How A Worn Pair of Jeans – Poof! – Becomes a Job

Levi Strauss & Co.
October 28, 2014

You know that Goodwill takes in clothes and other stuff you no longer need. You know that Goodwill runs thrift shops. The name Goodwill tells you something good is going on. But have you ever wondered what is the good that Goodwill does?

First, that pair of Levi’s (or shoes or bookends) you drop off at Goodwill travels to a central warehouse. There, processors assess its quality and, if it’s in good shape, send it back out to a Goodwill store to be sold. Degraded items get repurposed or down-cycled into industrial raw materials, and almost nothing goes to landfill. That much is simple.

What you may not realize is that all that activity serves a mission (and it’s not, as some suspect, to clothe the poor).

Behind the scenes, Goodwill operates one of the most successful job placement and training programs in the country. Local people who have been out of work a long time – due to homelessness, struggles with addiction, incarceration, lack of skills, and other factors – get jobs through Goodwill. Together the Goodwill chapters covering counties from Santa Clara to Marin put 1,000 people back to work in the past 12 months. For many, Goodwill was their last and only hope at getting off public assistance and earning a paycheck.

Those folks taking in your donation at Goodwill, driving Goodwill trucks, working in Goodwill warehouses, and servicing customers in our stores are getting on-the-job training, building their resumes to get even better jobs outside of Goodwill. The money generated through the sale of the stuff you donated also funds classroom learning, life-skills training, career counseling, and job placement services. Many local employers hire people screened and prepared for work by Goodwill. Who knew?

So, the next time you drop off a couple pairs of Levi’s that may be a bit too large or too small, know that you’ll help Goodwill raise about $15 by selling them. That $15 will pay for about an hour of job training for someone who’s ready to start a new life and just needs a chance. Spend $15 in a Goodwill store, and you’ll fund another hour of classroom time for someone getting their GED or learning how to apply for a job online. Every purchase at Goodwill has a purpose.

This week is a perfect time to visit your local Goodwill. Not only is it a great place to get some help on your Halloween costume, but you can also donate your jeans and other clothes in support of the Field of Jeans, a partnership with Levi’s and the San Francisco 49ers to drive awareness about Goodwill job programs and zero waste efforts. Heading to the 49ers game this weekend? Bring your donations with you to Levi’s Stadium! Goodwill will be on site to accept your donations.

So the next time you feel tempted to toss an old pair of jeans or other clothes in the trash, think again. Almost like magic, you can turn them into jobs instead.


Tim Murray is VP of Brand, Marketing & Communications at Goodwill Industries of San Francisco, San Mateo and Marin Counties. He leads brand, marketing, communications, and creative strategy  for the social enterprise.


This post also appears on SF Goodwill’s website


Image credit: photologue_np via Flickr CC