Goodwill Industries International, Inc., widely known as Goodwill, is one of the most well-known charitable organizations in the United States and also has a presence in 13 other countries. While a majority of people only see Goodwill as a retail thrift chain and a place to donate their gently used clothes, furniture and household goods, this is only a portion of our nonprofit organization’s goal. We're also a social service agency dedicated to helping people in the communities it serves by providing job skills training and services they need to obtain gainful employment and improve their lives. This dedication began more than 100 years ago and continues to be a driving force in communities across the country.
From Humble Beginnings
Goodwill got its start in Boston in 1902 when Methodist minister and early social innovator, Reverend Edgar J. Helms developed a new system to help the poor. Helms set out to collect used clothing and household goods from wealthier areas of the city. He then hired and trained poverty-stricken individuals to mend apparel and repair household items like furniture and appliances. Once refurbished, everything was either resold or given to the individuals who performed the work. A new philosophy was born, “Not Charity, but a Chance,” and the system worked well. It allowed individuals to break away from the degradation of asking for a handout and instead infused them with the dignity of earning for themselves.
Growth of a Charitable Giant
Goodwill differed from many of the other charities of the time by establishing stores where donated items could be sold for profit. Then, these monies could be used to pay the workers that helped repair the various goods. Helms believed that everyone had the potential to work, given the right opportunities and training. By working and doing for themselves, disadvantaged individuals not only kept their dignity, they also were empowered to take charge of their situations and make their lives better through their own toil. The system worked so well that Helms’ vision grew into what has become a multi-billion-dollar nonprofit organization inspired by the same principles. While Goodwill workers no longer repair items, the same business model is used today in every one of our more than 3,200 stores.
Several of these stores are operated by Goodwill Industries of Greater Cleveland and East Central Ohio, Inc. This Goodwill was formed by the merging of Goodwill Industries of Greater Cleveland and Goodwill Industries of East Central Ohio, Inc. in 2005. Together we have been serving local communities throughout Cleveland, East Central Ohio and a portion of West Virginia for nearly 100 years. We serve 10 counties, including Carroll, Cuyahoga, Geauga, Harrison, Jefferson, Stark, Tuscarawas and a portion of Lake Counties in Ohio and Brooke and Hancock Counties in West Virginia. We not only have retail stores located throughout these areas, but also offer various programs to help improve employment opportunities and the quality of life for all the individuals we serve.
Although times have changed, Helms’ vision has remained intact. Goodwill continues to strive to help communities everywhere. With your donations and patronage of the many retail stores around the country, you can, too.