By John Ramos

OAKLAND (CBS SF/BCN) — The lingering fiscal woes triggered by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has forced Goodwill Industries of the Greater East Bay to announce the closure of eight retail stores in Alameda, Contra Costa and Solano counties and the layoffs of 61 employees.

The locations that closed last Friday are in Oakley, Dublin, Livermore, Durant Square in Oakland, Albany, Berkeley, Dixon and Vallejo.

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In the late 1880’s a man named Edgar Helms began collecting used clothing from wealthy people to give to the poor. He discovered he could sell the donations and use the cash to employ needy people to refurbish the goods and keep the operation going. The result was Goodwill Industries.

“Our business is people,” said Mike Keenan, President and CEO of Goodwill Industries, Greater East Bay. “We have a mission and that mission is to turn donations into jobs to help people get back on their feet. And, of course, our stores are a major way to do that.”

Keenan said donations have been good, but the shelter-in-place order scared off a lot of customers. On Monday, people who arrived to try to drop off donations, reacted to the news.

“It’s for people who otherwise cannot find a job, especially in this giant downturn,” said San Ramon resident Greg Broneveski. “So, if you don’t have this, what else do you have?”

“Well, it’s sad,” said Liz Wolski from Pleasanton. “I like donating to Goodwill, because I feel my stuff’s going to a good place and to people who really need it.”

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“We have had to make a difficult decision for economic reasons,” said Keenan. “Our employees are our first priority and we will continue to do everything we can to support them at this difficult time and fulfill the Goodwill mission in our remaining stores and facilities.”

The nonprofit organization said the laid off workers “will receive a separation package that will include one week of pay, a month of health benefits, and individual career services including: resume development and assistance, mock interviews, job search and potential placements, and assistance applying for EDD benefits.”

Goodwill is a unique retail outlet in that the community actually contributes its inventory. The stores create jobs—some actually contain career placement centers. They sell clothing and household goods at affordable prices while providing the public a convenient way to pass on unneeded items that otherwise might end up in the landfill.

“The community appreciates it because they know we are helping put people to work and their donations mean something,” said Keenan.

While 61 people lost their jobs because of the closures, Keenan noted that there are 36 openings at nearby stores and Goodwill operations in other parts of the Bay Area have offered help as well.

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Keenan believes the economic fallout from the pandemic will make Goodwill’s role even more important going forward as people need jobs and affordable necessities. And even though he said he is sad to close the eight stores, Keenan reminds donors and shoppers that there are still 20 locations still open in the East Bay to carry on the mission.