’ plays and a brand new Eddie Bauer travel system! I couldn’t believe my eyes!

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BTS Crista 11The checkout process was quick and painless (except when we had to hand over the Minnie Mouse shopping cart for 30 seconds). And just like that, we were on our way.

It was an enjoyable shopping trip with the boys and my mom. I think we walked away with some wonderful merchandise for a small investment. While I’m probably not ready to give up my Prime membership EVER, I think a trip to Goodwill is a fun experience for kids and parents alike.  

Stay strong out there fellow boymoms! I know you’re working hard to keep the chaos in check from son up to son down! 



Goodwill for Back to School? Yes!

You JUST put away the last of the school stuff from last year - which may or may not have included a science experiment in a forgotten lunchbox - so guess what time it is? Time for BACK to school shopping!

So fun, and so expensive. Especially if you have "tweens," like me, who can officially wear "adult" clothes. Simple t-shirt? More expensive. Cool pair of jeans? WAY more expensive. Shoes? Don't even get me started.

Luckily, I - and by extension (and the fact they have no debit card) my girls - are not afraid to thrift shop! About a week ago, we visited the Goodwill store in Jackson Township for a Back to School thrifting session (sesh, in tweenspeak). 

When I thrift shop with my girls, I tell them we are looking to fill in around the edges basically. Anyone with kids this age knows they definitely have certain things they CANNOT LIVE WITHOUT, and so we do go ahead and selectively order online those particular items - within a predetermined budget. (I'm not crazy!) 

Those things, while essential in their eyes, will probably not give you the quantity you need to make it through a week or so without having to do laundry every.single.night. That's where Goodwill comes in! Having already spent the bulk of my back to school budget, I needed some things that could fill up the closet on the cheap. 

Here are just some examples of the kinds of staples we found at Goodwill:


Everyday hoodies - this one is from Old Navy (where we get those anyway), for a cool $4.

Athletic shorts - these are Nike (they MUST be Nike) and we got them for $3! I would usually be adding a "0" to that when I order them online. 

I was happy with the selection, and I haven't even gotten to the best part yet: MOMSCORE and BONUSFIND. First, let me define these for you:

A MOMSCORE is when you find something for yourself - and in this case I TRULY was not even looking. This Gap jacket was hanging on the end of a rack and I think it actually said my name when I walked by. $8! It still has the tags on it - a no-brainer.

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A BONUSFIND is when you find one of those items your kids CANNOT LIVE WITHOUT - but at Goodwill! My daughter has been asking for a Vera Bradley bookbag for a while. Let's just say they are more than we normally budget for bookbags (I'm sure Vera is a nice person, but geez). I had contemplated making this one of her "special" items that we do order, but I am happy to report I let my frugal side talk me out of that - and then we found this for $10! She could not be happier, even if she will not pose for a photo (Moms, you understand). 


So, PLEASE think about educating your kids about how shopping Goodwill for back to school can mean more bang for your buck - which translates into more stuff in their closet! With plenty of options, the bus-is-getting-here-in-three-minutes-and-I-have-NOTHING-to-wear meltdowns could be fewer and farther between (we all know they will still happen).

Happy shopping!

The Growth of Goodwill

Goodwill Industries International, Inc., widely known as Goodwill, is one of the most well-known charitable organizations in the United States and also has a presence in 13 other countries. While a majority of people only see Goodwill as a retail thrift chain and a place to donate their gently used clothes, furniture and household goods, this is only a portion of our nonprofit organization’s goal. We're also a social service agency dedicated to helping people in the communities it serves by providing job skills training and services they need to obtain gainful employment and improve their lives. This dedication began more than 100 years ago and continues to be a driving force in communities across the country.

From Humble Beginnings

Goodwill got its start in Boston in 1902 when Methodist minister and early social innovator, Reverend Edgar J. Helms developed a new system to help the poor. Helms set out to collect used clothing and household goods from wealthier areas of the city. He then hired and trained poverty-stricken individuals to mend apparel and repair household items like furniture and appliances. Once refurbished, everything was either resold or given to the individuals who performed the work. A new philosophy was born, “Not Charity, but a Chance,” and the system worked well. It allowed individuals to break away from the degradation of asking for a handout and instead infused them with the dignity of earning for themselves.

