Pursuing Social Good – A Look at the History of Goodwill Industries

Now in its second century of operation, Goodwill Industries has a history dating back to the first years of the 1900s. Today, the organization is stronger than ever as it works to help individuals and families attain better futures through the power of work. Read on for an overview of Goodwill’s history and to get a closer look at how the organization continues to improve lives throughout the United States and other countries around the world.


Reverend Edgar J. Helms and Goodwill’s Beginnings

goodwill logoLaunched through the efforts of one man, Goodwill was established in 1902 when a Boston-based Methodist minister named Edgar J. Helms began a system of collecting items from Boston’s wealthy residents and repairing them for resale to those who were less fortunate. Reverend Helms hired people in need to help with the repair and resale of the items he collected, giving rise to a self-help system that continues at Goodwill Industries today.

As Helms expanded his program, the repairing and reselling grew to include not only clothing but also furniture and other household goods. In Boston, this work was performed early on under the name of Morgan Memorial Industries and Stores. This name came from the Unitarian Church’s multidenominational Henry Morgan Memorial Chapel, which Helms led in Boston’s South End. Later, the Unitarian Church withdrew its support for the project, and Helms moved his next self-help operation to Brooklyn, New York, where the Goodwill Industries name was first used.


Goodwill Expands Nationwide and Beyond

With the success of his early efforts to help those in need, Helms took his message of “not a charity, but a chance” to other areas of the country. By the 1920s, Goodwill Industries had opened in US cities outside of the East Coast, including Cleveland, Denver, and Los Angeles.

As the number of Goodwill centers in the United States grew, Helms toured the world, visiting Europe, Japan, Korea, and the Middle East with his self-help idea. This laid the groundwork for what would become Goodwill Industries International, which now has a presence in 12 countries outside of the United States and Canada.

While the Great Depression changed Goodwill Industries’ direction in the US, the organization was still able to grow while other nonprofit groups failed because it depended on donations of goods rather than cash. In the 1930s, Goodwill Industries was thriving in over five dozen US cities and several communities outside of the country.


Goodwill’s Work in the Mid-1900s

In 1942, Reverend Edgar J. Helms died, but not before seeing the promising beginnings of what would become the thriving network of more than 150 community-based organizations that Goodwill Industries is today. During the remainder of the 1940s, the nonprofit group played an important role in assisting with the World War II home front effort by helping returning servicemen and servicewomen find gainful employment after combat.

Throughout the 1950s, the Goodwill network continued to grow, and the organization began to play a leading role in providing jobs to people living with disabilities. The 1950s also saw the majority of Goodwill agencies become self-supporting and nondenominational, moving away from the Methodist Church.

As the 1960s arrived, Goodwill stepped up its activities employing people with disabilities. Between 1960 and 1966, the organization increased the percentage of employees with developmental and/or physical disabilities from 32 percent to 42 percent. The 1960s also saw the adoption of the now-iconic “Smiling G” logo, which is still used today.


Featured Image by Mike Mozart | Flickr

Entering the Modern Era

After the nation’s first Goodwill drop-off donation center opened in the early 1970s, the organization entered a new era of accepting and selling household goods while putting underserved individuals to work. Throughout the 1980s and into the 1990s, Goodwill Industries expanded its employee population to include people with employment barriers such as lack of education, criminal history, and advanced age. During this time, the group also began to incorporate high-tech training programs into its offerings alongside those focused on basic skills development.

Another big event in Goodwill’s history came in 1999, when the organization launched its e-commerce website, which was the country’s first nonprofit online auction site. With the opening of the new millennium, Goodwill also continued to expand its traditional brick-and-mortar stores.

The number of member organizations during this time grew worldwide, providing more revenue to support programs focused on career training and job placement for people of limited employability. This work continues today as Goodwill seeks to help more people find success in the 21st century.


Goodwill Looks to the Future

What began with an innovative idea about how to help those in need has grown into a $6 billion organization with a reach extending into communities across the United States and several other countries. Over 115 years after its founding, Goodwill is looking to the future with programs and services focused on equipping people with 21st-century skills. Currently, the group is working with corporate partners such as Google, Accenture, and Indeed to provide digital skills training and other services to help people attain employment, enhance their resumes, and build their careers in the modern workplace.


Military Service Groups Receive Boost from Wounded Warrior Project

wounded warrior projectWounded Warrior Project (WWP) has been busy recently advancing its various initiatives in support of military veterans and their families. Across the country, local WWP events and activities have provided opportunities for members to socialize and learn more about the many ways that they can benefit from veterans’ programs and services.

