Turning Drexel Banners Into Fashionable Bags With Goodwill

One of the instructors in the promotional material recycling program run by Goodwill Industries, with which Drexel is now partnered.

Ever wonder what happens to the banners you see once the events they’re announcing are over?

Well, in many cases, they lay folded up somewhere cluttering an office.

“I had four literally collecting dust and just felt horrible about throwing them out,” said Maria Walker, project manager of Drexel’s Office of Community and University Partnerships.

Now, through a partnership between Drexel and Goodwill Industries of Southern New Jersey and Philadelphia, those banners will stop collecting dust and become key to a program providing marketable skills for those who have formerly been incarcerated.

Goodwill has provided an instructor for the Dornsife Center for Community Partnerships’ KEYSPOT community computer lab for several years, and Walker became familiar with the organization.

“Just in talking to my Goodwill colleagues, it came out that they have this special program to turn old vinyl banners and other promotional materials into bags,” Walker said. “It supports their workforce re-entry program. These are ex-offenders who get skills and learn how to operate a commercial-grade sewing machine.”

Examples of the bags made from old promotional material.

Acceptable donations include banners, flags, tablecloths, etc., made from vinyl, canvass, nylon or other heavy-duty materials. If your department has items to donate, please drop them off at LeBow Engineering Building, Suite 239 or the ExCITe Center, Suite 100.  

“Once donated to Goodwill, banners will be transformed into one-of-a-kind, all-purpose tote bags,” said Mark B. Boyd, president and CEO of Goodwill Industries of Southern New Jersey and Philadelphia.

Samples of potential bags from Drexel banners feature the Dragon logo prominently on the side.

“Best of all, the project gives ex-offenders the opportunity to learn a new trade while earning real wages, making it sustainable on multiple fronts,” Boyd said.

A Center for Economic Policy and Research study in 2010 cited research that found that the unemployment rate of former offenders was between 15 and 30 percent. The study also found that many of those who were released did not have the education or job skills that many of those they were competing for jobs with did. As such, the unemployment rate and low prospects of employment led to increased recidivism rates.

Drexel’s commitment to the community makes partnering with Goodwill on the training program a win-win.

Additionally, there may be a business opportunity for the school in the future.

“In the long-term, if we get enough materials donated at Drexel, we could sell the bags in the bookstore,” Walker said.

According to her, the University of Pennsylvania does something similar with its Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology.

“We’re not there yet but we may have some old promotional materials that could now have a good use,” Walker said. “We’re hoping to have this be an ongoing thing.”

Donate materials at donation bins: LeBow Engineering Building, 3110 Market Street, Suite 239 or the Excite Center, Suite 100, 3401 Market Street. Contact Sherry Levin at slevin@coe.drexel.edu for more information.