‘We want to help the community in any way we can.’
When a locally owned business has operated for several decades, like Goodwill Omaha, or more than a century, like Max I. Walker, the people behind the scenes at those companies often look for ways to thank the community for their loyalty and support. As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, Goodwill Omaha and Max I. Walker each found a worthy partner in the other. The two businesses have teamed up several times since last March to identify and respond to clothing-related community needs.
Their latest joint venture was their “Sleepers & Scrubs Drive” for local hospitals. The idea was spurred by a second occurrence in the past several months of a health care worker requesting, via social media, donations of preemie and newborn clothing items for their hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). This time, the request came from a member of the Women’s Resource Team for CHI Health. Goodwill Omaha and Max I. Walker first collected, laundered and delivered similar items to Methodist Women’s Hospital last August.
The two organizations previously had partnered to donate nearly 400 pairs of scrubs to Bergan-Mercy Hospital last April, so health care workers could have extra scrubs on hand and change frequently while caring for COVID-19 patients. Since the need for scrubs could arise again, the Goodwill Omaha team wisely thought ahead to include scrubs in this community donation request, ensuring that scrubs can be delivered without delay if a health care system requests them.
Since Goodwill’s retail stores didn’t have much inventory of either item, the organization asked those in the community who had newborn and preemie infant sleepers, or scrubs they no longer needed, to bring them to any Goodwill Omaha location, and Max I. Walker would provide laundry services to clean the garments before donating them.
“We typically find we either have a lot of these items in our stores or very few, and this time, we had few,” said Tobi Mathouser, president and CEO of Goodwill Omaha. “As always, so many people answered the call to help others. We have very generous donors and customers. I think people in our communities genuinely like to help each other.”
And help they did. During the monthlong drive, Goodwill locations collected 150 sleepers to donate to CHI Health’s three area NICUs.
“Our team picked up these items from Goodwill’s retail operations center, and we are sorting, laundering and packaging them for delivery,” said Casey Walker, director of retail operations at Max I. Walker. “This is the fourth time we’ve partnered with Goodwill in the past year, and it goes to show just how much of a difference it can make when you find a partner you can rely on. Especially in times like these, local businesses can do a lot of good when they work together to support each other and the community.
Additionally, 427 scrubs were collected from the drive. The scrubs don’t have a destination yet, but Max I. Walker will store them, cleaned and packaged, in anticipation of requests. If any Omaha hospitals wish to receive a donation of extra scrubs, they should email [email protected] to coordinate.
“Next month is Max I. Walker’s 104th anniversary,” Walker continued.” The Omaha-area community has been very good to us, so we actively look for ways we can give back to those who have supported us for so long.”
Mathouser agreed and added, “Our executive leadership team made a conscious decision to be good stewards of the community and help people in the ways we can, whether that’s collecting scrubs for front-line health care workers, sleepers for newborns in the NICU, or helping people find success with our job training and placement programs. Our stores subsidize our programs, so we can’t donate everything or we wouldn’t be able to help people find jobs. But when it’s a specific item during a pandemic, we’ll definitely do some extra work to make it happen.”
For their past efforts, Goodwill Omaha and Max I. Walker’s teams jointly delivered the items to the hospital, but with COVID-19 and cold weather conditions, they may have to drop off the items with less fanfare this time. Although COVID-19 cases in Nebraska have dropped in the past two weeks, experts say a decrease was expected after the sharp increase in cases over the holidays, and they warn that the drop could be due more to the cold of winter keeping people home than to a long-term decline in cases.