It’s the bales of stuffed animals that elicit the gasps on the Goodwill Resource Center tours. They’re at the back of the warehouse, past the doors to the outlet store, where stuff of all kinds sells for $1.49 a pound. They’re past the baler, which compresses T-shirts and towels into half-ton bricks for wholesale buyers. Past the pallets of books stacked 25 feet high, the endless rows of suitcases, and the shrink-wrapped TVs. Something about the once-loved teddy bears mashed together in an anonymous block, valued for their collective weight rather than the memories they evoke, makes visitors suck in their breath.
But Goodwill can’t afford to be sentimental – it doesn’t have time. With almost 95 million pounds of donations last year, it has to process goods as fast as it can, to sell them in stores, at the outlet, or to vendors who take them to flea markets, resale shops, online auctions, and domestic and overseas recycling operations.