Blythe first-grader heads Goodwill donation drive
by Staff Writer
HUNTERSVILLE – The 50-gallon barrel first-grader Aiden Wood used to collect items for Charlotte-area Goodwill stores stood taller than the top of his head.
Aiden’s Blythe Elementary School teacher Amanda Conde assigned each of her first-graders to complete a “Pay It Forward” project – a small act of kindness that would help others in their community. Students could pick from options such as adopting a pet from an animal shelter or volunteering at a soup kitchen. Aiden and his grandfather, Rodney Conklin, had a bigger idea.
“At first he said he wanted to adopt a pet, but I said ‘we’re not going there,’” said Conklin, who’s a Goodwill Industries International employee at the not-for-profit’s distribution center in Charlotte. “Then he decided to give some things to Goodwill, but wanted to involve the rest of his class so that together they could donate more items. I checked it out at work and Goodwill worked with us to make it happen.”
By the end of the spring drive Aiden and his classmates collected enough items to fill the 50-gallon collection barrel three times over. Some classmates’ families found so many old items they wished to donate that they took them to Goodwill drop-off locations themselves, Conklin said.
Goodwill stores throughout the world sell the second-hand donations to thrift store shoppers. Profits help provide job training and placement for the unemployed.
“The donations will go to help other people and help people get more jobs,” Aiden said. Seven-year-old Aiden also enjoys playing baseball and soccer. He is a member of Cub Scout Pack 19, based out of Huntersville Presbyterian Church.
All those donations have come in at an important time. Goodwill Industries of the Southern Piedmont plans to open its 22nd retail store in the Charlotte region in Huntersville.
The 12,000-square-foot store, to be located at 14420 N. Statesville Road, is slated to open in late July, said Lelia King, spokesperson for Goodwill Industries of the Southern Piedmont. It will bring about 25 jobs to the area and will be the second Goodwill location to serve north Mecklenburg County.
“About 90 cents of every dollar from every item sold on the retail floor goes to fund job training,” King said. “Last year, we served about 16,000 people in the Charlotte region.”
Many area schools, such as Huntersville Elementary, hold annual school-wide Goodwill donation drives, but Blythe Elementary did not have a drive scheduled for the remainder of the school year. Aiden’s classroom drive allowed his first-grade classmates to “Pay it Forward” in a big way, despite their young ages.
“I gave some clothes, toys and things I don’t play with anymore,” Aiden said.
Conklin, who raises Aiden with his wife, Lorraine, said he thinks the experience of organizing a donation drive encouraged his grandson to put his community first.
“It’s a valuable lesson to learn how to support the community and those around you,” Conklin said. “It shows kids that it’s not always about them.”
Want to help?
To see a list of Goodwill Industries International drop-off and store locations in the Charlotte region, go online to www.goodwillsp.org.