Goodwill has as their stated mission:
"To enhance the dignity and quality of life of individuals and families by strengthening communities… and helping people in need reach their full potential through learning and the power of work."
That’s exactly what 19-year-old Andrew Anderson thought he was doing. Although he was knowingly breaking the store rules, Anderson’s sincere pity he felt for people outweighed any guilty conscience for flouting Goodwill’s pricing, reports NBC News on Sept. 30.
Heartbroken by some of the neediest people who came through the doors “wearing all of the clothes they had,” the East Naples, Fla. teen would secretly give 50 percent discounts to the total order. His genuine desire to help was thus satisfied; Goodwill’s desire for a profit margin was not.
Fired and out of a job, the company went further, having Anderson arrested by Sheriff Deputies for, among all things, grand theft. Under Florida law, property taken that carries a value of more than $300 can be considered grand theft, and punishable by up to five years in prison.
“What I did was with all good intentions,” Anderson said. “The intent I had was to help people.”
No price tag could cancel out the good intentions Anderson had, which left him with a one-of-a-kind feeling, despite being punished.
“It makes you feel amazing, makes you feel like that you can actually be the person to help them,” Anderson said.
Management at Goodwill initially saw it different. While no one would fault Goodwill for addressing the situation, to go so far as to fire him and then have him arrested is unconscionable.
“Our stores are not around to give a hand out, they're around to give people a hand up by providing funding,” said Kirstin O'Donnell, a spokesperson for Goodwill Retail and Donation Center in East Naples.
“In incidents like this, we always prosecute and the reason why is when people steal from Goodwill, they're not stealing from the company, they're stealing from the mission of our organization,” she added.
Anderson said his “heart dropped” when he found out he was being fired and arrested. The teen was hauled off to Collier County Jail, imprisoned on $5,000 bail.
“People would come in on bicycles, wearing all of the clothes they had, coming in with $2, $3 max,” Anderson said in his defense. “I wasn't actually stealing. Goodwill is a giving and helping company, so I took it upon to myself to be giving and helping because I feel people deserve it.”
Anderson’s story drew national attention, and shamed Goodwill execs into correcting their wrong – all charges against Anderson were dropped.
Goodwill announced today that they will not pursue their charges against Anderson. The company released a brief statement on the incident:
“We have determined that the individual's actions were not for personal gain, but rather for the benefit of others. Because this is a violation of our policy we recognize that the former employee's termination is an appropriate action but we are not pursuing criminal charges.”
So Anderson remains fired, but he’s certain to get employment offers from those who actually appreciate his kindness and generosity.