Last week while going for a walk in Winnipeg’s Exchange District neighborhood I found the GoodWill Store on Princess Street. People donate clothing, books, appliances, furniture, dishes and other things they don’t want to the store and the GoodWill sells them, giving their profits to charity. The GoodWill was a place of wonder and delight for me as a child and I couldn’t resist going inside to see if it was as I had remembered it. I am sure the store has changed in the last 45 years but one thing hadn’t changed. On the far wall just where they had always been, were rows and rows and rows of books from the floor to the ceiling. The shelves of the Good Will Store were one of my main sources for reading material when I was a child. We lived in Steinbach which didn’t have a public library till 1973, the year I turned twenty. Our church didn’t have a library yet, in fact we didn’t even have a building. We met for services in a school basement. The old Kornelson School where I first attended classes in Steinbach didn’t have a library either. My parents couldn’t afford to buy me new books all the time and Steinbach didn’t have a book store.
Perhaps because I had been read to often when I was a child, I grew up loving books and read voraciously. On family trips my Mom would tell me to get my nose out of my book and look at the scenery. Here I am setting off for my first day of school with a book in hand. I could read before I started grade one. So what was a girl who loved to read and had no access to books in her home town to do? My reading salvation lay at the GoodWill store. On trips to Winnipeg my Mom often made a stop at GoodWill and patiently waited while I picked out books to read. Books were 5 cents each. On my birthday my Grandma and Grandpa Peters always sent me a one dollar bill in my birthday card. That was 20 books! Should I choose a Nancy Drew, Cherry Ames, Box Car Children, Elsie Dinsmore, Bobbsey Twins, or another book in the Anne of Green Gables series or Little House series? I was in heaven in the GoodWill Store! All those books!
The GoodWill Store is still in the same location at 70 Princess Street as it was when I was a child. GoodWill was founded by a United Church minister Rev. J. Richmond Craig in 1931 as a way to provide employment to people who were out of work because of the depression. His slogan was “Junk into Jobs.” The store initially sold stuff left over from church rummage sales but expanded quickly. GoodWill continues to provide employment to people who find it difficult to obtain jobs. The GoodWill organization receives no government funding and every year they give their profits to worthy Manitoba causes. They now have 5 stores in Manitoba, four in Winnipeg and one in Ashern. The building at 70 Princess where I bought books was built in 1903 by the Bole Drug Company. Chemists manufactured their products in the building and they were shipped all across Canada. The Bole Building was one of the first to have speaking tubes that allowed the various departments in the building to communicate with one another. D.W. Bole who owned the company was a Winnipeg school trustee and a member of Parliament from 1904-1908. Pharmaceuticals continued to be produced in the building till 1932 and in 1934 Good Will which was in need of bigger premises took over. In the last 75 years GoodWill has given jobs to hundreds of men and women and provided them with more than $12 million in wages. They have helped to recycle and reuse millions of items that might otherwise have been thrown away. They also made one little girl hungry for books to read very happy and left her with magical memories of their store.
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