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Community Appreciation Day set at Goodwill Oct. 23

By MEGHAN BRADBURY - | Oct 13, 2021


The community is invited to stop by Goodwill Industries of Southwest Florida next weekend to celebrate the newly remodeled building, complete with discounts, gift cards, food and entertainment.

The Community Appreciation Day, set from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 23, at 2825 Lee Blvd., in Lehigh Acres, will include an outdoor DJ, food trucks, giveaways, Halloween candy, face painting, as well as $10 Goodwill gift card, one per family, for the first 100 shoppers. In addition, the store will open at 8 a.m. with 50 percent off all donated and 25 percent off new mattresses.

“Everyone should come out for just a fun day of savings and merriment,” Goodwill Industries of Southwest Florida spokesperson Debra Donatto said.

With the Goodwill store being built in 2014, it was time for a cosmetic and merchandising upgrade.

“We like to give our stores a complete refresh every seven years as is common with good store operators. We consider ourselves a fashion forward retailer and providing a first class shopping environment for our customers is very important to us,” Goodwill SWFL CEO & President John Nadeau said.

The remodel included new interior paint, as well as small repairs throughout the store and refurbished bathrooms.

“We also updated the merchandising flow to bring the presentation up to our current standard, including expanding our book department with more space upgraded fixtures,” Nadeau said.

The Lehigh Acres store is one of the top three stores among the 28 located in Southwest Florida.

“Not only did we remodel the retail store, but we also remodeled and updated our Community Resource Center, where we offer the Lehigh area a wide variety of mission services,” he said. “Lehigh is also the first Community Resource Center that has an affiliation with Hodges University where they offer ESL classes and other educational opportunities. The link between the retail stores, which help fund our mission services is very visible at our Lehigh campus.”

Donatto said Goodwill and Hodges has developed an alliance, the first of its kind not only in the state of Florida, but they believe nationally.

“This alliance provides space in several of our CRCs for Hodges to do satellite classes in communities where transportation may be a barrier and offer new workforce development opportunities to these communities,” she said. “Some CRCs have separate classrooms for Hodges, some CRCs they share space and Hodges teaches classes after our CRC coordinators end their day. There are separate classrooms for Hodges at Bonita Springs and in Charlotte County.”

Some of the planned offerings include English as a Second Language, Pathways to Home Ownership, Direct Support Professionals, as well as various workshops and classes.

“Hodges launched the ESL classes in Lehigh and Bonita Springs in late September,” Donatto said.

She said the Community Resource Centers are an employment, skills training and family strengthening center where anyone can receive services for free. Those interested can stop by the center and register where a coordinator will do an intake to see what services are needed and set up services they need.

“Our coordinators assist with resume preparation, interviewing skills, employability skills, and online application and job search assistance. They also connect people with employers, especially people with barriers. They know which employers work with those with different obstacles, language barriers, background issues, transportation barriers, educational barriers,” she said.

In addition, the coordinators offer free digital skills training to help develop stronger computer proficiency. Donatto said they are seeing a lot of folks retraining in new industries since COVID.

“It’s self-paced and free. We can be a helping hand to help them launch into a new career with the skills they need to do so,” she said.

The coordinator also works with many partner agencies to assist people in connecting with other agencies that provide various types of assistance.

“In some centers, they help people apply for Access services, like SNAP benefits, VITA, or healthcare navigation on the network. The goal is to provide a hand up to help individuals with barriers achieve independence and provide for their families,” Donatto said. “In 2020, we assisted nearly 25,000 people here in SWFL (Lee, Collier, Charlotte, Glades and Hendry counties.)”