top of page

How Goodwill was Founded

Updated: Jun 20, 2023

Have you ever found yourself in a conversation with someone questioning why it's a good idea for a country like the US to accept immigrants and refugees? At Goodwill, we've always found that through the power of work, immigrants make significant contributions to the U.S. economy. In addition to ensuring that essential services continue to be provided across the country, undocumented immigrants are also consumers whose spending power uplifts our national and local economies. Also, accepting immigrants and refugees protects the most precious right of all: The right to live. Turning our backs to immigrants or refugees in many cases could be fatal for them. Providing a safe place to work and be part of the community could be lifesaving.

One of the First Goodwill Industries Transport Trucks

Goodwill’s history extends back over century ago when Reverend Edgar J. Helms founded the first Goodwill in 1902 in Boston. The Methodist minister collected used clothes and household goods, and then trained and hired the poor and immigrants to fix them. Back then there was a higher percentage of migrating from other countries. By employing immigrants and others with barriers, he developed a method to help men and women in need by giving them hope, dignity and independence. The items were then resold or given to those who repaired them. The system worked, and the Goodwill philosophy of “a hand up, not a hand out” was born.

The First Home of Goodwill Industries

Dr. Helms’ vision set an early course for what today has become more than a $5 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."

Today, there are 165 Goodwill Industries members or affiliate organizations worldwide. Each Goodwill is an independent, non-profit organization, and a part of Goodwill Industries International (GII).

Goodwill Industries of South MS takes part in the good of international organization and was started in 1974 as a 501(c)(3) by a group of local citizens. Since then, Goodwill Industries of South MS has grown to 11+ locations for donating, shopping, and providing jobs in the Southern six counties of Mississippi. Resources for the community include Career Connections in Ocean Springs with skills training for all community members with virtual training in aviation, construction, hospitality, materials handling, mechanics, public safety, welding, and more. If you live in the area visit Goodwillsms.org to see everything they do. If not check out the resources below for nationwide resources

Resources for immigrants and refugees


Online MSW Programs for Immigrants and Refugees

Immigrant legal resource center

Immigrant Legal Resource Center


United We Dream Immigration Resources

child welfare information gateway

Child Welfare Information Gateway Immigrant and Refugee Families

37 views0 comments


bottom of page