Goodwill will be returning to the Toronto area after the organization abruptly closed stores across the province at the beginning of the year, leaving 450 people out of work.
The company filed for bankruptcy protection in February, following the abrupt closure of 16 stores and 10 donation centres in the Greater Toronto Area, Barrie, Orillia, and Brockville.
At the time, the company said it was exploring options for a restructuring plan, but conceded in February that it had found “no viable option that allows the organization to re-emerge from the bankruptcy process.”
Keiko Nakamura also announced her resignation as head of Goodwill Industries of Toronto, Eastern, Central and Northern Ontario (TECNO) in February, saying “there is no longer a role for a CEO” since proceedings were in the hands of a bankruptcy trustee.
The organization declared debts of $6 million, including $4.2 million owed to employees in salary and other obligations in February.
“This past year, in some communities across Ontario, Goodwill’s mission was lost at a time when it was never more relevant,” Goodwill Industries, Ontario Great Lakes president and CEO Michelle Quintyn said in a statement.
“Goodwill Industries, Ontario Great Lakes … has been granted the privilege and opportunity to expand services and contribute to the renewal and revitalization of Goodwill across Toronto and surrounding metropolitan areas, Central and Eastern Ontario.”
Quintyn said the goal of the revitalization was to re-establish Goodwill stores in the Toronto area through established infrastructure, experienced leadership, sufficient resources and community support.
She added that as many as 500 jobs could be created in the next five years and the company anticipates the first round of new employment opportunities will begin early next year.
Quintyn also said the non-profit organization is well positioned to take on the challenge without meeting the same fate as the Toronto Goodwill.
Former Goodwill employee Raphelia Debique told Global News in March she was in a desperate situation after running out of money following the store closures, and was out of options for a place to live after her $12-an-hour income was abruptly cut off.
After securing a job with a cleaning company weeks later, Debique said she could “breathe” again.
“I do miss Goodwill but I’m a little angry now,” she told Global News Wednesday.
“That type of environment was hostile it was stressful it was a job that we all needed and we did it because we needed it.”
Debique said she won’t be applying to work at the new Goodwill locations, after securing employment weeks after being laid off.
“The damage has been done so many lives devastated and so many of them haven’t gotten back on track,” she said.
“I hope they do better than the old Goodwill, I hope they treat people with disabilities much better than they did and remember that we’re all human beings and to treat us like that.”
Moe Rutherford, a former Goodwill employee and union representative, said he would consider working for the organization again after being laid off following 15 years of employment.
“It truly is bittersweet. It’s nice to see that the employees of Goodwill, especially those with employment barriers, have that opportunity to possibly work again,” he said.
With files from The Canadian Press