At the PennMOVES sale, gently used items get collected, sorted, and sold

At the end of every school year, Penn students clean house, getting rid of everything from books and clothing to appliances, housewares, and rugs.

But, as the saying goes, one person’s trash is another person’s treasure.

With the annual PennMOVES event, items that would end up in dumpsters are now sold or distributed to individuals and organizations in the greater Philadelphia area.

Since it began in 2008, PennMOVES—or Move Out Volunteers Engaging in Service—has collected nearly 390,000 pounds of clothing, furniture, kitchen appliances, and nonperishable food items. This year, items will be available for sale on Saturday, June 2 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at South Bank, 3401 Grays Ferry Ave. Admission is free, but treasure-hunters can pay an early-bird fee of $5 to scope out the sale from 8 to 10 a.m.

Proceeds from the sale will benefit Goodwill Industries’ job-training programs, and all items not sold on June 2 will be donated to Goodwill. Last year, the sale raised $25,000 for the nonprofit’s job-training programs.

For the second year, Goodwill is providing technical expertise and logistical support for the PennMOVES sale. In the past, the event relied mostly on Penn volunteers to collect and sort items, and move them to a central location. Some volunteers will still be helping to collect items from students, monitor donation locations, organize items in storage, and work at the sale (see story from the May 3, 2012 Penn Current Express for more details).

“What we realized as this project grew and evolved was that we needed additional resources and expertise to supplement the dedicated group of Penn staff that had been coordinating the operation,” says Marie Witt, vice president of Penn’s Business Services Division, the department responsible for overseeing PennMOVES. “We sought to find a community organization with the capability to perform the day-to-day management of the project. Goodwill, with their skills in managing large volume donations, was a natural fit.”

This year, Goodwill has distributed donation containers around campus, and will collect all of the materials and deliver them to a centralized location, where the items will be sorted and priced in advance of the June 2 sale.

“Our business is really about taking people’s generous donations and moving them to where they need to be,” says Mark Boyd, president and CEO of Goodwill of southern New Jersey and Philadelphia. “We appreciate the opportunity and like being of service to the community.”

The idea of local engagement and giving back to the community helped launch the PennMOVES initiative in 2008. According to Witt, it was at a brainstorming retreat for ideas to support the University’s Climate Action Plan that housing staff first proposed the idea to collect discarded items.

“We recognized that this project supported both our sustainability goals, as well as the Penn’s commitment to local engagement,” Witt says. “So the next year, as a division, we launched PennMOVES.”   

The sale has been a success—both for those on the lookout for a bargain, as well as those concerned about reducing the number of items that wind up in landfills. The most popular items at the sale, says Boyd, are the housewares—especially mini refrigerators.

Boyd says about a dozen Goodwill employees will work on the PennMOVES project. What doesn’t sell on June 2 will be shipped back to the Goodwill retail operation center, where it will be distributed to various stores.

One of the additional benefits of being involved in the PennMOVES project is that it creates more employment opportunities for people, says Boyd. Goodwill Industries is one of the world’s largest nonprofits providers of employment training service for people with disabilities and other barriers to work.

“This is a great project for us because it puts people to work,” says Boyd. “It’s about building a relationship.”

For more information on PennMOVES, go to