WWP has also been working nationally to promote its own activities while supporting those of other organizations. Recently, Wounded Warrior announced its latest investments and partnerships with nearly two dozen veteran and military service groups. These organizations will receive a combined $6.9 million from WWP, which has provided over $88 million to 165 organizations over the last decade. Keep reading for a closer look at a few of WWP’s 2019 community partners.


Veterans of Foreign Wars

With a history dating back to 1899, Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) has been supporting veterans, service members, and their families for well over a century. Over the years, the group has played a major role in helping to establish many of the programs that are available to retired and active-duty military personnel.

Today, VFW’s various programs help veterans of every generation to file VA claims and access mental-wellness support services. The organization also offers scholarships for post-secondary studies and financial grants for military families in need. In recent years, VFW has distributed nearly $20 million in scholarships and other financial assistance.


Warrior Reunion Foundation

A group recently founded by two Marine combat veterans, the Warrior Reunion Foundation has been operating since 2017. As its name suggests, the focus of the organization is on reuniting veterans and active military members who served with one another in combat. Since its inception, the group has organized several military reunions and reunited more than 300 combat veterans.

The Warrior Reunion Foundation’s programs help military members to reconnect and build support networks comprised of individuals with similar shared experiences. With the support of individual donors and groups such as WWP, the Warrior Reunion Foundation is able to continue to expand its work.


Homes for Our Troops

For the last 15 years, Homes for Our Troops has been building and donating specially adapted custom homes for post-9/11 veterans who have been severely injured in combat. The organization also continues to support the veterans that it serves after their homes are completed by providing pro bono financial planning assistance, home ownership education, and warranty coverage. Additionally, the group works with other nonprofits, as well as corporations and government entities, to ensure that each veteran has access to the assistance that they need.

Since its founding in 2004, Homes for Our Troops has built more than 270 specially adapted homes across the country. The group’s work has earned it recognition as a top-rated military charity with Charity Navigator, Charity Watch, and GuideStar. Currently, Homes for Our Troops is overseeing home-building projects in several states.


Hiring Our Heroes

Hiring Our Heroes is a US Chamber of Commerce Foundation initiative that launched in 2011. The initiative leverages the support of local chambers of commerce, as well as various strategic partners, to ensure that veterans, active service members, and military spouses have access to meaningful employment opportunities in their communities.

A regular participant in job fairs and other events nationwide, Hiring Our Heroes offers a free suite of digital tools. These tools include online resume builders and resources to help veterans transition from military to civilian careers. Over the years, the Hiring Our Heroes initiative has helped hundreds of thousands of veterans and military spouses to obtain employment.


Elizabeth Dole Foundation

The United States is home to more than 5.5 million military caregivers, including spouses, parents, children, and friends who are committed to supporting veterans with physical and/or behavioral health issues. To ensure that these men and women have access to their own support services, the Elizabeth Dole Foundation promotes public policy, advances research, and leads collaborative efforts to recognize the work of military caregivers and promote their well-being.

Some of the Elizabeth Dole Foundation’s current programs and activities include the Campaign for Inclusive Care, which seeks to improve communication and collaboration between veterans’ health care teams and their caregivers. Wounded Warrior Project is a coalition partner supporting these efforts. WWP is also helping to fund research by the Elizabeth Dole Foundation to examine the needs of children of military caregivers.


WWP’s Other 2019 Partners

In addition to these five organizations, WWP is working with several other groups on single or multi-year partnerships throughout 2019. They include the following: Center for a New American Security; Vets’ Community Connections; America’s Warrior Partnership; Team Red, White and Blue; HillVets; and the National Military Family Association.

WWP’s work with these groups will help to raise awareness about the issues that the nation’s veterans face and ensure that they have access to programs, tools, and other resources to support their physical and behavioral health and overall well-being.


Disclaimer: This website contains general information about medical conditions and treatments. This information is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. No guarantee is given regarding the accuracy or validity of any statements or information provided on this website. Do not rely on this information as an alternative to medical advice from your doctor or another professional healthcare provider. You should seek immediate medical attention if you think you are suffering from a medical condition. You should never delay seeking medical advice, disregard medical advice, or discontinue medical treatment because of information on this website.


A Look at All the Latest News from Goodwill

There’s always something happening at Goodwill Industries, and the beginning of 2019 has certainly been a busy period for the community-focused nonprofit. In addition to welcoming new leadership and recognizing its top-performing executives, the organization has been hard at work promoting and expanding its various programs focused on helping people reach their full potential.

Keep reading for a closer look at all the latest stories from Goodwill.


