VITA Volunteer: Brett

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My name is Jasam Brett Layne-Roy, I was a student volunteer tax preparer for the VITA program this past year and it was an amazing experience. I was able to make an impact in my own community, fulfill my work experience requirements at Baker College, and was able to apply my current coursework directly in my daily tasks.

I was put in touch with Carl and the VITA program near the end of last year. I had been searching for a job for several weeks thinking I would capitalize on the tax season but most places either had full classes for training or they had no open positions. I went to Baker College to speak with someone to help me find something to fulfill my work experience credit and ended up speaking with one of the program directors who told me about this volunteer program that provided tax preparation assistance. She had also thought there was a stipend of some kind so it wouldn’t be completely unpaid.

The volunteer work alone was incredibly rewarding but the additional assistance that the stipend afforded was just what I needed. I was able to cover most of my book costs with that stipend…which was the bare minimum that I was going for at the time. That allowed me to focus on volunteer work and not need an additional job that wouldn’t further my career or impact my home life or coursework. The stipend helped me to recruit more students that wanted to volunteer and needed some additional support for their school costs. In addition to the added benefit of the work experience and the stipend, volunteering with the VITA program has given me a few new opportunities in potential scholarship funding as some requirements for scholarships include of performing community service.

Over the summer months and throughout the fall, we will be recruiting volunteers for the VITA program for the next tax season. We are looking for individuals that can volunteer around 10 hours per month to aid in our recruitment drives by attending brainstorming meetings, setting up/running a table/booth at a local event, and spreading information about the VITA program! We will need your assistance from July through October, and hopefully again when the new tax season hits early next year. If you are interested, email me at JLayne@goodwillwm.org.

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Three ways to upgrade your summer travel wardrobe and save at Goodwill

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Some days it can seem like saving enough money to travel is impossible. You forget to bring lunch to work or don’t have time to make it, you’ll find yourself running up a $10 bill just for a salad that has the toppings you want. This doesn’t even take into consideration the student loans and debt many people are facing as well.

Yet when it comes to travel – you don’t need to jet off to some exotic place to reap the benefits of much-needed rest and relaxation. Even just going away for a long weekend to a nearby city you’ve never been to can do the trick. If you’re worried about hotel prices, look into Airbnbs and hostels. If you’re nervous about food prices for eating out it’s worth it to stock up on breakfast and snacks before the trip, and even better if you’re able to find a place to stay that has a kitchenette. Saving in these small ways can really add up to help you pay for the absolutely necessary expenses of the trip.

So does saving on a vacation wardrobe, by shopping at your local Goodwill. By shopping the well-loved treasures at your local Goodwill store you’re not only able to pay around 90% less than retail prices – sometimes for awesome designer clothing with the tags still attached – but you’re also able to help out others in your community. Shopping at Goodwill is both a win for you and a win for others who receive financial assistance and professional training from the organization, fully funded by donations and purchases at Goodwill.

As summer swiftly approaches, there are a few items to scour the racks of your favorite Goodwill store for.

  1. Stock up on accessories to help shade the sun

 

You’ll be able to find some amazing sunglasses steals and beautiful handcrafted hats at your local Goodwill. Take advantage of these deals to shield yourself from the sun this season.

2. Check out flowy dresses and skirts to keep you cool during warmer weather

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From walking to the office to the park you’re going to need some options that can be dressed up or down, while still helping you stay cool. When looking for some of these options, focus on the material. You’ll want to stick with lighter, more breathable fabrics, such as cotton, linen, rayon and fabric blends.

3. Invest in a pair of comfy, neutral sneakers

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One of the best things you can do for your feet this summer is to help them avoid getting blisters. Whether or not you’re able to travel, a pair of neutral sneaker is the perfect way to get a few extra steps every day, because it matches your outfit and provides the ultimate comfort. A pair of white, cream or black sneakers could really help you go a long way!

Go on vacation- at Goodwill!

Feeling a bit of spring break travel FOMO? Or perhaps dreaming of a vacation that may not be in the cards on this year’s budget? I know I am. Just a few minutes on social media lately has me seriously jealous of the warmer climes. Never fear. As usual, Goodwill® has us covered. Just one trip can have you looking and feeling like an international jet setter.

Don’t believe me? It’s road-trip worthy in it’s own right. But also, thrift stores are a souvenir treasure-trove and a hub of international style and decor options. Finding a little style inspiration is all you need to make you feel like you’re counting the days until your own relaxing adventure. Just check out Instagram for lots of awesome vacay style looks you can keep in mind as you peruse the Goodwill aisles.

