PITTSFIELD — Like many youngsters, David Twiggs delivered newspapers when he was a kid. But, unlike many other kids, Twiggs turned his route into an entrepreneurial venture.
He learned how to deliver a large number of papers effectively and efficiently, and in doing so helped his family become the sole newspaper deliverer for the entire public housing project in Springfield where he grew up.
Twiggs no longer delivers newspapers, but now he is using the logistical savvy that he first discovered on that long-ago paper route in his position as president and CEO of Goodwill Industries of the Berkshires and Southern Vermont, which is based in Pittsfield. As the nonprofit's chief operating officer, Twiggs helped Goodwill develop a plan to distribute the donations it receives throughout its territory more efficiently. This process created more money, which allowed Goodwill to establish more of the job-training programs it provides.
We talked with the Lenox resident recently about Goodwill's mission, and his background, which includes stints on the staffs of two former Berkshire special education institutions, the DeSisto and Kolburne schools, and several retailers. He once served as operations manager for Macy's, when it was located in the Berkshire Mall in Lanesborough.
Q: Your biography on Goodwill's website states that you worked in retail before joining Goodwill. How did you get from there to where you are now?
A: I was director of operations at Macy's until shortly before it closed, and before that, I had the good opportunity to work with Target when they opened the Target store [in the mall]. Prior to that, I was part of [Target's] logistical team that helped open all their stores throughout the eastern corridor. So, that logistics background, those experiences, once I got to Goodwill, Frank [Engels, whom he succeeded in the top spot in 2017] tapped that.
I went to Goodwill as a volunteer [in 2012]. I was at a crossroads in my life, so, I ended up doing some volunteering and ended up on Goodwill's door.
Q: What happened next?
A: For me, volunteerism was really just giving something back.
When I first got to Goodwill, my logistics brain really couldn't figure out what the company was. My first year of volunteerism was just trying to help them sustain. ... [Then], a lightbulb went off, and it triggered [the thought] that this is logistics, it's not retail. ... I was able to take my past experience in logistics and help Frank and the division put together a call for a strategic five-year plan [Goodwill's strategic plan, known as "Plus Four," began in fiscal 2021].
Q: How does logistics figure into this?
A: So, Goodwill is in the donation business. As we take in donations that equals our mission ... out comes the programs. ... You want to go from the donation door to the sales floor in 24 hours. ...
You have to do what is called a quality control. If you get 25 bags each, one [might] have 25 different things in them and none of them are alike. Some are high quality, some of them are medium quality, some of them are trash and some of them are recycling.
So, from the gateway of the donation, you have to set best practices into [motion] and try and get the best-quality donations to the floor in the shortest period of time. If it's trash, you get it to where the trash is in the shortest period of time, and if it's recycling, you get it to recycling in the shortest period of time.
Q: Why was it so important to establish a more-efficient distribution system in Goodwill's local territory?
A: In this particular case, when I worked as a volunteer, to coin a phrase of Goodwill's, [the process] was in a bottleneck. ... The best-quality stuff wasn't getting to the store efficiently, and the trash wasn't getting to the trash efficiently. So, you do the job the best you can with the resources that you have, and my job was to make it more efficient.
Q: Where does your background in logistics come from?
A: I firmly believe that it started from my mother, when I was a kid in elementary school.
I grew up in a single-family home [in Springfield]. We lived in the Duggan Projects [John J. Duggan Park]. My mother, for one kind of reason or another, got us into delivering newspapers. My paper route was about 30-something houses. ... That helped support us at home. Interestingly enough, I had some kind of drive at that age. We ended up, as a household, taking over the paper route for the entire project.
So, the entrepreneurial spirit started at a young age. Then it went into Kool-Aid stands. Here's a young kid, whose got two Kool-Aid stands on two corners. ...
I was an avid little fisherman. ... I sold fish to my mother's friends. ... When I upped my game was in the wintertime. I learned that I could tie a string on my shovel and have it connected to me as I delivered papers. So, I would shovel my way to the door and then I would get paid.
Q: So, you would actually shovel your way to the door while delivering newspapers and say, "I shoveled your walk, can you give me a little more?"
A: My revenue almost tripled. This was all in elementary school. I really believe that the entrepreneurial spirit at a really young age launched this ability to connect the dots to get in there and make things happen to equal something and, if you think about it, to make it more efficient.
Q: A lot of people see Goodwill as just a place to drop off items. But, I know there's a big job-training component attached to what Goodwill does. So, would you describe Goodwill as more of a donation center, or more of a job-training center?
A: Our commitment at Goodwill is to take that donation and transfer it into an outcome connected to a program that is connected to the communities that we serve.
Q: So, how do you determine that?
A: We do feasibility studies. Through those feasibility studies, we determine the needs of the community through the resources that we have.
A good example is that, right now, we're looking at communities with people that have GEDs (General Educational Development certificates), or lack high school diplomas, from 25 years and up. The higher percentages become a target market for us for our business within the footprint of delivering customers. ...
Our mission in our communities is to help individuals in our communities overcome barriers to employment, and obtain independence and gain confidence and enhance the quality of their life through vocational and educational training and other support services. ... For every donation that we take in, it's roughly about 80 to 87 cents on a dollar (that Goodwill receives) to provide services.
Q: Where do you see Goodwill heading in the next three or four years?
A: Right now we're working on our strategic plan. ... We're looking for expansion throughout the territory. We have potential for expansion in our Brattleboro (Vt.) community.
Q: What about the Berkshires?
A: I think there's an opportunity to move into a larger facility for our donations and our warehousing and in our central operations in this area. We're aggressively looking for that, in addition to upgrading our stores. We're always looking to upgrade.
Q: What do you like the most about your job?
A: Every day I look out at the organization, and the heartbeat that drives me is the leg up. How can I improve the lives of those who serve and that work with us on a day-in, day-out, basis? ... Every day I try and make a difference.