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    Confessions of a Holiday “Stuff Gatekeeper”

    The holidays are officially “game on” at the Turner house. This weekend, the tree is going up; the halls will be decked, and we’ll host our other blended-faith friends to celebrate the first night of Hanukah on Sunday. With my first online purchase arriving just last night, my thoughts have turned toward making space for what’s to come over the coming weeks.

    Professionally, that means advocating for adequate funding for job training programs in a must-pass appropriations bill and preparing for next year’s congressional session that will become increasingly cluttered by presidential election-year politics. At home, it means renewing my familiar role as “stuff gatekeeper” and bracing for the inevitable influx of holiday items that is about to take up residence in our humble domicile.

    Being the Gatekeeper: Tradition and Dilemma

    Typically, on Black Friday, instead of going to the mall, I end the day with a very satisfying trip to the most convenient Goodwill® donation center. Donating the clothes your kids have outgrown and miscellaneous household items we no longer use makes space for new stuff.

    However, this doesn’t address a Cyber Monday side effect – all those cardboard boxes like the one that last night’s arrival were shipped in. Because fewer purchases are coming home in bags from a brick-and-mortar store, more items are being shipped to me in sturdy cardboard boxes from an online retailer. As a result, I must keep pace with a stream of shipments by breaking down and carting all those boxes for curbside recycling collection or take them to the closest recycling center.

    Therefore, when the stuff flood is at its highest, people will ask me what I want. But I don’t want anything – take something OUT of my house instead.

    Building a New Tradition: Donating Directly from Home

    This year, I’m finally going to get what I’ve been asking for because Goodwill has teamed up with several online retail partners to make it easy to donate no-longer-needed clothing and things via an innovative new tool called Give Back Box.

    On Cyber Monday, I purchased items from Goodwill’s online retail partners. Upon delivery, I’ll remove my new items, and fill the shipping boxes with my Black Friday donations. Next, I’ll print a pre-paid shipping label at givebackbox.com . Finally, I can send the box of donations to my local Goodwill, and it will sell my donations to generate revenues which support employment, job training and other services that create strong families in my community.

    I will admit that I’m really looking forward to the convenience of donating items and disposing of all that cardboard from the comfort of my own home. But the best part of the Give Back Box tool is that it somehow makes the stuff gatekeeper job more meaningful. Once upon a time, that job was simply about purging to keep pace with acquisition. Now, those holiday transactions are directly connected to important work being done to help people in my community to find work and strengthen their families.

    Join me in launching a new tradition with your family this season, and year round, by visiting www.goodwill.org/givebackbox to learn more.

    Seth Turner
    GII Sr. Director of Public Policy until 2015
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