The History of Goodwill®
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Goodwill Industries 100 Years, 5 Million Lives
Goodwill Industries® — 100 Years of the Power of
At the turn of the 20th century, a Methodist minister
in Boston’s South End pioneered an organization
people hope, dignity, and independence. Rev.
Edgar J. Helms’ original concept was visionary,
for it is just as
relevant today as it was 100 years ago. His
social innovation set in motion a worldwide
movement that would
transform more than 5 million lives over the
course of a century—all through the power of
Edgar James Helms, founding father of Goodwill
Industries, was born in Malone, NY, in January
Helms enrolls in Boston University Theological
School. Helms had tried his hand at law and
publishing, but felt “called to the ministry.”
Helms marries Jean Preston, his childhood
Helms and two fellow students request that the
City Missionary Society support them in opening
settlement house in the North End. Instead,
Helms is offered a struggling inner city mission
in Boston’s South
End, Morgan Chapel, established a generation
earlier by Henry Morgan.
Helms meets Fred Moore, a young man on his way
to becoming a business executive. Moore
help Helms’ efforts, and begins a lifetime of
service to Goodwill. Moore is the first of many
Goodwill by the sheer force of Helms’
Using burlap bags from Thomas Wood and Company,
Helms goes door-to-door in Boston’s wealthiest
districts asking for donations of clothing and
Goodwill differs from many charities of the day,
emphasizing that donated goods could be sold for
that money would be used to pay workers who
helped refurbish those goods.
Helms’ wife Jean dies of tuberculosis, leaving
behind three children.
Helms marries Jean’s sister, Grace.
Although the incorporation of what would come to
be known as Goodwill is a few years off, the
work is well underway. 1902 would become known
as the year "Goodwill Industries" was officially
Relief efforts grow so much that Helms and Moore
incorporate that phase into “Morgan Memorial
Industries and Stores Inc.” to be run as a
nonprofit, charitable corporation.
Four-wheeled motorized trucks are first put into
service for Goodwill.
Representatives from a workshop in Brooklyn, NY,
come to Boston to learn Helms’ techniques. They
Morgan Memorial way and Helms adopts their name
The Vocational Rehabilitation Act becomes law. It aims to assist veterans with disabilities
returning from World
With the Methodist church backing expansion, by
1920 there were 15 Goodwills, including Morgan
In subsequent decades, the relationship with the
church would gradually lessen as Goodwill sought
from outside the ministry, and as federal
funding requirements made it necessary for
Goodwill to become a
more secular organization.
The slogan — Not Charity, But a Chance — is used
to publicize Goodwill's efforts to give people
independence through work.
Store receipts top $1 million for the first
About a decade after Helms had warned Goodwill
Industries to prepare for the day of economic
Wall Street crashes. Goodwill helps thousands of
people who become destitute.
Helms spreads the message of Goodwill around the
world. In August, his travels take him to
China, the Philippines, Malaysia, Ceylon (Sri
Lanka), India, Egypt and several European
countries. While on
these travels, Helms writes much of the book,
“Pioneering in Modern City Missions.”
Helms realizes Goodwill needs to have a bigger
hand in rehabilitation. In a prophetic letter,
"Goodwill will be out of business if it does not
take over work with the handicapped people.”
The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor galvanizes
Americans and Goodwill. Goodwill adopts a new
Salvage for Victory.
Helms dies on December 23 leaving behind his
second wife and 12 children. An estimated 1,500
throng Boston’s Morgan Memorial Church of All
Nations to pay final tribute.
Goodwill participates in the “Bundles for
Europe” program, sending used clothing to Allied
hit by the war.
Goodwill Industries becomes known for helping people with
disabilities through job training.
A Goodwill public relations director asks Milton
Caniff to draw a cartoon. The result is “Good
becomes a beloved and well-known symbol of
Along with its rehabilitation work, Goodwill
stores continue to flourish. Various celebrities
appeal to the public
to donate items to Goodwill. And the public
heeds their pleas, bringing tons of goods to
collection boxes and
As collections pour in, those needing work sort,
clean, price, and display items in Goodwill
thrift stores. The
organization opens its doors to anyone with a
willingness to work.
Norman Rockwell gives Goodwill the much-loved
painting, “The Paycheck.”
Goodwill becomes the uncontested leader in
Boston designer Joseph Selame creates the
universally recognized Goodwill logo.
Goodwill creates thousands of jobs and raises
thousands of dollars in revenue by contracting
and state governments, as well as private
industry. From janitorial services to
manufacturing, Goodwill finds
workers to take care of industry’s needs, and
puts people to work.
A technological revolution sweeps the globe. Seeing a major shift approaching, Goodwill
savvy, emphasizing technology in its career
Goodwills provide childcare, transportation, and
financial management assistance along with a
host of other
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is
signed into law on July 26, 1990.
Goodwill continues to evolve to address other
workplace barriers such as welfare dependency,
lack of work
experience, illiteracy, and past criminal
The United States launches an initiative to move
welfare recipients into the workforce. Goodwill
trying to get off the welfare rolls the kind of
training and support services that lead not just
to jobs, but
Helms’ dream of launching Goodwill member
agencies around the
world is realized — 36 associate members operate
Goodwill members top $1.85 billion in revenues
and serve close to half a million people with
Goodwill Industries' 100th anniversary in Milwaukee, WI.
While Goodwill Industries has an amazing history
and record of accomplishment, we cannot be
so many still need our services. Through the
21st Century Initiative, the organization seeks
to improve the
economic self-sufficiency of 20 million people
and their families by 2020. Times have changed,
vision remains constant. “We have courage and
are unafraid. With the prayerful cooperation of
millions of our
bag contributors and of our workers, we will
press on till the curse of poverty and
exploitation is banished