New Jersey

Goodwill Love Story: Store Employee Joining in on Dress Shopping Frenzy

This Valentine’s Day weekend love will certainly be in the air for one Goodwill employee shopping for her dream gown at the eighth annual “Running of the Brides” event at Goodwill in Pennsauken, New Jersey.

Yahaira Valentin, store manager of Goodwill in Bellmawr, New Jersey and her fiancé Francisco Santos, transportation manager for Goodwill, are being called the “Goodwill Couple of the Year.” The couple met on the job, and once they were both single, their love began to blossom.
When Santos proposed, he had one of his guys drive a truck to the Bellmawr store and the employees told Valentin that a shipment of really valuable goods came in and she needed to hurry back to the loading dock.

When she arrived, Santos surprised her by jumping off the truck and proposing. The store caught the whole thing on their security footage and gave it to the couple as a keepsake. Yahaira says she plans to arrive at the store at 6 a.m. Saturday to find the wedding dress of her dreams.

Valentin won’t the only one.

The store will open at its usual time, 9 a.m., but Juli Lundberg, Public Relations Manager at Goodwill, says “It’s craziest in the morning; there are people there at 6 a.m.”

The store has developed a ticketing system to manage the hundreds of customers that come to the event every year. As shoppers arrive, they are given a numbered ticket and when the doors open, they will be admitted based on that number.

Lundberg explains, “Employees will allow 15-18 brides at a time to maintain crowd control and keep it a nice experience for the women."

“The women literally run through the store to get to the bridal room. All the employees stop working to clap and it’s just an amazing moment," Lundberg said.

The store started the event eight years ago when the recession hit. Many brides didn’t have a lot of money to spend on their weddings and the Goodwill wanted to help brides look gorgeous on a budget.

That year, they only had about 40 gowns. Now, thanks to donations from local bridal salons, 400 gowns grace the store in a dedicated bridal room.

These dresses typically retail between $900 and $2500, but the Goodwill offers these brand-new gowns for between $99 and $300 and gently used gowns starting at just $39.

Gowns aren’t the only thing for sale on Saturday — the store also has jewelry, bridal veils, bridesmaid dresses, and mother of the bride dresses available.

Brides come from all over to attend the event — they have had people from New York City, Long Island, and Washington D.C. Just Friday, someone called the store and said “I’m not going to say where I’m calling from, but it’s really far away. Do you think it’s worth me making the trek?”

Brides are able to find extraordinary dresses for an amazing price, but they aren’t the only people benefiting from this event.

“This is like a fundraiser for us, the money we make allows us to offer job training and career services to our employees, so the event is really an all-around grand slam for everyone” Lundberg asserts.

Tips for Shoppers:

  • If you want the best selection, come early. If you want a calmer shopping experience, come in the afternoon.
  • Wear proper undergarments so you can see how they dress will actually fit.
  • Travel light, these gowns weigh a lot. You don’t want to lug a heavy purse around with you.
  • Bring your mom or your friends so they can give you a second opinion.
  • Come with an open mind — if you find something that’s too big, a seamstress can make alterations so it fits perfectly
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