As you may have guessed, Goodwill of Southern Arizona is turning 50 years old this year. A few weeks ago, Bruce Munroe our Systems Administrator, walked into our office and said he knew the original founder of Goodwill of Southern Arizona, Dale Dunbar and his wife Marilyn. After speaking more with Bruce, he let us know that Dale’s devoted widow, Marilyn Dunbar, was still in town and would be willing to speak with us. As a result, we had the honor of sitting down with Marilyn and Bruce in the Dunbar’s home to share and discuss Goodwill’s local history, present and future.
Bruce grew up in central Tucson and was close friends with the Dunbar’s boys. He spent time with the family and even got to visit the Goodwill store downtown and play on, in his words “a mountain of clothing in the back.” Bruce expressed “I don’t think Marilyn knows this but Dale was very much a father figure for me. He was such a gentle, gentle man. I would say, he influenced my idea of what being a good parent is, probably more than anything. He could always relate to people without talking down to them, some people have to try at that but for him, it just came naturally. He saw value in people and that is an ideal that has persisted through 50 years. These are people that may be overlooked as part of our working culture, he just felt that natively and was able to help them.”
Since our founding, Goodwill of Southern Arizona has grown
from that one downtown store, to over 40 locations including stores, donation
centers, job centers, youth centers and we have workforce development staff in
offices across Southern Arizona. In 1969, we served around 30 people a year.
Now that number is closer to 10,000, with more than 50,000 adults served in the
last five years and around 1,500 youth served each year. We also employ around
500 people full time. That is a lot of change for an organization and more
importantly, that is a lot of lives changed in the community. As a kid playing
in the toy aisle at Goodwill, Bruce had no idea that many years later he would
grow up to work for that same company and have the chance to see the impact of
“Dale was very enthusiastic about Goodwill. He believed firmly in people having a chance to learn a skill that they could use, not to stay at Goodwill forever, that wasn’t the idea but that they can learn a skill and move onto something else. It would give them a chance to improve their quality of life and make change in the community. Goodwill had a lot of things that they did. At first, there was the collection, the collection was done in trucks. Then the clothes and such were washed. All kinds of things lamps, couches and more,” Marilyn Dunbar.
Dale and Marilyn originally met at the University of Arizona. Marilyn was a student there and Dale was a Reverend at a small Methodist Church in the Sonoita area. When asked about how they met, Marilyn lit up. “Dale was very patient, he loved people and he certainly loved his family. He would do all kinds of things with our sons (laughs)…we had a lot of fun!” Dale Dunbar’s first opportunity leading a Goodwill was out in Ohio, at that time he left the Methodist Church to serve his community through Goodwill. The Dunbar family eventually moved back to Tucson from Zanesville, OH in the late 60’s to start the Goodwill here.
In Tucson, what skills were taught?
“In the furniture, they were taught to repair and reupholster. The training that went into was a value because people learned how to repair tables and chairs and then do the refinishing. The skills that were needed were not necessarily being taught to people, especially individuals with disabilities. This was a deal for people with a disability to learn a skill to be able to support themselves, that was really the goal.” Marilyn went on, “The practicality of it is amazing to me. It didn’t take going outside and hunting for people that are experts. The practical part of someone with a skill teaching someone else is extremely effective. It is hard to read a book and learn to re-stuff a chair, it’s easier if someone can show you. Dale liked to work with his hands, he was always building something. I think because he had those skills it made it easier.”
From the hard work, vision and compassion of one man, great things can happen. We are very proud to work for Goodwill and to continue the mission that Dale started so many years ago. As an organization, we are committed to empowering our neighbors and friends through our mission of training and workforce development. Thank you Southern Arizona for making all of this growth and change possible. Without your loyal support we could not do what we do.
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