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Goodwill’s History

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Goodwill’s History

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 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.

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.”

Even with a laudable history and record of accomplishment, Goodwill won’t be satisfied when so many people still need our services. Through our 21st Century Initiative, we aim to improve the economic self-sufficiency of 20 million people and their families by 2020. 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.”

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Arlene McCrehan
As Senior Director for Digital Media, Arlene leads the social, mobile and public web initiatives for Goodwill Industries International. Her team’s social media initiatives were recently profiled on fastcoexist.com, and recognized by the Society for New Communications Research and the International Association of Business Communicators. Blogger Beth Kanter interviewed Arlene about Goodwill’s strategic integration of mobile technology for her book, Measuring the Networked Nonprofit. McCrehan also provides guidance around information architecture, design and content in the implementation of new technologies, campaigns and micro sites. She is the co-inventor of the Donation Impact Calculator (patent pending).
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