Ed Cummings was 34 when he started working for Goodwill Industries 43 years ago. Since then, this spirited man has performed many jobs for the organization, but his absolute favorite task is manning the Goodwill donation trailer at Maple and Transit roads in Amherst. Each day, Cummings takes two buses and a train from his home in South Buffalo to get the trailer open for business by 9 a.m. And each day, a line of donors will form outside the trailer carrying bags of clothing, small appliances or boxes of books to give to Goodwill. Over the years, Cummings has built a loyal core of donors, some of whom drive a good distance to bring donations to their favorite collection agent. Cummings welcomes each with a smile that rarely fades.
People Talk: What was your first job at Goodwill?
Ed Cummings: I worked on the truck traveling to Olean and Wales to collect donations from homes. That was a lot of fun but everyone passed away. We would start at 5 a.m. I’ve had a lot of other jobs, but this is the most interesting.
PT: How many hours do you work each week?
EC: From 9 to 5, five days, Monday through Friday. Last week I worked seven days. When someone doesn’t show up they always call me. I’m the dependable one. I’ll go to the other trailers, but I like this one the best. I like the people, and the time goes by fast. I worked on McKinley? I only got 25 customers.
PT: How do you get to work?
EC: I take the bus five days. When I work Saturday or Sunday I take the car because you have to wait for the bus too long on weekends. I have a lot of friends on the bus. Even when there’s a storm, I make a bus. I catch the 6:19 bus downtown and try to catch the 6:34 train and take it to the University Plaza where I get the 49 bus. I have a bus card.
PT: Are you married?
EC: Twice. Three kids from the first, one from the second. Both wives are in heaven. The second marriage was the best – 43 years. My daughter from that marriage and her husband live with me. I’ve got four dogs: a black Lab, miniature poodle, a Maltese and Jack Russell. Then I have four cats.
PT: What kind of kid were you?
EC: A bad kid. I should have stayed in school longer than the fifth grade. I grew up in South Buffalo. A good neighbor was Jimmy Griffin. I’d get all his clothes, his father’s clothes. His mother used to save me the newspaper and the pop bottles. His father worked on Katherine Street. I met Jimmy in a gin mill.
PT: Do you still go to gin mills?
EC: No. I gave up drinking and smoking. It took me 55 years to give up cigarettes. You smoke and pretty women don’t like it. My son-in-law who smoked got the pills, the patch, electric cigarette. Nothing worked. We broke him out of drinking though.
PT: What’s a good day at work for you?
EC: Saturday is my busy day. One Saturday I had 175 customers. The next Saturday, I don’t know how I did it. I must have been concentrating more, but I had 195 people. The only things I left outside were two pieces of big heavy furniture.
PT: What donations do you see the most of?
EC: Clothes. Some people bring things we should not take but I do anyway. If you don’t they come back at night and leave it anyway – like those old TVs. We get wheelchairs, bunk beds, little refrigerators, bicycles.
PT: How do you deal with temperature extremes?
EC: We have propane heat that keeps the trailer nice and warm. When it’s real hot, I go behind the trailer where the trees are.
PT: Between customers, what do you do to pass the time?
EC: Fill out receipt slips. Then they’re all made out when people want one.
PT: Where do you take lunch?
EC: I bring my lunch and eat it in the trailer. Even if I have to use the lavatory at Tops, I’ll put a slip of paper on the door. I don’t sneak off.
PT: Anything else you’d like to say?
EC: I like you.