Our History


Goodwill Industries International (Global)

In the late 1890s, Methodist minister Edgar J. Helms, pastor of Morgan Chapel in Boston’s South End, found innovative ways to help his community’s jobless, immigrant population. He conceived the idea of collecting unwanted household goods and employing men and women who were impoverished to repair and refurbish them. Income from the resold goods paid the workers’ wages. The system worked and the Goodwill method of self-help was born.

Edgar Helms

Goodwill Industries was formally incorporated in 1902, with job-skills training programs and even a rudimentary job-placement service operating out of Boston’s Morgan Memorial Chapel. Initially named “Morgan Memorial Cooperative Industries and Stores, Inc.” the organization later adopted the name “Goodwill Industries,” a catchy phrase first used by a workshop in Brooklyn, N.Y.

With Helms as the driving force, the Goodwill concept spread across the United States. By 1926, Helms was traveling the world, telling the Goodwill Industries story and laying the groundwork for an international movement. Today Goodwill has 165 member organizations in the United States and Canada, and 14 Goodwill affiliated organizations in other countries around the world.

During the 1930s, Goodwill Industries, noting a lack of services for people with disabilities, redirected its mission toward that population. Although people with disabilities had never been excluded from Goodwill Industries programs, they had not previously been the focus of the organization’s efforts.Today, Goodwill’s client population includes people with physical, mental and emotional disabilities, as well as those who face such barriers to employment as illiteracy, advanced age, lack of work experience or dependence on public support.

Goodwill Industries strives to achieve the full participation in society of people with disabilities and other barriers to employment. Opportunities and occupational capabilities are expanded through a network of nonprofit, community-based organizations. Each Goodwill organization in the United States and Canada provides vocational evaluation, training, employment and job-placement services.

Revenue for Goodwill Industries organizations comes from a variety of sources. The sale of donated goods in nearly 2,500 retail stores remains the greatest source of funding for the programs Goodwill provides. Other major sources of funding include industrial and service contract work, rehabilitation service fees and government grants, public support and salvage sales. Cash gifts and bequests are also accepted.Volunteers lead the boards of directors at the international office and all member Goodwill organizations, and fund-raising activities at many Goodwills.