Local Features
3:57 am
Wed April 8, 2009

Charitable Competition

Murray, KY – Last weekend a barrage of people entered a new second-hand retailer in Murray hoping to find a deal or two. Goodwill's opening might be good for the bargain shopper, but what impact might this national chain have on a local charitable clothing store? Carrie Pond has more.

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Vehicles filled Goodwill's parking lot to capacity Saturday morning. Dozens of shoppers milled through the store, hoping to unearth a good bargain.

I've been waiting for this to open. We've been real excited about it.

Pam Hughes is a church pastor in Paris, TN. She came to the opening to hunt for low-cost items to help stock the church's re-sale shop that raises funds for the church's ministry. Though she left Goodwill with a shopping cart full of books, antiques, and home d cor Hughes wasn't ready to leave town just yet. She pulled out of the parking lot with plans to head to Murray's other well-known thrift store Angel's
Attic.

I'm going right now as soon as I leave here. Yes, well we came to this one early and we're going to go there at 11 o'clock when it opens. You have to be there early if you want to get the good stuff at Angel's Attic.

Hughes' plans likely heartened those involved with Angel's Attic, who wonder if they'll feel the sting of competition as the well-known secondhand retailer begins its operations.

Manager at Angel's Attic, Jan Basile, is says a little healthy competition wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing shoppers will likely hit both stores on shopping trips, comparing prices and looking for the best deals. But it's not customers she's worried about. The key, Basile says, is donations.

"I mean that's where we get what we put out on the floor, and if the donations stop, the shoppers won't have anything to buy."

Donna Herndon sits on the board for both the thrift store and the Angel's Clinic. The clinic provides free medications and medical and dental care to Murray's working uninsured. The health center relies heavily on Angel's Attic for funding every month the store brings in nearly 14 thousand dollars for the clinic, or a staggering 85 percent of its operating budget. Because of this dependence, Herndon says it's hard not worry at least a little about Goodwill's arrival especially in an economic climate where people may hold on to their used goods a little longer.

"They don't have as much discretionary income to buy new clothes or to buy the latest dinnerware or whatever. And with competition for donated items, I can't help but be apprehensive."

During January and February, donations did drop off. Jan Basile attributes that more to a seasonal downturn than to Goodwill opening its doors for donations, because more items have come in during the past few weeks. She says people have told her they'll keep giving to the shop because they know the profits stay in Murray.

If neighboring town Mayfield is any indication, the women have reason to be hopeful. When Goodwill set up shop there a few years ago, some community members wondered how other thrift stores would fare. But Manager at Kevil Korner thrift shop Donna Sullivan says they're doing just fine in fact Goodwill's advertising helped bring in donations to their store by reminding people to clear out their garages for a good cause. That's the plan for Murray, according to Communications and Publications Specialist at Goodwill Kentucky Heather Hise.

"Our hope in opening a new center in Murray is that it will bring people's attention focused more on the process of bargain shopping and donating and hopefully both Angel's Attic and Goodwill will benefit from that publicity."

Hise says Goodwill is hoping to expand its services to less densely populated areas like western Kentucky.

"We realized that there was a need for Goodwill services not only in the larger, metropolitan areas, but in the more rural areas where it's a lot harder to find employment and training programs and adult literacy programs."

Goodwill's mission is to provide employment opportunities for people with disabilities or disadvantages including welfare recipients or low-wage workers. The Murray center has 12 employees right now, but Hise says more employment opportunities could arise due to Goodwill's notoriously high turnover rate.

"Someone that we've trained in our donated goods centers, if they're able to go out and find a job out in the public sector that's a great success for us because we really strive to provide that job training and employment experience that allows people to move up and provide an independent life for themselves."

Hise says there's room in Murray to accomplish the two charities' goals as long as community members can find room in their hearts to support them both.