Every week Bradley Godfrey sorts through hundreds of donated items to see which ones still have a little life in them.
Everything from T-shirts and jeans, to cookware and books, the 36-year-old combs through it all.
And once in a while he comes across some buried treasures.
“On one of the racks there was an old hockey trapper,” Godfrey beamed.
“It’s got this little thing that attaches the thumb to the glove, it’s pretty cool. And it’s a lefty trapper and I’m a lefty!”
Godfrey works for the Voices, Opportunities and Choices Employment Club or VOCEC for short.
The not-for-profit corporation creates jobs for people in the Kingston community living with mental illness, and is supported by Providence Care.
“We often think of work as stressful, but when we don’t have a job that can really impact our ability to recover from mental illness. Work gives us a purpose, an income and builds a critical social network,” explained Ben Gooch, Regional Director of Community Support Services.
Godfrey has bipolar disorder.
“The job keeps you busy, it gives you something to do and that helps your mental health,” Godfrey explained.
And boy is he busy.
VOCEC’s warehouse on Montreal Street is jam packed with dozens of boxes, filled with thousands of items.
So where are the donations coming from?
And what happens to them after they’re organized?
VOCEC recently teamed up with The Goodway on Division Street in Kingston.
The items are for its thrift store.
“The Goodway needed more space to process its donations and we had this warehouse with a pool of labour,” said Gooch.
“We get more than a 1000 donations a month now, and when we came down here we saw this perfect marriage of what we needed in terms of handling our donations and available labour,” added Phillip Brown, The Goodway founder.
Here’s how the partnership works.
The donated items are brought to VOCEC’s warehouse.
VOCEC associates go through everything, divide them into categories, and determine the resale value of the donations that will go back on the shelves at The Goodway.
Matthew Williams does a lot of the initial sorting.
“It’s interesting to see what comes in and if it meets the standards,” said Williams.
The 47-year-old is new to VOCEC.
His severe social phobia and depression makes it hard for him to work, but this new partnership intrigued him.
“I was off work for a long time because the social aspect just wore me down,” explained Williams.
“The interview process is one thing I find almost insurmountable, but when I came here, it was very easy. I’m not stressed as much and there’s not too much social interaction, so I can largely do the job the way I want to.”
David Lewers oversees the entire operation and about half a dozen associates.
“It just phenomenal what you see here,” the Affirmative Business Support Worker said.
“It gives our associates a purpose; the ability to work is good medicine for them. They feel good about themselves and it’s a kind of therapy.”
“They are doing an amazing job,” added Brown.
“The faster we can process the goods, the more we can get on the floor, and the more we can sell.”
And proceeds from The Goodway help people like Williams and Godfrey.
“All the money that goes into The Goodway goes back into the Kingston community, primarily helping youth at risk and people with mental illness,” explained Brown.
“Since we started just over three years ago, we have donated more than $100,000 to the community.”
And this isn’t the first time Brown has partnered with Providence Care.
In 2017, the entrepreneur donated $65,000 to help purchase equipment for VOCEC’s At the Lake Café, located at Providence Care Hospital.
“Providence Care does amazing work and we are happy to be partnered with an organization that has the same vision that we do,” said Brown.
“The more we can help the people in need in our community, the better off our entire community is.”
Back in the warehouse, Godfrey and Williams are hard at work sifting through the day’s donations.
“There’s sorting and cleaning to do. I’m breaking down boxes and getting rid of bags. I like it, it keeps you busy,” chuckled Godfrey.
“It’s strangely gratifying to see something on the shelves at The Goodway that has been partially processed by me,” smiled Williams.
“It has gone through my hands, and when I see it there, it’s quite pleasing.”
The Goodway is located at 844 Division Street and is open seven days a week. For store hours or more information visit The Goodway website.