Girl Scout’s ‘Merry Thriftmas’ Project Finds a Home at Goodwill for Second Year

The festive window displays hearken back to grand department-store windows of the past, but there’s more to this story

Goodwill Omaha is honored to sponsor Merry Thriftmas, a community project designed to give back to those in need, for the second year. The project is the concept of Madison Eisert, a Papillion La Vista South high school sophomore working toward her Girl Scout Gold Award, and is on display through Dec. 18 at the South Papillion Goodwill Retail Store & Donation Center near 90th Street and Highway 310.

“For years, our family has loved shopping at Goodwill throughout the seasons and for every occasion,” Eisert said. “Everything from school supplies, wedding presents, homecoming dresses, prom gowns and especially holiday gifts.

<img src="IMG_0675.png" alt="Madison Eisert sits in front of a fireplace constructed of boxes of Girl Scout Cookies">
Madison Eisert shows off one of her Merry Thriftmas window displays at Goodwill Omaha’s store in South Papillion. The exhibit will be up through Dec. 18.

“The holiday season should be a time filled with magic and celebrating,” she continued. “Sadly, though, it can bring unhappiness, stress and financial burdens — especially this year. By forming and leading a team of volunteers I affectionately refer to as ‘Goodwill Elves,’ we planned to shop and find treasures in nearly every Goodwill aisle to put in the window displays. These items will then be given to families in need to help fulfill their wish lists and bring them joy.”

For a time, it looked like Merry Thriftmas was destined to become another of this year’s many cancellations due to the novel coronavirus.

“Since we reopened after closing for COVID-19, we’ve been focused on keeping our customers, donors, participants and employees safe and minimizing everyone’s risk of exposure,” said Janelle Ellis, director of retail operations at Goodwill Omaha. “Madison did an incredible job on the windows last year, and we wanted to host the project again, but we also had to assess potential risks. So, we’d eventually decided not to do it this year.”

Eisert is tenacious, though, and she wanted to find a way to continue the project. She went back to the Goodwill Omaha team with a revised project plan: Eisert proposed decorating two windows instead of four — she’d need fewer Elves to help decorate, and they could dress the windows while Goodwill’s retail team finished their closing duties.

“Madison has grit, and we certainly appreciate that,” Ellis said. “I’m glad she found a way to make the project work. We’d like people to start thinking of stopping at a Goodwill Omaha store when they’re shopping for the holidays — you’d be surprised at how many brand-new items we receive in our donations. Anything from luxury sheet sets and pajama sets to gadgets, artwork and home décor — all donated new with the tags or new in the box. No one would even know it came from Goodwill.”

In fact, Accenture’s 2019 annual holiday shopping survey revealed that 48% of Americans said they would give a thrifted item as a gift, and a whopping 56% said they would welcome thrifted gifts for themselves. This year, with so many people experiencing hardship and loss due to the pandemic, thrift-store and secondhand shopping are on the rise and likely to include holiday gift shopping.

<img src="Merry Thriftmas Fireplace.png" alt="Fireplace mantle with Merry Thriftmas spelled out in decorative, festive letters">“Madison’s plan worked out really well, and the windows are just beautiful again this year,” Ellis said. “I hope people will stop by to see the Merry Thriftmas windows at our South Papillion store and maybe consider stopping in there or at one of our other stores. It doesn’t cost anything to browse, and they might be surprised at the number of great deals they find.”

Eisert also applied for a volunteer service grant, which Booz Allen Hamilton awarded to her to help with the cost of the items and decorations in the windows.

“I’m so thankful to Booz Allen Hamilton for their generous donation,” Eisert said. “Because of their support, the holiday season will be a lot brighter and more joyful for families in need. I would encourage everyone in our community to take the time to celebrate the true meaning of the season by giving of themselves and showing compassion for others.”

And the future of Merry Thriftmas once Eisert earns her Girl Scout Gold Award?

“Goodwill would still like to explore expanding the Merry Thriftmas project in the future,” said Tobi Mathouser, president and CEO of Goodwill Omaha. “We’d like to get businesses in the community involved and donate all the items in the windows to local families in need. We have some logistics to work out, but we’d really like to make the project a holiday tradition for Goodwill Omaha and everyone in the community.”

Residents in Papillion and surrounding communities can see Eisert’s holiday window creation through Dec. 18 at the Goodwill Retail Store & Donation Center at 704 W. Gold Coast Drive in Papillion. For more information, photos and video, click here.