Goodwill Welcomes a New CEO

Steve Preston

Steve Preston | Image by Wikipedia

In January 2019, Steven C. Preston officially stepped into the role of president and CEO of Goodwill Industries International. Goodwill’s board of directors selected Preston in October 2018 after conducting a formal nationwide search. In beginning his tenure as the organization’s new leader, he took over from Lorna G. Utley, an experienced Goodwill executive who had served as interim president and CEO since August 2018.

Preston’s previous professional roles include leadership positions in the public, private, and nonprofit sectors. On the national level, he served as secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) as well as administrator of the Small Business Administration.

His experience in the private sector spans more than three decades. Preston has held executive leadership roles with several large companies, including Waste Management and First Data. He has also maintained volunteer board positions with various nonprofit groups.

As Goodwill’s new leader, Preston is leveraging his varied background and experience to advance the organization’s employment counseling, training, and support services. His main goals are expanding the resources of local Goodwill organizations and strengthening strategic partnerships with outside groups.


Top Executives Receive Awards at Goodwill Annual Meeting

Each year, Goodwill Industries honors the work of its top leaders at the Goodwill Annual Meeting of the Conference of Executives. In 2019, several executives took home awards from the event, which was held February 18-20 in Miramar Beach, Florida.

The list of award-winning Goodwill executives in 2019 included those who received the J.D. Robins Jr. Distinguished Career Award. This honor is reserved for those who have served Goodwill Industries for at least 25 years.

Michelle Belknap earned the Distinguished Career Award this year for her work at Easterseals-Goodwill Northern Rocky Mountain, Inc. She joined the organization in 1988 and was appointed to serve as president and CEO in 2000. During her tenure as a Goodwill CEO, Belknap helped expand her organization’s mission programs, double the number of its retail stores, and grow its total assets by nearly sixfold.

Joseph Byrum of Ohio Valley Goodwill Industries also earned the J.D. Robins Jr. Distinguished Career Award during the 2019 Annual Meeting of the Conference of Executives. A Goodwill leader for more than four decades, Byrum has launched and expanded a number of programs at his Cincinnati-based organization. The focus of his work has been on helping veterans and those with developmental disabilities and/or mental health conditions.

Other executives honored during the Goodwill Annual Meeting included Raimo Korjus and Jim Martin. They received awards for their work in the areas of international outreach and training of Goodwill personnel, respectively.


Goodwill Promotes Stores and Programs through Social Media

In an effort to promote the work of local Goodwill organizations, Goodwill Industries recently teamed up with social media influencers on a four-pronged public awareness campaign. The campaign was led by four influencers (Carmen Flores, Nicole Mazur, Jame Jackson, and Ashley McGetrick) in the areas of lifestyle and parenting, fashion, and home décor.

During four weeks in March and April 2019, the team of influencers reached out to their combined 70,000 followers to encourage donating and shopping at Goodwill. In addition to highlighting the personal benefits of supporting the organization, the campaign focused on how Goodwill donors and shoppers help those in need while promoting a sustainable lifestyle.


Goodwill’s Digital Career Accelerator Expands Nationwide

Since October 2017, Goodwill Industries has been working with its corporate partner on the Goodwill Digital Career Accelerator. This program helps US-based workers build digital skills. Since its launch, over 250,000 people have received digital skills training through the program. It has also connected nearly 30,000 people with employment and career-advancement opportunities.

The Digital Career Accelerator provides job seekers and mid-career professionals with personalized training that ranges from a basic introduction to computers to occupation-specific tech instruction. The training and other program activities are led by Google employees who volunteer their time as trainers and mentors.

Originally launched as a one-year initiative, the Accelerator grew into a three-year program thanks to a $10 million commitment from Google. Training offered through the Accelerator is currently available at 93 locations in 34 states. Google and Goodwill are preparing to expand the program into more locations nationwide.

In April 2019, the two organizations announced that the Goodwill Digital Career Accelerator will be operating at more than 125 locations within the next year. More information about the program and other Goodwill initiatives is available at


Disclaimer: This website contains general information about medical conditions and treatments. This information is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. No guarantee is given regarding the accuracy or validity of any statements or information provided on this website. Do not rely on this information as an alternative to medical advice from your doctor or another professional healthcare provider. You should seek immediate medical attention if you think you are suffering from a medical condition. You should never delay seeking medical advice, disregard medical advice, or discontinue medical treatment because of information on this website.

Featured Image by Mike Mozart | Flickr


Here Are the Latest Big Stories from Goodwill Industries’ Newsroom

goodwill logoNow in its 12th decade, Goodwill Industries continues to make an impact in communities nationwide through its programs and activities that help people live more independent and fulfilling lives. Today, corporations, staff members, and community supporters help advance the organization’s work, which focuses on providing job training for youth, seniors, veterans, and individuals with disabilities or criminal backgrounds. As Goodwill prepares for another year of service, take a look at some of the group’s recent news highlights.


