As the chief operating officer for Goodwill of Central and Coastal Virginia, Bill Carlson wants to make one thing very clear: Your donations are still very much appreciated.

In fact, Carlson said last week, it is those donations that will help fuel the organization’s goal of connecting people with employment opportunities and training, a mission that will likely become even more critical in the coming months as unemployment due to COVID-19 brings a tidal wave of people in need of assistance.

Carlson knows some may have seen news reports in recent weeks featuring piles of bagged donations sitting outside of shuttered Goodwill locations across the United States, as residents with a sudden influx of time on their hands have begun emptying closets and cupboards en masse.

The problem, said Carlson is that the donations dropped off at the closed locations are sitting outside and getting ruined because there is no one to process them.

The news isn’t all bad: While all Goodwill retail locations closed to the public on March 20, some distribution centers have remained open and are still taking donations. Goochland’s distribution center, which remains open with limited hours, has seen a surge, though it isn’t in the number of donations but rather the amount. While it has always been common to see a car pull up with a few bags, Carlson said, now they are seeing SUVs pulling up filled to the roof with boxes and bags, in some cases even pulling trailers.

“We are very fortunate to be on the receiving end of all of this,” Carlson insisted, though the influx has meant a challenge for those tasked with sorting and processing the donations, which must be stored for 72 hours before being brought into the facility. An added constraint? Like so many other organizations, Goodwill has been forced to furlough hundreds of employees, meaning that there are fewer people on site to handle the work.

Those who do handle the donations are taking extra precautions, including wearing personal protective equipment and removing items directly from donors’ trunks.

Carlson says he hopes they can keep the Goochland facility open until the situation improves, both for the sake of the few employees left working there and because he wants to keep bringing in as many items as they are safely able to handle.

As for those would-be donors patiently waiting to drop off their boxes and bags, Carlson said he is looking forward to the day when they can process as many donations as people want to bring.

“I just hope that day is sooner rather than later,” he added.

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