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Credit: @ashleerosehartley

Sometimes the swimwear section is easy to forget at Goodwill, but trust me, there are treasures there to be had as well. Often overlooked, this is a great place to find a second tankini top to match the bottoms you love or a suit in a style you’ve been dying to try out without the hefty price tag. These Goodwill finds below are proof you can bring a splash of the Caribbean to any pool party, even if it’s just sippin’ lemonade in a kiddie pool on your patio.

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I also just love finding items that somehow found their way into my local Goodwills from far-flung places. Little bits of vintage souvenir flair in the form of t-shirts, mugs or artwork makes me feel a little more connected, and give my home a little more of that jet setter vibe. It’s especially fun if it’s a place I’ve already been and have fond memories of.

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Credit: @DamnFineCoffeeMugs

Or handmade little pieces like this that give your home a little taste of distant cultures and major travel lust.

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Credit: Jenna Pfueller

Are you lucky enough to actually be headed somewhere to kick back and relax? Good on ya!

Obviously, you’ll need to make a point to visit a Goodwill when you get to your destination, too. Just search our site for locations and make a date of it. It’s a perfect way to get to know the local culture a bit more, find something you may have forgotten while packing, and of course, a perfect little something to remember your trip with so you have plenty of moolah for the ride home.

See? It’s easy to take a vacation at Goodwill. It’s a respite that’s always full of surprises, inspiration, fun, sustainability, and even creates jobs. Now that’s a true destination to embrace!

Thrifty Springtime Room Refresh

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All winter I look forward to opening the windows when spring arrives so I can feel that first fresh breeze blow through. It’s such an inspiring feeling that I wanted to capture it to enjoy year-round. Well, I can’t do that. But I can give my bedroom a refresh that reminds me of it! Read on to find out how I brought a spring-like feel to my bedroom to keep that cheerful mood all year.

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When I look at the before picture of my bedroom I think “Yikes! Does someone even live there?” It’s an oddly shaped room which presents its own challenges and it has never felt cozy. Having spent forever on the back burner to our other home projects, it was clearly time for a new look. A fresh start for spring.

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I started this revamp the same way that I start every organization or cleaning spree—by pulling out everything I don’t like about a space. I eye and assess each item as I go. If I don’t need something and don’t like it, I’ll toss it in the donate bin. If I do need something (like all of the fabrics that are hiding in the paper bag in the before photo), but hate the way it looks, I remove it temporarily until I can come back with a solution. Whatever’s left after I sift through everything will serve as the foundation upon which I build a new decor scheme so I try to look at what’s left with fresh, objective eyes before I go out shopping.

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The solution for the fabric pile ended up coinciding with one spring-like theme I knew I wanted to bring in: picnicking. It was easy to capture the mood of this fun spring activity by adding in basket-weave textures so that was one of the first shelves I swung by on my latest Goodwill trip. Both of the winnowing baskets that I hung on the wall plus the large basket that is now home to my fabrics jumped right out at me. Fabric storage problem solved! Picnic mood accomplished. The rest of my issues pretty much sorted themselves out as I updated the space using these room refresh tips…

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Tip 1: Bring in spring colors. First, I removed the heavy, dark colors that were clouding up my bedroom. Of course pastels are a spring staple, so I knew I wanted to include more pink and light blue when I was ready to add things back in. Two easy ways to do this are with books and blankets. You can’t have too many of either! I never skip the book section of my local Goodwill for exactly this reason. Books can be displayed in so many beautiful ways and they’re entertainment at the same time!

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Tip 2: Shop your own home! Although you will need to bring in a few new (to you) pieces for the space to feel really fresh, you can first walk around your house looking for the right colors or items to rehome. If you don’t absolutely love something where it is, try it in the room you’re reworking. I do this a lot and end up seeing new potential in items that I never saw before! For example, you may recognize the little ceramic bunny from a previous post. I got it from Goodwill last year, but rabbits are so perfect for spring that I wanted to try it in my room. I did a little brainstorming and realized that with some antlers (which I made from Sculpee), a shallow thrifted bowl, and glue it could become a bedside jackalope ring holder. It’s a giggle and good storage all at once.

