What the Economy Started, Fire Finishes

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January 12, 2011; Source: Las Cruces Sun | It took a fire to finish what the down economy started. After 43 years, Good Start Industries of Las Cruces, N.M., is shutting down.  A fire on Christmas day was the final straw for the group’s board and executive director, Karen Jakeway, who said between the damage from the blaze and a falloff in donations, the end had come. 

Over the years, Good Start has provided unemployment for people with disabilities and cheap or free clothing for the homeless at its thrift stores. Previously affiliated with Goodwill Industries, it spun off as a standalone nonprofit in 2001. 

Good Start’s misfortunes will be felt beyond the staff to be laid off once it ceases operations later this month. Good Start gives out $10 vouchers that homeless individuals can use to purchase clothes and other household items from its stores.  “It will be difficult for the homeless,” said Pamela Angell, executive director of the Mesilla Valley Community of Hope. “Shoes are a big deal. The homeless walk so much.” 

In a good year, Good Start had gross revenues of $500,00.  The $285,00 the group took in last year wasn’t enough to meet payroll or pay its bills. Ironically, one of the factors that also hurt operations is that although people on limited incomes enjoy buying lower-priced goods from Good Start, donations of items to sell have fallen off as people haven’t been buying new or replacement items. 

In earlier years, Jakeway said, “It wasn’t uncommon for people to say, ‘We’re moving and our furniture does not fit.’ We’d go pick up complete bedroom sets or complete living room sets. Same thing with appliances. Rather than trading in an appliance, they’d give it to us and we could sell it. That just doesn’t happen now. People are hanging on to what they have.”—Bruce Trachtenberg