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The History of Goodwill

Celebrating the Power of Work Since 1902

Goodwill was founded in 1902 by the Rev. Edgar J. Helms in Boston, Massachusetts. A Methodist minister and early social innovator, Helms sought to fight poverty—not with charity but by allowing the poor and unemployed to perform productive work. Determined to provide “a hand up, not a handout,” Helms threw a burlap bag over his shoulder and went door-to-door, asking affluent residents of Boston to contribute shoes, clothing, furniture, and other used goods.

Rev. Helms then put poor individuals to work, mending and restoring the collected items while learning trades and sharpening skills. Income from reselling the goods paid the workers’ wages, and eventually, an industrial school developed.

With Helms as the driving force, Goodwill Industries spread throughout the country. Its network of 165 independent, community-based organizations in the United States and Canada offers customized training and services for individuals who want to find a job, pursue a credential or degree, and strengthen their finances. Each local Goodwill must be accredited, approved for membership, and maintain specific criteria established by Goodwill Industries International.

In 1933, Goodwill Industries of Northwest Ohio began providing employment and job training for thousands of men and women with disabilities and work-related disadvantages.

Although our services have evolved, our belief in the Power of Work remains unchanged.

Early Goodwill Shop

It is ability, not disability that counts.

Rev. Edgar J. Helms, Founder of Goodwill Industries

Edgar J. Helms

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