I buy most of my best shirts at a thrift shop. I’m wearing one of them now, a sharp, long-sleeved one in alternating navy blue and black vertical stripes. I chose it to wear to a concert Betsy and I will attend tonight: a program of Bach by the outstanding organist Alexander Anderson. One of my best wool blend suits cost $9, not counting the price of letting out the waist a bit. It’s one among several high-quality suits and sport coats, all purchased at thrift shops for shockingly low prices. Unfortunately, an aging body and its expanding waistline have forced me to return many of them to the places from whence they came: Goodwill stores. Betsy and I visited one near our home today. She came home loaded down with used books at a buck apiece. I found a nice winter-weight Van Heusen sport shirt for $3.79.
Chapel Hill and neighboring Carrboro, N.C., are proud of their PTA thrift shops, which have raised many thousands of dollars for the local scho0ls through the years. We patronize them, too, but more often, we find ourselves gravitating to one or another of three Goodwill stores within 10 miles of our home.
I suspect that loyalty has something to do with it. Goodwill and I go back to the 1940s. I recall that once a year in those days, a minister visited our neighborhood Methodist church seeking financial support or the local Goodwill project. Goodwill was founded in Boston in 1902 by the Rev. Edgar J. Helms, a Methodist pastor and innovator. He collected used household goods and clothes in wealthier neighborhoods, then hired and trained people who were poor to mend and repair the used goods. The goods were then resold or were given to the people who repaired them
Backed by the Methodist church, Goodwill had expanded to 15 centers by 1920. In the years to come, the relationship with the church lessened as federal funding requirements required it to become a more secular organization. In 1934, Helms launched an effort to employ and train people whose disabilities made it difficult for them to find jobs and support themselves. Today, Goodwill and its associate members around the world bring in nearly $2 billion and serve nearly half a million people with their programs. Rev. Helms would be pleased.
So am I. I love the clothes I find in its stores. My only complaint is Goodwill Community Foundation’s television commercial in which an actor uses a sing-song, high-pitched attempt to sound like a child, and fails miserably. No real child sounds like that.