Donate, Shop, or Volunteer at the Golden Goose and Help Local Kids

The Golden Goose Thrift Shop began in a single storefront in a Catalina strip mall. The interior space for display of donations was limited, and little space was given to clothing.

Nancy McCluskey-Moore

If you have donated items to the Golden Goose Thrift Shop in Catalina, bought something from its ever-changing inventory, or worked at the shop as one of its “gosling” volunteers, then you have helped make a difference in the lives of many local residents. The beloved Goose helps fund two community-based nonprofits: SaddleBrooke Community Outreach and IMPACT of Southern Arizona.

Looking at the Golden Goose’s crowded parking lot Tuesday through Saturday and the line of cars filled with donations at the back of the shop, it’s hard to imagine the humble beginnings of this enterprise—and of both nonprofits it helps support. But this success story was 20 years in the making, and despite its optimistic fairy tale-inspired name, initially, no one was certain the Goose would produce golden eggs.

In 2002 SaddleBrooke Community Outreach (SBCO) and Catalina Community Services (CCS) (later to become IMPACT of Southern Arizona) were young nonprofits whose committed, energetic volunteers were working hard to raise funds to support their programs. SBCO volunteers were collecting aluminum cans; hosting walkathons, golf tournaments, and fashion shows; offering items that could be exchanged for donations; and collecting box tops—you name it, they were trying it. One joint fundraising event was a rummage sale. Robson Communities had provided empty office space for storing collected items, and the sale had proven to be successful. This led to the idea of establishing a thrift shop where donated items could be sold on a regular basis.

Ann Leonard, who was active with both SBCO and CCS, had experience running a thrift shop on an Indian reservation in California. She pitched the idea of a thrift shop to be operated by and to benefit both organizations. Ken Conrad prepared a business plan. And while today the concept seems like a no-brainer, at the time, it was controversial. Each organization had to lend $10,000 of their funds—money that volunteers had worked hard to raise—to cover the shop’s start-up costs. Some were concerned there wouldn’t be enough donations to keep the shop full of merchandise. Lengthy discussions and even some board resignations ensued but, eventually, both the SBCO and CCS board of directors approved the loan, and space was rented in a strip mall in Catalina.

Fortunately, the Goose immediately began laying golden eggs after it opened on April 15, 2003. Although the shop was initially managed and staffed only by volunteers, in September 2004, a shop manager was hired. The Golden Goose became a 501(c)(3) charity with a board of directors appointed by the boards of SBCO and CCS/IMPACT. Every two years, the offices of president, vice president, treasurer, and secretary would rotate between the two organizations. Income from the shop, after operating expenses, was divided evenly between SBCO and IMPACT. Over time, the shop expanded to include three rental spaces. But rising rent and working in spaces not designed for a thrift shop forced the Golden Goose Board of Directors to consider other options.

Land was purchased in Catalina, and a building designed specifically for a thrift shop was constructed. On March 20, 2010, the current Golden Goose was opened at 15970 North Oracle Road. A police presence was required that day to manage traffic flow. The shop was open for eight days in a row for an event called “Goose-a-Palooza,” which brought in $98,000. Over the course of the past 20 years, the Golden Goose Thrift Shop has contributed $20 million to SBCO and IMPACT of Southern Arizona.

So, please remember—every time you donate an item to the Golden Goose, make a purchase at the shop, or serve as a Goose volunteer, you are helping to support the work of two community-based nonprofits. It’s a win-win for everyone—volunteers, donors, shoppers, and the kids in local communities whom SBCO helps to feed, clothe, enrich, and educate through its many programs. Thanks to the Golden Goose, SBCO has been able to expand its enrichment grants to schools and community organizations as well as provide more two- and four-year college scholarships to deserving local students. Those golden eggs have made a tremendous difference in the lives of thousands of young people.