Goodwill founder Edgar J. Helms

Goodwill founder Edgar J. Helms

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.

The Goodwill movement was born in Richmond in 1923, through the work of the Richmond Methodist Board of the City Missions. Dr. J. T. Mastin and Reverend Samuel Coles borrowed a horse, fixed up an old wagon and began putting area residents to work in its first location at 1814 E. Grace Street. In 1932, Goodwill faded from the public as Amy Guy, known as Goodwill’s modern day founder here, formed the Citizen’s Service Exchange in an old school house at 19th and Marshall Streets in Richmond. Amy Guy’s enterprise, with a budget of $4,800, was so effective during the Depression it earned her an invitation to the White House where she discussed the program with First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt.

The Citizen’s Service Exchange and Goodwill shared strikingly similar goals and they merged in 1945 under the name of Richmond Goodwill Industries, Inc. The agency took many momentous leaps over the next several decades, including opening retail stores, establishing a donation collection system, creating an industrial services division and a one-stop job center. In late 2005, Richmond Goodwill Industries changed names and became Goodwill Industries of Central Virginia to better represent the growing territory it was now serving.

In 2006, Goodwill Industries of Central Virginia and Goodwill Industries of Hampton Roads joined forces in an effort to better serve the communities throughout Central Virginia and Hampton Roads. Now one organization, Goodwill of Central and Coastal Virginia provides programs and services to the 39 cities and counties across central Virginia and Hampton Roads.

Today, Goodwill has a volunteer board of directors and over 1,200 associates that provide the leadership, management and support to serve more than 15,000 individuals and businesses annually – all in the name of changing lives and building communities that work.


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