An Interview with Liz Nother of Goodwill Industries-Knoxville

  A few months ago I became aware of the Goodwill Industries recycling program. This awareness has changed the way I de-clutter my own space and I want to be sure that my readers are educated so that they can make better decisions while decluttering.

I am privledged to bring to you an interview with Elizabeth Nother, Executive Vice-President of Goodwill Industries-Knoxville.

Karen Sprinkle: I learned through the NAPO (National Association of Professional Organizers) discussion board that Goodwill recycles non-saleable items. Can you explain how specific non-saleable items are recycled?

Liz Nother: All clothing and linens are distributed to our retails stores for resale and reuse with the proceeds supporting our mission of providing vocational services and employment opportunities to individuals with barriers to employment. Any non saleable are shipped to vendors and recycled as mixed bails of rags. Shoes are handled in the same way except that any non-saleable shoes are sent to vendors for the leather and rubber to be recycled. Computer electronics and peripherals are securely recycled through our Dell Reconnect Program – computers are not sold in our stores. Working electronics are sent to our retail stores for resale and reuse. Non-working electronics are recycled through a vendor who processes them and recycles the parts. Household goods are sent to our retail stores for resale. Items that are not suitable for sale are separated by material and sold to recyclers (i.e. glass, plastics, etc)

Karen Sprinkle: Is it best to separate saleable items and salvage items as we are cleaning out our closets and other spaces? Liz Nother: It isn’t necessary, but any separation done ahead of time will reduce Goodwill’s cost of handling such donations.

Karen Sprinkle: When you receive a donation who determines what can be sold in the retail store and what is salvage? Liz Nother: Each location has trained staff that make that determination.

Karen Sprinkle: Can you give me an idea about the impact that we are making by donating items that can be salvaged to Goodwill vs. throwing them in the trash?

Liz Nother: In 2011, between our stores, our recycling facility, and our partnerships with Knox County and the City of Knoxville, it is estimated that we recycled 47,458,476 lbs. of materials. This does not include the 569,405 lbs. we recycled with Dell Reconnect. Proceeds from our recycling efforts also result in revenue to support Goodwill’s programs to benefit individuals with barriers to employment, provides jobs for these individuals, and make a significant reduction in landfill expense for local governments.

Karen Sprinkle: I know from personal experience that Goodwill is more than a thrift store operation. I have a special needs adult son who has received services such as driver training, work assessments and job adjustment training. Can you summarize the services that Goodwill provides for special needs members of our community?

Liz Nother: Goodwill has been providing quality vocational services and employment opportunities for individuals with barriers to employment in Knox and 14 surrounding counties for 41 years. We consider a ‘barrier’ to be any challenge that an individual thinks is preventing them from obtaining employment. Our programs cover all ability levels and currently we have 13 different programs: Certified Nurse’s Assistant Training, Self-Paced Applications in the Computer Environment (SPACE), Clerical Skills Training, Extended Employment, Industrial Services Division Training, Janitorial Services Division Training, Job Readiness Training, School-to-Work Programs, Selective Placement, Supported Employment, Vocational Evaluation/Assessment, Work Adjustment, and Work Keys Services. Detailed information for each program can be found on our website:

Karen Sprinkle: I think the public is aware that you provide jobs within the Thrift stores – but they may not know about the work that your clients do for local companies. Can you talk a little about the contract work that you do?

Liz Nother: Goodwill Industries-Knoxville, Inc. will be happy to provide competitive quotes to meet the needs of any company’s janitorial, document destruction, and/or industrial work such as packaging and light assembly and shipping. These opportunities not only provide quality services to local businesses, but they allow us to provide paid training opportunities to individuals at the same time.

Karen Sprinkle: I have a colleague in Texas who is very involved with Goodwill and the Donate Movement. She mentioned in one of her blog posts that Goodwill runs an online auction site where some of the higher end products are sold. Do any of the items that are donated in Knoxville get sold there? Liz Nother: Goodwill Industries-Knoxville, Inc. does not participate with and we currently do not sell items online.

Karen Sprinkle: How does Goodwill use the money that is made from the various operations?

Liz Nother: The proceeds fund our mission of providing vocational services and employment opportunities to individuals with barriers to employment. I’ll attach a copy of our annual report as well. *This information is specific to Goodwill Industries-Knoxville, Inc. I cannot speak for the allocation of funds at other Goodwills, but their 990s will be listed on or you could contact them to get their most recent annual reports.

Karen Sprinkle: I understand that Goodwill Industries-Knoxville has a secure document shredding service. How does this work and is there a fee for the shredding service?

Liz Nother: Goodwill provides a Secure Document Shredding Service to government agencies, companies, and individuals. We can offer regular route/pick up and shredding, purge jobs for large quantities of files, or any level of service. This service is provided for a fee depending on type of service needed and Certificates of Destruction are provided to our customers.

If you would like to learn more about Goodwill Industries-Knoxville visit their website. If you would like to calculate the impact that your donation makes click here


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