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Tip 3: Add height for an uplifting feeling. If you look at the before and after photos, you can actually see the room rise a little after being restyled. Just by adding height to the arrangement on the right side of the headboard, putting the winnowing baskets up, and fluffing/bringing in more pillows, the room feels lighter and more uplifting. I thrifted the green lamp from Goodwill years ago and added that floral fabric to the shade myself. It worked in the space where it originally lived in our old apartment, but it has never felt right in this home. So, for this room refresh I peeled the old fabric off and replaced it with a fresh white. It felt so cramped down in that nook where it was. Moving it up shows it off so much better and elevates the space!

Tip 4: Bring in plants and flowers (even if they’re fake). Rooms feel instantly more alive with greenery and blooms, so I made sure to include some in this refresh. I already had the faux flowers on the left side of the headboard, but I brought in two real plants as well and they made a huge difference! There’s nothing more exemplary of spring.

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Tip 5: Soften the surfaces. Another important piece that improved my room was the addition of more plush surfaces. In the picture above you can see two whole shelves of throw rugs at my local Goodwill. There was another shelf under it filled with even more plus rug pads, too. I had been looking for a runner to go at the foot of my bed, but nothing felt quite right until I realized I could use two slightly overlapping mats for the same effect! These coupled with my new pillows made the place feel so much more inviting.

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Speaking of pillows, the pink one is another DIY! My Goodwill always has fun throw pillows for sale. While browsing, I almost bought this light gray one from Calvin Klein, but ended up skipping it in favor of more color. Neutrals are fantastic, but I knew I already had enough in this room. So I set my sights on the fabric racks to make my own instead. Thrifting fabric is definitely the cheapest way to sew and it’s a trick I’ve relied on for years! You can sometimes find entire bolts of fabric (look to the right of the rug shelves up above!), but even if you only repurpose pillow cases or bed sheets that you thrift, you’ll have plenty of yardage to work with. This time, I went with a pretty peachy pink to make my new pillow cover.

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Envelope pillow covers (sometimes called pocket pillow covers) are so easy to make with basic sewing skills. You use one piece of fabric for the front of the pillow, and two pieces for the back that are both wider than the width of the pillow so they overlap. Stitch all around the outside, slide the pillow insert within the center pocket, and you’re done! I added a quick Swiss cross (cut from scrap fabric) to the front of mine just for fun. It’s not perfect, but it was quick and easy! You could also use felt if you want a no-stress way to keep it from fraying over time.

 

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The last DIY that I did to refresh my space is a little yarn wall-hanging. The idea popped into my mind when I was poking through Goodwill and saw the wooden bar the yarn is hanging from. I still have no idea what this actually is (there were a bunch of them!), but I had to grab two because I knew I could do something neat with them. They match my headboard and floors well and I needed new decor on my walls. This was perfect. Here’s how you can make one, too:

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Wrap yarn around a book the same number of times for each bundle to ensure consistency in length and thickness. Always start and end your yarn at the bottom of the book, then cut the entire bundle there when you’re done. Pinch the top of the bundle—this will be the exact middle—then tie it onto whatever you’d like as demonstrated above. I used a skewer so I could hang it below the wooden bar, but you could put it on almost anything. I also added a ribbon to two bunches then braided it all together for a little extra texture. Trim the bottoms as you see fit and hang! I can’t wait to try this technique out on an embroidery hoop instead of a straight stick. There are so many possibilities!

Don’t forget that one little room refresh like this makes a huge impact outside your four walls. How? Goodwill® organizations collect clothes, electronics and household goods (in the form of your donations!) and then use the revenues from the sales to create employment placement and job training programs. These help many people in local communities with skill building and job search services such as computer classes, job transportation, mock interviews, dress etiquette, and résumé writing. So while it seems like a thrifty room redo is just a fresh start for one room in your home, it’s also a fresh start for someone in your community.

New to Thrifting? How to shop at Thrift Stores

Do you remember your first time thrifting? The nervousness, the uncertainty — the thrill? The first trip to Goodwill® is always the start of something great, but it’s been so long since I’ve been a thrift shopper that I sometimes forget that other people might not be. I mean, I’ve literally made it my mission to study thrift culture.

So when I recently heard my friend utter the words “I’ve never been to a thrift store before,” I was in shock. I knew I had to introduce her to the awesomeness of thrift life. I offered to assist with her first foray into the racks, and being the great sport she is, she agreed.

