Goodwill was founded in 1902 in Boston by Rev. Edgar J. Helms, a Methodist minister and early social innovator. Helms started Goodwill with the idea that people could earn a living collecting donated goods, repairing and selling them – that a job was better than a handout. “Not charity, but a chance,” he always said.
Helms began his mission going door to door with burlap bags asking wealthy Boston residents to donate clothing. He then hired and trained people in need – many of whom were considered unemployable because they had disabilities – to repair, mend and clean the donated items so that they could be sold in thrift stores.
Helms opened Goodwill’s doors to anyone with a “willingness to work” and became the pioneer of an organization that gave people hope, dignity and independence by providing them with the means to earn a paycheck and support their families. His social innovation set in motion a worldwide movement – Goodwill Industries – that has touched more than 5 million lives over the course of the past century.
Times have changed, but Helms’ vision remains constant. “We have courage and are unafraid. With the prayerful cooperation of millions of our bag contributors and of our workers, we will press on till the curse of poverty and exploitation is banished from mankind.”
Goodwill Industries of the Southern Piedmont began providing services to people in this region in 1965. The Southern Piedmont territory includes 13 counties in North Carolina and five counties in South Carolina. Locally, Goodwill has a retail store or provides services in eight of these 18 counties: Mecklenburg, Cabarrus, Cleveland, Gaston, Lancaster, Lincoln, Union and York Counties.
Although Goodwill has grown in the past 100 years, we cannot rest while so many people still need our services. The demand for Goodwill’s employment and training services continues to increase as a result of the changing economy. This increasing demand magnifies Goodwill’s need for donations. Last year, Goodwill received nearly 1,000,000 donations of clothing, household items and furniture from the Southern Piedmont region of North and South Carolina.