Goodwill’s Founder Edgar Helms

Edgar Helms, Goodwill Founder

Edgar Helms, Goodwill Founder

Goodwill Industries was founded in 1902 by Rev. Edgar James Helms, a Methodist minister in Boston, who was seeking ways to help residents in the city’s impoverished South End. Helms collected used household goods and clothing in wealthier areas of the city, and then trained and hired poor people and immigrants to repair the used goods. The donations were then resold, or were given to the people who repaired them. The system worked, and the Goodwill philosophy of “a hand up, not a hand out” was born. The organization was formally incorporated in 1910. Known, at the time, as Morgan Memorial Cooperative Industries and Stores, Inc. (a reflection of its headquarters in Boston’s Morgan Memorial Chapel), it provided job skills training programs, and even a rudimentary placement service. The name Goodwill Industries was later adopted after a Brooklyn, NY workshop coined the phrase.

During the challenges of the Great Depression, Goodwill narrowed the focus of its services, from unemployed people generally, to a more manageable sector of the population that had long been neglected-America’s citizens with disabilities. Since then, Goodwill’s mission has grown to an international movement, improving the quality of life for people with disabilities everywhere. Today, Goodwill Industries has 208 autonomous member organizations in the U.S. and Canada, and 22 other countries. (175 of them are in the United States and Canada.)