Mission Services Endure During COVID-19

In 1918, Woodrow Wilson was President of the United States. Tris Speaker was roaming the outfield for the Cleveland Indians, beginning the build toward their first World Series Championship two years later. The National Football League was still two years away from being formed. And the Canton Bulldogs paused for a season, after back-to-back Ohio League Championships, due to the United States fighting and ultimately ending World War I that same year.

As we are also keenly aware, 1918 was also the year that our country dealt with the Spanish Flu pandemic that gripped the nation. During that time of difficulty and hardship, a Methodist minister named Frank Baker founded what is now known as Goodwill Industries of Greater Cleveland and East Central Ohio. Building on the foundation of J. Edgar Helms’ Goodwill movement that began in Boston, this organization was formed to serve those in need of a “hand up” in the Greater Cleveland area.

For the last 102 years, Goodwill of Greater Cleveland and East Central Ohio has built upon this legacy of service, accepting clothing and household goods from our generous donors. Then turning those donations into programs that support our mission of empowering people to reach independence, strengthening families, and providing the “hand up” people need. These are the principles upon which our organization was founded. That mission continues today.

Since our founding, Goodwill has faced many challenges—all organizations do—but the challenges presented by COVID-19, the most recent pandemic to face our world, had an immense impact on Goodwill’s daily operations. Goodwill, like many businesses and retail operations, was forced to close our doors to our donors and shoppers on March 20 to slow the spread of COVID-19 and be a part of the solution to protect our fellow community members. Our stores would remain closed for nearly two months; however, during this time, Goodwill moved forward with ensuring that our essential mission services could continue in a safe and responsible manner.

Our community employment programs continued, helping those who were laid off due to business closures across the state, or helping individuals who were employed at essential businesses, like grocery stores or healthcare facilities, ensure that they could safely maintain their employment. Our team deployed remote technology and video conferencing to continue providing “face-to-face” services, even when an individual could not be physically present. Through our partnership as a provider for Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities, our team contacted every individual we served through OOD’s vocational programs during the previous year to check-in and determine what assistance they may need. Our Young Adult Programs, funded through the Stark and Tuscarawas County Workforce Development Board continued providing life skills, employment skills, and paid work experience for the youth we serve. Our Dream to Achieve program, a program that has been supported by the Sisters of Charity Foundation of Canton, continued to serve individuals in our community with the wraparound supports needed to be successful in finding employment.

In addition to our employment programs, Goodwill’s Parenting Skills Program, serving individuals who may have had their children removed from their home or who are at-risk of having their children removed from the home, continued to serve and equip families. Our parenting staff team continued to provide “in-person” services in a safe, responsible, socially-distanced environment to ensure that the parents we serve received every opportunity possible to learn valuable parenting skills needed to reunite their families. Our home-based team used a mix of remote technology and in-person meetings and allowed parents to apply those skills in their homes, during a difficult time for parents and children alike.

COMPASS, Goodwill’s affiliate agency, serves survivors of sexual assault by providing counseling, case management, advocacy, and prevention services aimed at helping individuals recover from the traumatic experience of sexual assault. During the season of stay-at-home orders, COMPASS saw a marked increase of individuals in need of services. Additionally, COMPASS worked to adapt hospital advocacy services and school prevention services to include remote options due to restricted access at hospitals and school closures.

Finally, the Ken Weber Community Campus in Canton, home to Goodwill and 20 other non-profit organizations, remained open to serve individuals who needed assistance with basic needs and access to essential services. Our campus team worked with our partner organizations like the Stark County Hunger Task Force, to establish a drive-thru food delivery in order to ensure access to food for those in need, and Beacon Charitable Pharmacy, to ensure access to critical prescription medications for the uninsured and underinsured in our community.

Our mission has endured for over 100 years and through two global pandemics thanks to the dedication of our staff and Board of Directors.

Our mission has endured thanks to the support of local community foundations and founders.

Our mission has endured thanks to those who donate and shop in our stores.

Our mission endures.