A Brief History of Goodwill

Goodwill is much more than a place to buy good used clothes.

Photo: Shutterstock

Goodwill is much more than a store where people can buy good quality, used clothing and accessories. Its history goes back to the turn of the 20th Century.

In 1902 Reverend Edgar Helms founded Goodwill. He was a Methodist minister who collected household goods and clothing from wealthy areas of town. He then trained and hired poorer people to repair the secondhand goods. He then resold them or gave them to those who had repaired them.

This is essentially the same concept of the current Goodwill model. It is just as necessary 100 years later. The goal for his organization is to provide resources and training to those of limited employability by selling the donated goods for profit.

By 1905, the organization had grown so much that it was restructured as a charitable corporation. In the next 20 years, Goodwill grew massively and had more than 15 locations. It initially relied on the support of the Methodist church but it had to reduce its relationship as it grew. It needed to become more secular to gain federal funding and look to other leaders.

The slogan “Not Charity, But a Chance” gained Goodwill even more popularity and the store topped $1 million in profits for the first time. When the stock market crashed, Goodwill served thousands more people.

After the Great Depression, Helms brought the Goodwill concept worldwide and worked to continue to provide training and work to anyone with an interest in working. This included working to hire more welfare recipients and people with disabilities.

Goodwill is now a $4 billion nonprofit, but they say they won’t be satisfied with so many people still needing their services. They aim to improve the self-sufficiency of 20 million people and their families by 2020. They will do this by continuing to break down workplace barriers like illiteracy and criminal histories.

So, the next time you go to Goodwill to shop for some cool clothes or cheap small appliances, remember that this organization has a long history of helping people with employment issues get back into the workplace.

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