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Credit: Jenna Pfueller

Emilie has AMAZING taste, and luckily total game for a new adventure. I always love having a person to dress instead of myself, because A) my closet is full enough and B) it’s like playing Barbies I was a kid.

We chatted a bit about her favorite brands, colors and patterns, then set off in different directions to scour the racks for some goodies to try on.

She picked out a few things she liked– a striped blouse, some jeans, a few skirts in muted colors. And I picked out a few things I thought she’d at least enjoy trying out– a floral dress, a few pairs of cute pumps, a gingham ruffle dress, and a vintage leather jacket.

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Credit: Jenna Pfueller

It wasn’t until I got into the dressing room with her and laid out our items that I understood the gravity of what was happening. Emilie confessed not only has she never been to a thrift store, one of her most recent shopping trips involved a personal stylist and complimentary champagne!  She has literally NEVER owned anything that wasn’t new. This is a HUGE step for her and I am so excited to help open the door to this new, thrifty and stylish world!

Her (first!) thrift store haul included:

  • A pair of a nude heels (BRAND NEW!)
  • A pair of jeans
  • A blouse
  • A cashmere sweater dress
  • Long sleeved tee

Total = Less than $35!

Here’s a quick Q&A with our new thrifty comrade:

Here’s a quick Q&A with our new thrifty comrade:

Q: Why hadn’t you ever been to a thrift store before? Any particular reason?

Emilie: I wouldn’t say I’m a germaphobe, I just don’t like used things. I don’t check out library books. I don’t own antiques or other secondhand furniture. I’ve never bought a used car. It honestly has never been on my radar to shop at a thrift store. Weird, right? But I donate all the things to my local Goodwill.

Q: What surprised you (if anything?) on your first foray into Goodwill?

Emilie: Well, That I actually did it and enjoyed it. That you left me alone to shop and I didn’t walk back out. It was not how I imagined it to be. The vastness! I expected it to smell like my grandmother’s closet of mothballs, but it didn’t. I expected the clothing selection to be mostly 70s jumpsuits or other Halloween-appropriate attire. I saw none. I saw name brands! And clothes that appeared freshly washed (they aren’t) because I was surprised at how well cared-for mostly everything appeared. I loved listening to and talking with the employees, each one incredibly personable and hard working. Let’s be honest, it was all one great big surprise.

Q: What were you most excited about?

Emilie: Barely worn nude name brand heels! And $3 jeans, say what?! The most recent pair of jeans I purchased was $250. This single mom can get excited about that cost savings. One of my New Year’s resolutions is to Say Yes. Shopping with you was a fun and memorable experience, something I ordinarily wouldn’t have done. It’s a nice reminder to try new things because (as Daniel Tiger says), you might just like it!

Q: Show us a pic of your favorite find and tell us a little about why you liked it.

Emilie: I have never had a (cashmere!) sweater dress. I get lost in the bulk and boxiness of the cowl neck. This one offsets my booty work at the gym and the short (yikes!) length well enough to give it a try! And all the heart eyes for those shoes. Also, who says to avoid horizontal stripes now?

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Credit: @photoemilie

Decluttering the Goodwill way

With the recent wave of interest about decluttering and purging going on across America, and like many of you, I am SO HERE for it. 

While decluttering our home is so satisfying in so many ways, I feel like we’re in a unique cultural moment where donating and shopping are intersecting in so many positive ways with people.

Yes, you can declutter and donate your stuff. AWESOME!

Yes, you can make your life better, and in the process, help Goodwill improve the lives of others in your community at the same time. AMAZING!

But what I think is often overlooked that now is also PRIME time to not just drop-off all your items at Goodwill, but POP-IN to the Goodwill near you to see how you can make all that decluttering work you’ve done really take hold and last.

I’ve been making weekly donation trips in the last few months and it feels SO good, but this week all that decluttering karma came back to me ten-fold.

Like a lot of parents, my kid’s rooms are often a vortex of clutter that seems impossible to keep in check. The shelf currently in use in their room had also been a Goodwill find years ago, but it was bringing me happiness long before I had kids and a house full of tiny bedrooms. So after culling some clothing, books, and toys from their room and donating them at my local Goodwill this week, I drove around front and popped in to see if anything got me excited.

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When I spotted two tall red bookshelves being set out on the sales floor, my heart went ZING! This was the PERFECT piece to replace the ill-fitting shelving unit in their space, it matched the room’s decor, and would allow them to see their books much easier when picking our bedtime stories each night. I had made do with our old shelf for years until I found the perfect solution, and today was the day it appeared before me.

