Goodwill was founded in 1902 in Boston by Rev. Edgar J. Helms, a Methodist minister and early social innovator. Helms collected used household goods and clothing in wealthier areas of the city, then trained and hired those who were poor to mend and repair the used goods. The goods were then resold or given to the people who repaired them. The system worked, and the Goodwill philosophy of “a hand up, not a hand out” was born.
Dr. Helms’ vision set an early course for what today has become a $4 billion nonprofit organization. Helms described Goodwill Industries as an “industrial program as well as a social service enterprise…a provider of employment, training and rehabilitation for people of limited employability, and a source of temporary assistance for individuals whose resources were depleted.”
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’s network of 165 independent, community-based Goodwills in the United States and Canada offers customized training and services for individuals who want to find a job, pursue a credential or degree, and strengthen their finances. Each local Goodwill must be accredited, apply for membership and meet certain criteria established by Goodwill Industries International (GII).
Goodwill Industries – Big Bend, Inc. was founded on June 1, 1965. The first local Goodwill store was opened on Jackson Bluff Road in Tallahassee.
At that same time Goodwill collection boxes were placed in all major communities for the collection of used clothing. These donations were taken to a workshop for repair, then sold to assist disabled and disadvantaged people the area.
Over the next 35 years Goodwill Industries – Big Bend grew significantly. A Halfway House for men was established on July 1, 1972, providing temporary supervised living for Personal Work Adjustment Training clients. In 1981, Goodwill Industries – Big Bend began the Gulf Coast Division, a branch operation, with a store in Panama City, and in 1989, opened their first apartment complex for people with disabilities.
By the turn of the century, Goodwill Industries – Big Bend had retail outlets throughout the Big Bend area. The first computer training class began at the Mabry Street facility in March 2001 and Career Training Centers were added to many stores.
Now with 25 Retail Stores, 14 Attended Donation Centers, 9 Career Training Centers, and 13 Residential Communities Goodwill Industries – Big Bend, Inc. continues to grow and offer more services to people with disabilities and other barriers to employment.