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Thrift stores have different missions

Lyn Neiding smiled when considering the company she works for.

"It has a wonderful mission," said Neiding, the Cloquet Goodwill store manager.

Over on Carlton Avenue, a similar smile played on Roxanne Laughlin's countenance, a thrift store manager for the Salvation Army, when considering her business.

"It has changed my life," Laughlin said.

With summer in full swing, fluorescent signs and garage sale posters have started lining the streets of Cloquet. What doesn't sell -- whether an ill-placed pile of jeans or Fisher-Price toys -- often ends up at The Salvation Army or Goodwill.

While the decision to visit either business requires little thought, when donating, consumers should consider how they want their donation used. Both The Salvation Army and Goodwill have undeniably noble company goals enabled through private donations, but, as Laughlin pointed out, "they have two different missions."

Goodwill focuses on jobs. Valerie Clark, a public relations specialist for Goodwill Duluth, stated, "Goodwill uses the public's donations of gently used clothing and other household items to [primarily] create jobs for people with disabilities or others with barriers to employment."

The company provides "case management, job training, and work skills to those with developmental disabilities," she said.

Goodwill's Twin Port stores, which include Duluth, Superior, Cloquet and Hermantown, "employ about 34 staff members and about 15-16 program participants who are receiving job training services from Goodwill," Clark said. The company also gives "self-esteem and a feeling of satisfaction of going to work every day" to those who may have not received that opportunity elsewhere, she added.

While Goodwill offers opportunities and enrichment to employees primarily through work opportunities, Laughlin explained that the Salvation Army still follows founder William Booth's goal of offering "soap, soup and salvation."

True to Booth's maxim, Cloquet's Salvation Army can be broken down into "social services, a food shelf, and a store," Laughlin said.

"There used to be a church, [too]," Laughlin recounted, "but the captain just finished her last week."

Fulfilling Booth's "soul requirement," the social services end of the organization (through a full-time social worker) offers "praying opportunities" and advice on "ways to get through things" to those who need it, Laughlin said.

Additionally, the organization pays power bills, electric bills and heating bill through grants for those in the community who don't have the means, Laughlin explained.

The Salvation Army, through raising donations and operating the store, also offers a food shelf for those within the community.

"One day a week, every Tuesday, [we] hand out food," Laughlin said. "Each individual receives a solid amount of food."

While the food shelf program requires registration for the "newly needy," Laughlin said the Second Harvest food truck -- which visits the Cloquet Salvation Army -- does not, Laughlin said.

Visiting from Second Harvest food bank located in Duluth, the truck brings in the perishable produce the Cloquet organization cannot usually stock.

"If you need it, absolutely come," Laughlin stressed when discussing the produce the truck brings.

In both stores, the most common donated goods are used clothes, and both stores also place restrictions on donating appliances and old electronics (withstanding VCRs).

How Goodwill and the Salvation Army handle their similar donated goods varies.

Salvation Army stores work independently, said Laughlin, so "whatever comes here, stays here."

At Goodwill, Clark said, most [donated items] stay in the [original] store, but a portion also travels to the Retail Distribution Center where donations are sorted.

In both cases, whatever clothes that do not sell are eventually sold by the pound as rags, Laughlin said. Clark, at Goodwill, explained that some of their old clothes are also shredded into rags for industrial purposes while others are sold to foreign markets or made into carpet padding.

At the moment, both local stores appear stable. Clark described the area's Goodwill sales as "steady, with the typical seasonal increases that [Goodwill] usually see[s] in the warmer months...[as] people look for ways to stretch their shopping dollar and do something sustainable for the environment."

Mirroring Goodwill, Cloquet's Salvation Army is also doing great, said Laughlin. Moreover, according to Laughlin, the store has also come a long way in the past seven months. Cloquet's Salvation Army now takes donations every day, Laughlin said.

"We don't turn people away," she said.

Also, the Cloquet store manager has seen the quality within the store drastically rise.

"Seventy percent of the stuff we receive is really nice," said Laughlin, smiling.

For its most desirable items, The Salvation Army also holds a weekly auction.

"We have some people come in every day, Laughlin said, to look at the items, and "we've sold china sets from France [to] a 1962 Ken doll."

With Goodwill offering rewarding places to work, and The Salvation Army helping local people in need, along with affordable prices, it seems that Laughlin was right when she said "shop at all the thrift stores."