General Motors Invests in Job-Training Initiatives

Thanks to an investment of nearly a half-million dollars from General Motors, Goodwill organizations in three US communities are adding or expanding job-training programs for local residents. With the investment, Goodwill and General Motors have launched the GoodProspects for Careers initiative, which will be implemented at Goodwill Industries of Greater Detroit, Goodwill Central Texas (Austin), and Goodwill of Central and Northern Arizona (Phoenix).

GoodProspects will focus on building specific job skills needed in each community. In Detroit, Goodwill is partnering with Henry Ford College to help individuals earn an automotive technician certification. For their part in the initiative, Goodwill Central Texas and Goodwill of Central and Northern Arizona will both offer digital skills and computer literacy training to help job seekers enter careers in the IT field.


Goodwill Industries Recognizes National Disability Employment Awareness Month

Since its founding in 1902, Goodwill Industries has become a national leader in providing career training and support services for individuals with disabilities. Currently, Goodwill employs over 28,000 people who tackle each workday while dealing with some sort of cognitive or physical disability. Each year, the organization highlights the importance of advocating for people with disabilities by taking part in National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM), which is observed every October.

In 2018, the NDEAM theme of “America’s Workforce: Empowering All” aligns perfectly with Goodwill’s mission to help all job seekers develop the knowledge and skills needed to find employment. Goodwill commemorates NDEAM by highlighting the ways in which American workers with disabilities contribute to various industries. Goodwill also uses the month-long awareness event to call for additional support services aimed at reducing the unemployment rate among those with disabilities, which is more than double that of individuals without physical or mental impairments.


National and Local PSAs Celebrate Goodwill Shoppers

For the last five years, the Ad Council has partnered with Goodwill to raise awareness of the organization’s programs focused on job skills and career development. In September 2018, Goodwill and the Ad Council announced the launch of a new national ad campaign called Bring Good Home. Through print, TV, and digital PSAs, Bring Good Home highlights how each purchase made by a Goodwill shopper helps fund local initiatives that prepare people for careers in various industries, including retail, information technology, manufacturing, and health care.

In addition to the national ads, the campaign features social media activations that encourage people to share their favorite Goodwill finds using the hashtag #BringGoodHome. The advertising agency Digitas created the campaign, which is supported by digital media platforms such as Facebook, Pinterest, and Teemo. Since the Ad Council and Goodwill began its partnership, the resulting PSAs have helped drive over 360 million pounds of donations to local Goodwill organizations across the country.


Walmart Foundation Grant Extends Operation: GoodJobs Program

In its efforts to help veterans and military families gain financial stability, Goodwill Industries oversees Operation: GoodJobs, a national initiative that helps people overcome the sometimes-difficult transition from military service to the civilian workforce. Launched in 2012, the initiative was developed using a $1 million grant from the Walmart Foundation. Following a successful pilot program in two states, the Foundation provided an additional $5 million to expand services into 12 communities.

Since its launch, Operation: GoodJobs has reached over 7,800 people in California, New York, North Carolina, and Texas. In May 2018, the Walmart Foundation gave Goodwill another $5 million grant to continue the program for an additional three years. With the grant, Goodwill has expanded Operation: GoodJobs to include South Carolina. The next phase of the program will focus on providing career-development resources and job training for female veterans, who are among the fastest-growing groups in the veteran community.


Goodwill Takes Home Award for Social Media Campaign

Goodwill Industries recently partnered with Sony Pictures Entertainment on a social media campaign that reached millions of people through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other platforms. The Spider-Man-themed initiative challenged social media users to create their own Spider-Man costumes using materials sourced entirely from Goodwill stores and/or the organization’s online auction site,

The success of the campaign caught the attention of Engage for Good, which oversees the Halo Awards to acknowledge outstanding social impact programs from businesses and nonprofit groups. For its work, Goodwill was awarded the 2018 Silver Halo Award in the Best Social Media Activation Initiative category. In total, the campaign reached over 9 million social media users and chalked up an impressive 828,000 views on YouTube.

More information about Goodwill’s recent activities is available at


Disclaimer: This website contains general information about medical conditions and treatments. This information is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. No guarantee is given regarding the accuracy or validity of any statements or information provided on this website. Do not rely on this information as an alternative to medical advice from your doctor or another professional healthcare provider. You should seek immediate medical attention if you think you are suffering from a medical condition. You should never delay seeking medical advice, disregard medical advice, or discontinue medical treatment because of information on this website.