The Fort Oglethorpe Goodwill is open from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday-Saturday and Sunday from noon to 6 p.m. The store can be reached by phone at 706-452-9400 or by visiting goodwillchatt.org.
Northwest Georgia residents now have a new thrift store: Goodwill of Fort Oglethorpe.
"It is an area that Goodwill wanted to locate to for awhile," said store manager Melissa Lowe. "We had customers driving from Fort Oglethorpe to LaFayette or to Chattanooga stores. We sell donated clothing of men's, women's and children's. I have framed art photos and domestic bedding and curtains. The store is 10,000 square feet including the donation center, where JP Nails was before it moved."
Serving the community in numerous ways, Goodwill offers store vouchers to people in need, Lowe said. For example, if a family's house burned down, each family member could get a voucher for free clothing from Goodwill.
"I had a lady yesterday that told me she was homeless," said Lowe. "Vouchers help people get by until they are on their feet."
Helping fuel that mission are sales to paying customers. Goodwill Communications Coordinator Mary Lockhart said the local stores sell a lot of items in the "wares" department - household decor, small appliances, knickknacks and framed art.
While Lowe said women's clothes are the most popular part of the selection at the Fort Oglethorpe store, donations of "wares" are especially needed.
"In the spring, people like to buy stuff to change their house around," she explained. "We need donations for the wares program. All of our stores are struggling with that. We need a lot of kitchen stuff. We need electronics and home decor stuff. T-shirts are huge. People want T-shirts. People come in here and get items for a good price and it helps the community."
According to Lockhart, between 82 and 90 percent of every purchase price helps the Goodwill mission programs.
"Our most used mission is HELPs, or Health Equipment Links Program services," said Lockhart. "Sometimes we get durable medical equipment of wheelchairs, canes, crutches, walkers and bath benches. People make application for it and they are underinsured or not insured. It's at no cost to them. We served almost 5,000 in that program last year."
Another facet of Goodwill's outreach is employment services, specifically providing people with disabilities jobs. Goodwill also likes to help people ages 55 and up find jobs as well, Lockhart said.
"We teach them how to go to work," she said. "We show them simple skills and put them in an employment job training program with a job coach."
Lockhart said Goodwill plans to start a retail certification program at LaFayette High School. Students will learn customer service skills and get credit for it. After a semester of study the students get a certificate approved by the National Retail Federation.
"The Fort Oglethorpe store is the 17th Goodwill store in the 23 county service area," said Lockhart. "We have five stores in Chattanooga area and this is the third store in Northwest Georgia," though the only store in Catoosa County.
She noted that people can also shop for high-end Goodwill items on shopgoodwill.com.
"You can get new jeans in the store for $7," said Lowe. "Over half of my stuff in the store is name-brand. Employees have to wait a week to buy because customers get the first pick."
She added that the first Saturday of every month, everything in the store is half-off. A 10 percent military discount is given out every day to veterans. Senior citizens get a 30 percent discount on Wednesdays. Students in school get a 10 percent discount too.
"We have a color of the week and that tag color is half-off through Saturday and goes on sale for 99 cents on Sundays," Lowe said.