Goodwill Industries of Delaware and
Delaware County relies on donations of clothing and household items to
achieve its primary mission of creating jobs, but not all of those goods
find buyers in the nonprofit organization’s retail stores.
In fact, Goodwill’s warehouse near New Castle, Delaware, contains 6-7
million pounds of unsold clothing at any given time — clothing that
will end up packed into huge bundles and sold at a low per-pound price
to companies that ship the bales overseas. International markets
fluctuate widely, and every bulk sale is a financial hit for the
organization, which works to improve the lives of people who have
barriers to self-sufficiency.
“We’ve been dealing with this issue for years,” said Ted Sikorski,
vice president for marketing and development at Goodwill Industries in
Wilmington, Delaware. “The goal for us is to take what we currently have
[in the warehouse] and find a way to use it to create jobs. Making
money is good, but given a choice, we’d rather create jobs.”
Now, University of Delaware students have been asked to help.
In what Sikorski expects to be an ongoing, interdisciplinary effort,
Goodwill has reached out to UD for ideas of creative and sustainable
solutions to the problem of what to do with unsold textiles.
The first phase of the partnership occurred this semester, when a class in the Department of Fashion and Apparel Studies
came up with some proposals, which they presented to Sikorski and a
group of business leaders who are members of the department’s Industry
“Goodwill was looking for proposals to help them do more with the
things they can’t sell, creating more jobs and becoming more
sustainable, and we were looking for a real problem for our students to
work on,” said Abigail Clarke-Sather, an adjunct faculty member in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and the Department of Fashion and Apparel Studies.
An engineer who specializes in product design, Clarke-Sather turned
to fashion and apparel studies students to begin addressing the issue.
The class came up with ideas and will later help develop business plans.
“We think this is a way for us to develop a stronger connection with
the University,” Sikorski said. “The brain power is here, so we at
Goodwill are very excited about this, and we’ve talked to our national
organization about it.”