Goodwill of the Heartland is hoping that a home-baked fundraising idea eventually will benefit the non-profit's operations across the country.
Goodwill Great Cookies bake shop has opened at Cumberland Mall, 2309 Cumberland Drive, Bettendorf. Its only products are monster cookies, with main ingredients of peanut butter, oats, chocolate chips and M&Ms.
The cookie are being sold in the 14 Goodwill resale stores in the Heartland region in eastern Iowa and western Illinois, including the Quad-Cities. The business plan calls for expanding sales to area grocery stores and, eventually, all 165 Goodwill operations nationwide.
"We’re incredibly excited about this new venture, as customers will love our Goodwill Great Cookies both for their taste and for their cause," said Ken Rizer, senior vice president for operations for Goodwill of the Heartland.
"By buying our cookies, customers will not only experience the best-tasting monster cookie imaginable, but they’ll also 'Eat a Cookie, Change a Life' by supporting employment of homeless veterans and people with other barriers to independence right here in the Quad-Cities."
He said Goodwill previously operated a restaurant called Snackers 2 in Muscatine that employed people with disabilities. That is where the monster cookies first were offered locally, he said. The restaurant closed in the spring.
Goodwill is a non-profit dedicated to “advancing the social and economic well-being of people who experience barriers to independence.” Those barriers are described as anything from disabilities to homelessness to drug addiction.
"We do this by giving people a hand up rather than a handout through the power of work," Rizer said. "Consistent with this mission, we employ hundreds of people with barriers to independence in our Goodwill retail stores throughout 19 counties in eastern Iowa and western Illinois, in community work sites, in our two work training facilities in Cedar Rapids and Iowa City, and now in our Bettendorf Goodwill Great Cookies baking facility."
The baker and delivery driver are veterans who participated in Goodwill's Homeless Veterans Reintegration Program, which gives them transitional work while developing job skills and job search assistance, Rizer said.
Richard Thomas, with 30 years in the baking business, was hired as the baking manager. He said they started with the original "ma and pop formula of the cookie and took it a step up."
He said the bakery produces 400 to 500 of the 3.2-ounce, 4.75-inch-diameter cookie each day.
"We are getting some really good results, especially in Quad-City area," Thomas said. "It is doing well so far, better than expected. This is going to snowball and just get better as we go along."
Rizer said the business plan calls for selling the cookies commercially throughout its region.
"And we’ve gotten interest from the VA, the University of Iowa, Hy-Vee, Fareway, corporate partners, the federal government, and others," he said. "In addition to selling baked cookies throughout our region, we’re doing tests on a baking mix to package and sell nationally under the Goodwill Great Cookies name.
Future plans call for eventually selling gift tins on the Shop Goodwill Online site at www.shopgoodwill.com.
Rizer said Goodwill partnered with the marketing department at Iowa State University and with the Tippie School of Business at the University of Iowa to create the business plan. In addition to hiring Thomas, Rizer said they also worked closely with a certified food scientist on the recipe and nutrition facts, certifying the cookies as gluten-free.