Edgar J Helms


Growth of a Charitable Giant

Goodwill differed from many of the other charities of the time by establishing stores where donated items could be sold for profit. Then, these monies could be used to pay the workers that helped repair the various goods. Helms believed that everyone had the potential to work, given the right opportunities and training. By working and doing for themselves, disadvantaged individuals not only kept their dignity, they also were empowered to take charge of their situations and make their lives better through their own toil. The system worked so well that Helms’ vision grew into what has become a multi-billion-dollar nonprofit organization inspired by the same principles. While Goodwill workers no longer repair items, the same business model is used today in every one of our more than 3,200 stores.

Goodwill History

Local History

Several of these stores are operated by Goodwill Industries of Greater Cleveland and East Central Ohio, Inc. This Goodwill was formed by the merging of Goodwill Industries of Greater Cleveland and Goodwill Industries of East Central Ohio, Inc. in 2005. Together we have been serving local communities throughout Cleveland, East Central Ohio and a portion of West Virginia for nearly 100 years. We serve 10 counties, including Carroll, Cuyahoga, Geauga, Harrison, Jefferson, Stark, Tuscarawas and a portion of Lake Counties in Ohio and Brooke and Hancock Counties in West Virginia. We not only have retail stores located throughout these areas, but also offer various programs to help improve employment opportunities and the quality of life for all the individuals we serve.

Although times have changed, Helms’ vision has remained intact. Goodwill continues to strive to help communities everywhere. With your donations and patronage of the many retail stores around the country, you can, too.Centennial Blog Post

The last time you replaced your computer, what did you do with the old one?

If you can’t remember, it probably wasn’t a meaningful experience. Next time, consider donating your computer and/or other used technology to Goodwill’s ComputersAgain Program.

ComputersAgain is a Goodwill program that delivers mission by connecting refurbished computers to people who otherwise could not afford this technology, while reducing e-waste and creating opportunity.

Computers (mainly desktops, including monitor, keyboard, mouse, and tower) are made available for $85, after need is identified through an application process. Individuals, schools, and other non-profits are all eligible to purchase ComputersAgain computers, although most are purchased by individuals and families who require the significant cost savings in order to participate in the digital world.

Goodwill staff, volunteers and people in Goodwill programs focused on computer training set out to work every day on the donated computers, tackling each piece individually before reassembling it into a like-new machine. All components are wiped, cleaned and tested; once assembled, it’s loaded with Windows 10 – and then the entire unit goes through a quality control process before being placed on a shelf marked “ready.”

In 2016, 319 computers were provided, and 81 had been provided as of June 7, 2017.

So the next time you upgrade your computer, or if you think you may qualify to receive a computer through the ComputersAgain Program, think Goodwill.

Where to donate

Apply for a ComputersAgain computer

ComputersAgain blog




Benefits of Donating to Goodwill

Ditch the dumpster and donate your items at Goodwill! It is earth friendly, supports an organization that provides valuable services to individuals in your community and it could even save you a few dollars on your income taxes. Simply gather your donations, ensure each item is in good condition, drop it off at Goodwill and pick up a receipt for a possible tax deduction.

What Can You Donate?

You can donate most of your gently used clothing, furniture and household goods to Goodwill Industries of Greater Cleveland and East Central Ohio. If your items are in saleable condition, donate them to one of your local Goodwill stores or attended donation centers. Cuyahoga and Lake County residents can also schedule a free pickup for large donations, like furniture. If you’re unable to bring your Goodwill donations in yourself and you meet the three-piece minimum, reserve a free pickup.

Goodwill Donations are Tax Deductible

When you drop off your Goodwill donations, an attendant will provide you with a donation receipt. If you itemize your deductions on your federal tax return, you may be able to use this receipt to claim a charitable deduction. According to Internal Revenue Service (IRS) guidelines, you can deduct the fair market value of the items you’ve donated throughout the year. Fair market value isn’t the price you originally paid for the items, but the price a buyer would be willing to pay for the items in their current condition. While Goodwill can provide a list of average prices for common items sold in its stores, a charity isn’t allowed to tell you what these items are worth. Instead, refer to IRS Publication 561 (Determining the Value of Donated Property) and/or consult with a local tax adviser. Try using this estimating tool or referring to this donation guideline from Goodwill Industries International.

Donating Helps Goodwill Mission and the Environment

Besides your potential tax deduction, donating items to local charities helps keep more stuff out of the landfill. Best of all, your Goodwill donations help create opportunities for community members who need to find a job or build much needed job skills. 

Update: This Dresser Can Talk!

Back at the beginning of May, I told you how a dresser talked to me and said it wanted to be a cool outdoor planter. (It sounds less crazy if you read the full post - here.)

