Goodwill to offer training in suburbs, expand stores, speed up sale of goods

January 20, 1995|By Sherrie Ruhl | Sherrie Ruhl,Sun Staff Writer

Breaking with tradition, Baltimore Goodwill Industries Inc. is expanding its job skills training program into the suburbs.

Under the direction of its new president, Marge Thomas, the nonprofit organization also plans to open larger stores and get donations ready for sale more quickly. Making donations will be easier, too, she says, because the organization will establish more drop-off sites.

"What we want to do is create regional mini-Goodwills throughout the area where we can open a shop, offer training and sort and repair donations," said Mrs. Thomas, 48, who took over management of Baltimore Goodwill late last year.

The first satellite site could open in Annapolis by the end of the year.

In the past, almost all the 75-year-old organization's work was centralized at its Arbutus headquarters except for its 14 stores. That building will continue to house a training center for disadvantaged and disabled people as well as a retail store.

But Mrs. Thomas wants to end the practice of taking all donations from the metropolitan area to Arbutus to be repaired and cleaned. She wants each satellite store to do its own work and get items on the shelves faster -- a change that will cut down on mileage and insurance costs, and maybe even reduce the number of Goodwill trucks.

Mrs. Thomas also has tweaked another tradition by accepting car donations.

Harvey E. Kettering II, who retired last year after 30 years as president, had said in an earlier interview that he would never have "rusty cars, sitting about the place."

But Mrs. Thomas said car sales would help finance her ambitious expansion plans. Donated cars are shipped to the Washington Goodwill, where they are spruced up and sold. The proceeds are divided between the two nonprofit companies.

Thomas O. Nuttle, president of Baltimore Goodwill's board of directors, said he and the other 20 directors were impressed with Mrs. Thomas' willingness to make sweeping changes.

"Our board took the view that it's healthy to get a new management style, to get a new set of eyes looking at things," he said, noting that more than 300 people applied for the position.

Before coming to Baltimore, Mrs. Thomas was the president of Goodwill Industries of the Gulf Coast for three years. That organization has six stores.

She started her career at Goodwill as a personnel secretary 20 years ago. At that time, she "realized she could run a Goodwill," she said.

She went back to college and got a master's degree in business from DePaul University in Chicago. In 1980, she was named to her first chief executive job, for the Hagerstown-area Goodwill stores.

Charles E. McNeil Jr., head of the board of directors for the Gulf Coast Goodwills, praised Mrs. Thomas' administrative skills. "Marge is very much a 'take hold' kind of person, and she is the best I have ever seen in delegating authority."

Bo Mattei, another member of the Gulf Coast board, said Mrs. Thomas modernized stores and tripled the number of people receiving job skills training.

"She was able to take her vision and drive and instill it into the employees," he said. "She made them feel their work was so important that they didn't mind working harder or longer. She made champions out of ordinary people."

Mrs. Thomas said job training will continue in Baltimore and Baltimore County and eventually reach other counties. She said many suburban residents need basic skills, such as dressing for a job, and job training.

The Baltimore Goodwill may expand job training classes, for jobs such as tellers or retail clerks, to include other skills.

Mrs. Thomas said Baltimore Goodwill's budget, about $8 million in 1994, should grow to nearly $9 million this year. The number of people trained should increase, from about 575 to 600, rising as revenues come in from the satellite stores.

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