Not Your Typical Goodwill

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Goodwill Industries has been serving eastern Nebraska and southwest Iowa for 75 years. After 50 years spent at 41st and Pacific, they now have a new location in Benson Park Plaza.

“We’re setting ourselves up to serve the community for the next 50 years,” said President & CEO Frank McGree.

The renovated facility, north of Ames at 72nd, meant an investment of $13.8 million in Benson. It’s one for which City Councilman Pete Festersen is grateful.

"It fills store fronts for one thing and creates jobs,” he said. “There's on-going job training involved in this project too, so we're very excited about that as well. But just having the presence here, too, in the neighborhood and in this shopping district, I think will be a great thing."

Roderick Tilmon of Benson agrees. “I think it's wonderful, anything they can do to uphold a community and bring money in."

During an open house Thursday, shoppers filled the retail store which also features an “internet café,” with free wi-fi for the public. There’s room for a coffee shop as well, but Goodwill is still looking for a vendor.

"I think it's wonderful, I really do. It's a lovely place to shop and find whatever you might need,” said Louise Bartee of Omaha. The retail store is the largest of any Goodwill stores in Nebraska or Iowa.

Still, it makes up only 20,000 square feet of the 70,000 square foot building. The rest is dedicated to programs which aim to help the disabled and disadvantaged.

The “ready program” is among those which have seen an increase in users since the facility moved northwest. It’s available to anybody who walks through their doors.

"We give them job search information, help them find jobs, we help them with interview skills. We help them put a resume together,” said McGree.

Young people can also work toward their GED’s in the classroom space for half a day, and then move next door to work on their building skills. They also go off site to work for Habitat for Humanity.

Teenagers can even get work experience in the retail store, where the sales help keep all of goodwill's programs going.

"With this kind of recessionary time, our stores are very popular," said McGree.

"I think this is a wonderful store. Glad to have it in this area,” said Bartee.