Goodwill Is Going All GLAM

Some amazing deals on designer merchandise are available at Goodwill Hawaii’s gala dinner Thursday, with the sale continuing through the weekend.

When Laura Smith joined Goodwill Industries of Hawaii as president/CEO in 1994, the nonprofit organization served about 400 people a year. These days it serves more than 15,000 people a year statewide with education, job training and job placement programs.

“They really need help transitioning into employment,” says Smith about the people coming through Goodwill’s doors. “Oftentimes they either have a first job or they have a hard time getting that first job, and what Goodwill does is help people and their families find out what career they want, and then help them create a path to that career. For a lot of them, they were laid off or they haven’t found the job that’s right for them, so they have some work experience but it hasn’t led them to a career.


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Laura Smith, president/CEO of Goodwill Industries of Hawaii. Leah Friel Photos. lfriel@midweek.com

“The mission of Goodwill is to help people who have employment barriers to reach their full potential and become self-sufficient. It’s career development, employment and training.”

Some of the many services Goodwill provides are resume development, interview skills and how to apply for jobs online. There also are a youth at-risk program, tax clinics and opportunities for people to gain work experience and get good employment references.

The services are free, and like many charities Goodwill depends on support from the community, specifically through donations of clothing and household items, as well as the public shopping at its stores.

“Ninety-one percent of every donation that’s given to us goes directly to our programs, and it all stays in Hawaii,” says Smith. “Our overhead is about 9 percent, which is very low for a nonprofit.”

Anyone who has been to a Goodwill store knows it’s like a treasure hunt, with some highly valuable fashion pieces waiting to be discovered. Whether it’s a vintage aloha shirt or an in-season designer dress, you just never know what you’ll find.

For the past year, Goodwill employees have been sorting through endless piles of donations and in-store retail merchandise for designer brands, glam pieces and specialty items to be sold at Bank of Hawaii presents Goodwill Goes GLAM, featuring the Goodwill Gala and VIP Pre-sale Aug. 23 from 6 to 10 p.m., and Goodwill GLAM Sale Aug. 24-26 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at Neal Blaisdell Center Exhibition Hall.

“We have had a fundraiser every year, and we watched and learned from some Goodwills on the Mainland how they were pairing their annual gala dinner with a shopping experience, and decided about two years ago that we wanted to bring this to Hawaii,” explains Smith. “Guests can expect a fun shopping experience of 50,000 better Goodwill items all in one place. It’s all the glam and party-type of items, things that you would wear to dress up and go out. There’s clothing, handbags, a lot of jewelry, and things for men, women and children.”

Tickets to the Goodwill Gala and VIP Pre-Sale cost $70 and include pupu, desserts and a fashion show plus the first opportunity to shop the glam sale. Admission to the Goodwill GLAM Sale is $4 (free Aug. 24 to military, teachers and students with a valid ID).

“We encourage people to come to the sale early on because every item is one-of-a-kind unique,” adds Smith. “We have a volunteer crew of about 400 people who are helping us get things stocked up and ready, and we will be restocking throughout the event.”

During a recent visit to Goodwill Industries of Hawaii headquarters near the airport, we spotted Escada leather pants tagged at $24.99, a Diane von Furstenberg blouse for $15.99, a Betsey Johnson leather bag for $24.99 and a Fossil watch for $14.99. There also were Prada and Versace sunglasses, Coach handbags, a Michael Kors dress and Manolo Blahnik shoes.

But the highlight of the event is getting the community to understand Goodwill’s mission, and how by donating to Goodwill and shopping at Goodwill, you are helping people get back to work.

People like Steven Ikehara, 48, who sought the help of Goodwill after recovering from a stroke two-and-a-half years ago. Ikehara previously worked in the printing business, including for a brief time as a sheet-feeder press operator at MidWeek. But the stroke left him with residual nerve damage in his right arm and hand, and he could no longer do his job. He joined Goodwill as a clerk, and as his recovery progressed he moved up to become an operations support specialist.

“I really wanted to go to work. I believe a body in motion stays in motion,” he says. “I tried to get a job at a lot of places, and then I discovered the Goodwill website and its mission to help people with disabilities and make them more self-sufficient. I’ve learned that if you experience misfortune and you have to start over, Goodwill is a good place to start, and the people are really nice.”

Smith, who was raised in Kailua, graduated from Kailua High School and then University of Hawaii with a bachelor’s degree in social work. She was first involved with Goodwill for one of her internship practicums, and then went on to get her master’s degree in rehabilitation administration at the University of San Francisco.

“I am a social worker at heart,” says Smith, “and what inspires me is meeting the people who come to Goodwill for services, watching their career develop and finding that way through whatever barrier they have.”

For more information, visit higoodwill.org.