Well, I finally got around to trying this - a full two weeks before my self-imposed deadline! Yay me! It kind of happened naturally, because I cleaned out the LAST of the dreaded post-move-I-will-do-that-someday-pile-in-the-garage and I actually found things to add to it. Old planter/pots? Found. Bobble head souvenir from Hawaii? Found. I even found half a bag of potting soil, although I needed more.

So with all these extra things, this started to take the shape of a little vignette, kind of like a fairy garden or something. It has a long way to go, because the cool factor is only achieved when flowers are growing out of it, every which way. I planted - will they come? Stay tuned!

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5 Baby Items You Should Buy at a Thrift Store

Raising children is expensive!  Fortunately, many items needed for your baby and grandbaby can easily and safely be purchased at your local Goodwill store.  Secondhand baby items are usually in excellent condition, because kids grow up so fast that items are sometimes utilized for mere months. Here are four items we definitely suggest buying secondhand.

#1 Gear

Strollers, tummy time mats and strollers are all items that can safely be bought at secondhand. At Goodwill, we properly screen all baby gear donations – making sure items are well within expiration date and do not have associated product recalls.

#2 Clothes 

Kids grow up so quickly!  They often wear items once or twice (especially in the beginning) and then grow right into the next size. At thrift stores, you can get a bag full of baby clothes for the same price you would pay for one brand new outfit. 

Baby Clothes

#3 Toys

Like clothes, baby toys have a short shelf life because kids may love a certain toy for just a short period of time.  We know Grandma wants to make sure her house is stocked with fun things to do! Shopping at Goodwill just makes sense when starting a playroom for your grandkids.

Kids Toys

#4 Closeouts

Sometimes, Goodwill receives brand new closeout items from local retailers. When you find a brand new water table or stroller at Goodwill discounted prices, you’ve hit the jackpot!

#5 Books

Baby and children’s books are pricey from other retailers, but Goodwill offers books every day for just $1.00. Stop in and browse our selection and pick up a few new reads for a small investment. Also, if you’re heading to baby showers a lot, an emerging trend is to give a book instead of a card as part of your gift. Head to Goodwill first! You’ll be glad you did.

Baby Books

For such tiny people, babies sure do need a lot of stuff!  Save money by getting some key items second hand. Great finds start at your local thrift store.  Happy shopping!

Anniversaries are for Celebrating!

Centennial Blog PostToday, your Goodwill will be meeting to start planning a 100 year anniversary celebration – that’s right, Goodwill has been active in your community for almost a century!

Anniversaries are important, and sometimes we don’t take enough time – or any at all – to mark important moments in time. I started paying attention to milestone dates when we abruptly moved out of state and away from everything we knew several years ago. Each year when “moving day” came around, I would think about what all had changed, and luckily, all the good things that had stayed the same. A sparkling grape juice toast on the beach, every year on moving day, gave us the chance to pause and put things in perspective.

Beginning next year, a big part of Goodwill’s anniversary will be to provide the communities we serve with these opportunities for reflection – as well as celebration and inspiration for future service.

So, whether you are a Goodwill donor, shopper, or someone who has been impacted by the services Goodwill provides in your community, watch for a 100 year celebration event near you. Please join us in marking these important moments, and remember to celebrate the anniversaries in your own life!

Mission Services Awareness Day 2017

As I sat in a meeting, I listened to a store manager mention that someone she interviewed said, “Goodwill exists to help poor people.” That statement hit me hard that day.  Goodwill has various programs to assist every population within the communities we serve.  At that point, I realized we as employees need to not just “do” the mission, but share our mission!  Customers and donors need to know how they are helping their community and where they fit into the Cycle of Success!


On Friday, May 19th, 2017, mission services staff along with volunteers from other departments at Goodwill spent the day at all 24 Goodwill retail locations. The goal was to share Goodwill’s mission and to thank customers and donors while explaining how they are fitting into the Cycle of Success!

Staff had tables set up full of information on various programs, the Goodwill mission, Goodwill's Cycle of Success, Mission Moment cards, as well as sweet treats and Goodwill coloring pages for the younger shoppers. 

Shoppers were greeted, thanked and offered information.  At many locations, donors were also greeted and given Mission Moment cards which have the Cycle of Success on the back and donors were shown how they're the catalyst to beginning the cycle.

The day was full of gratitude, appreciation and sharing!  Most customers were not sure what to say when they were greeted with a thank you!  The day was a success in many ways!