Last year was a time of tremendous growth for Goodwill Industries of the Columbia. With the addition of our new Pasco store and Employment Connection Center in late 2013, 2014 started out with great momentum. Throughout the year, we expanded our retail and mission services presence. The addition of five new Attended Donation Centers has made donating even more convenient. We added our first outlet store, where donated goods can be purchased by the pound (located in the same building as the previous Pasco store); remodeled an old movie theater to move our Hermiston store, creating an opportunity for us to train more people with disabilities through our Skills, Training, and Employment Preparation (STEP) program in Hermiston; and added additional job preparation and assistance programs in Sunnyside, Wenatchee and Pasco.
This growth would not have been possible without the generous support of the community who, through their donations and purchases, have funded numerous opportunities for individuals seeking employment. We are proud to report that in 2014, we increased the number of individuals we served by 38 percent and more than doubled the number of people who obtained employment.
Goodwill has served and placed more individuals this year than ever before, and this increase was made possible through the numerous partnerships between Goodwill and local businesses. We are grateful to be a part of a community that shares our desire to provide support to job seekers. More than 350 employers have joined Goodwill to provide job-readiness training and employment. Employers have benefited, as Goodwill screens job seekers and sends qualified and skilled workers to employers, holds hiring events and posts position openings at our Employment Connection Center. We will continue to strengthen this teamwork as we move ahead.
We enter into 2015 with a re-energized commitment to growing the skills and abilities of the individuals we serve with developmental disabilities, moving them closer to and into community employment. We have several individuals who are on the brink of being ready for that transition. We also envision continued growth of our Employment Connection Center, with additional centers connected to our retail stores. These centers provide free, walk-in job search and preparation assistance to all job seekers. Along with job preparation activities, we also connect individuals with community resource information to help with basic needs as well as provide telephone, email, computer and fax assistance, ensuring they have a consistent avenue through which to communicate with employers.
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In addition to program growth, we plan to continue to grow the amount of items we divert from landfills. Not only does Goodwill accept gently used items that we sell in our retail stores, but we also accept tired items such as a shoe that is missing its match, a pair of jeans that has a large tear, or an old stained t-shirt. If we are not able to sell it on our retail floor, we will recycle it. Furthermore, we are working to increase the ease with which the community can donate by partnering with local businesses.
Goodwill would like to thank our donors and local employers for a fruitful 2014 and for continued support and participation in changing lives through the power of work.