OKEECHOBEE — The Okeechobee Goodwill store will be closing at the end of this month. According to employees of the store, the landlord decided not to renew the store’s lease, and Goodwill was not willing to relocate.
A spokesperson for the Royal Companies which owns the property said they did not raise the rent and even offered to allow Goodwill to pay monthly. Unfortunately, the store is closing due to a higher cost of expenses bringing merchandise to the area and a lack of local donations she explained. "They have been wonderful tenants," she said. "They will be missed."
Mary Flack, vice president of Gulfstream Goodwill Industries Marketing and Communications, said it was true that rising fuel cost and other costs pertaining to supply and distribution were the cause of the store closing.
"Gulfstream Goodwill Industries (GGI) is so much more than a store!" said Flack. "GGI is the largest health and human services program provider in the five counties they serve. There is so much misinformation out there about Goodwill and GGI would invite anyone who wants clarification to go to their website at GoGGI.org"
Rumors began to circulate on Facebook this week regarding the closure, and the initial post was met with mixed reactions. Some said they would really miss the store as they felt it was an asset to the community.
One woman said the store meant a lot to her because after a death in the family, she felt she had nowhere to go. She began going to the store daily and just walking around for hours. “After a few times going in there she (an employee) said ma’am are you ok? You act like you are lost. I told her what had happened to me. She said I am so sorry for your loss & every time I would go there after that day, she always would come up to me & ask how I was doing & even a few days ago she said you have come a long way since that first time I spoke to you. I thanked her for all her kind words she had for me through the past years of my trying times,” said the woman.
Several said they liked finding unique treasures there and felt the prices were reasonable.
Tammy Thomas said Goodwill was a getaway spot for her. “I always found great clothes and shoes at the store. I really like the manager and her staff.”
“I myself have found some really good treasures there throughout the years. Guess I will be going to the coast more often,” said Melody McDugald.
Others said they would miss the store but then mentioned some of the other thrift stores in Okeechobee.
Donna Dennison said, “I will miss Goodwill ... but The Blessings Boutique near Popeye's has a wonderful selection of treasures ... and their prices are better than Goodwill!”
Other stores mentioned were Sharon’s Hidden Treasures in the Fulford Plaza, Faith Farm on State Road 70 West, Hospice House and Martha’s House. If you are looking for places to donate, there is always Our Village, the Pregnancy Center and My Aunt’s House as well.
Many commenters said they would never donate to Goodwill anyway, citing the often-spouted rumor that CEOs make millions off of donated items.
Krystal Whittel said, “They receive all these donations then turn around and sell them for a profit, pay their employees minimum wage and consider that giving back. It’s such a scam. I’d rather help places such as the Pregnancy Center or Faith Farm where there’s actual needs being met by the program.”
Caitlin Lister, a local social worker, said despite the negative stories all over the internet, Goodwill really does help the community. They do this by not only employing individuals with disabilities but also by training those with disabilities so they can learn to work elsewhere. “There are very few businesses here willing to hire anyone with a disability. That was one of the best things about Goodwill. It’s not really about helping by selling things at a low price, it’s about employing those with disabilities.”
Whether you are happy to see them go or sad, the store employees say they will be closed by the end of the month.