Just $8 each!

I couldn’t grab them fast enough. With one hand I carried them to the front, hardly believing my luck. Between the back of the store and checkout, at least two other shoppers congratulated me on my find. It felt like walking forward on stage after winning a beauty pageant.

marie-kondo-2Now came the tricky part. Pushing them into my car proved much more challenging than I hoped. Luckily after years of having a small car with two large car seats, I’m used to getting creative.
One of the reasons I love thrift stores so much is the sense of camaraderie among shoppers– something you just don’t get anywhere else. So in true thrift form, another shopper came out and seeing my conundrum, offered some advice on creative angles to try and squish it in. When it proved ineffective, she quickly went to her car and dug up a bungee cord to give me. It wasn’t the perfect solution, but it got me and my shelves home.
Success!marie-kondo-3Here is the result of my  Goodwill find, complete with de-cluttered space. SO MUCH ZING!marie-kondo-4So when your friend mention they’re decluttering their homes, don’t forget to remind them that donating does so much more than get their unwanted items new homes, it also gives people in our communities a hand up, and perhaps something they donate will end up in YOUR cart the next time you go in.

Don’t let gossip guide your charitable giving

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By Kim Harsch, Resource Development Coordinator

It’s the most wonderful time of the year. A time for family gatherings, warm fires, showering those we love with gifts, for cold noses and hot chocolate, and …spreading false rumors about charitable organizations? Yes, it happens each year around the holidays: negative falsehoods that spread like a California wildfire throughout social media. These rumors are designed to cover well-known nonprofits in a cloud of doubt and suspicion. Mostly, however, copied negative memes draw the focus away from those in need and reflect much more poorly on the person posting them then they do on the organization.

Why? If you post something that is not true, you admit to the general masses that you do not take the time to verify the truth and therefore WANT TO BE A NEGATIVE GOSSIPER. Yes, I said it. You want to gossip. Sorry, I know that isn’t a very Christmassy thing to say but even your elf on the shelf wouldn’t hit “post” without verifying the accuracy of such damaging information.

Bad holiday humor aside, these lies are damaging. Let me give you an example. You may have noticed on social media, the so-called “Think Before You Donate” viral rumor has been circulating. I know it’s popped up on my Facebook feed and has even been shared by a few of my friends. Here is an image of the actual meme:

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This gets shared and shared every year and every year I tell my friends again that this information is false and I give them links to properly research the information. To set the record straight on this particular rumor about Goodwill, an organization I hold so dear, no person named Mark Curran has ever been a CEO at Goodwill Industries and no one in the organization earns the $2.3 million in compensation mentioned in the rumor! Also, Goodwill is not owned by any individual, but in fact is a network of 161 community-based, autonomous nonprofit 501(c)3 organizations. The one that I work for, Goodwill Industries of West Michigan, is headquartered in Muskegon with a service territory encompassing, all or portions of, 12 surrounding counties.

All of this factual information is easily available on Goodwill’s website at http://www.goodwillwm.org. It is also verifiable through www.guidestar.org, a third party nonprofit dedicated to researching and rating charitable organizations according to their financial transparency and mission delivery. On Guidestar, you can look at each nonprofit’s actual 990 tax forms to see their revenue sources and how they are spending it. It’s an invaluable resource if you wish to make charitable donations. And it is easily accessible by anyone on the internet.

As a strong believer in Goodwill’s mission as well as an employee of Goodwill, it is incredibly frustrating and disheartening to have to combat this bogus information year after year. Time and money we spend trying to educate misinformed people only detracts from our mission.

I know most of you are aware of the positive impact our organization has on the West Michigan community. Through the revenue generated by your generous donations of household items and monetary contributions, we offer vital employment placement, job training, and support services to members of our community, including people with disabilities, ex-offenders, displaced workers, and more.

My friends who have unknowingly circulated these lies believe in helping our community and they are not thinking about the nearly 5,000 people in West Michigan our Goodwill helps each year. But those are the people affected if donations drop – not some fictitious person named Mark Curran. Remember, as a leader in our community, your voice matters. If you see the “Think Before You Donate” rumor circulating in your social networks, I hope you’ll join us in stopping negative gossip and correcting the information head on. And I hope that you will continue to help us change lives through the power of work by not letting fake news dissuade you from giving! http://bit.ly/2AGyvEe