Posted Online: Oct. 30, 2013, 6:24 pm

Goodwill offers its own cookies in stores

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By Jonathan Turner, jturner@qconline.com

BETTENDORF -- Goodwill of the Heartland is getting into the cookie business.

Goodwill, known primarily for its used clothing stores, is opening Goodwill Great Cookies, a bakery at 2309 Cumberland Square Drive in Bettendorf, close to its Bettendorf store. The 3.2-ounce cookies are packaged individually and sold for $1.49 each.

The organization is starting with its own 14 retail stores across the region, including stores in Moline, Rock Island, Davenport and Bettendorf.

"Our strategy is to first sell the cookies in all of our Goodwill Stores and to then branch out to grocery stores, convenience stores, universities, hospitals and more," Ken Rizer, Goodwill senior vice president for operations, said Wednesday. "We're starting with monster cookies, but hope to diversify as the business takes off."

When people buy the cookies, they'll be supporting homeless veterans and the Goodwill mission to advance the social and economic well-being of people who experience barriers to independence, he said.

The two cookie bakers and the delivery driver for the Bettendorf baking operation are receiving employment assistance and support services through Goodwill's program for homeless and disadvantaged veterans in the Quad-Cities area.

"We intend to employ more people as the business grows," Mr. Rizer said. "The baking facility serves as transitional employment for our vets; they work for us at the same time they're getting employment skills, job placement help, counseling and other needed support."

Richard Thomas, of LeClaire, also was hired as the Goodwill Great Cookies baking manager. He brings 30 years of experience to the new bakery operation and is committed to the Goodwill mission, according to a news release.

A ribbon cutting with the Quad Cities Chamber of Commerce is planned for 10:30 a.m. on Thursday, Nov. 8. Community leaders, partners, area politicians and Goodwill staff will be on hand to join in the celebration.

Goodwill Great Cookies is an outgrowth of a restaurant business that Goodwill previously operated in Muscatine that employed people with disabilities, and the recipe was created there. Mr. Rizer said bringing Goodwill Great Cookies to the marketplace happened through much collaboration, including with the marketing department at Iowa State University and with the Tippie School of Business at the University of Iowa to build its marketing and business plan.

Goodwill of the Heartland offers life and job skill development, day habilitation, supported community living, work experience and placement, youth career connections and veterans' services including homeless outreach in a 19-county service area in Western Illinois and Eastern Iowa.