Goodwill Celebrates 100th Anniversary

celebrating the power of work since 1919 at the beginning of the 20th century a Boston Methodist minister Reverend Edgar J Helms was concerned about the plight of immigrants who came to America with nothing his idea was simple help the impoverished not with charity but with a chance to learn trade skills determined to provide a hand up not a handout Helms put a burlap bag over his shoulder and went door-to-door asking the affluent of Boston to contribute shoes clothing household items and furniture poor men and women worked by restoring these donated items while learning trades and sharpening skills at the same time income from the resale of the goods paid their wages the goodwill movement was born and quickly spread throughout the United States both Goodwill's in Milwaukee and Chicago began in Methodist churches in 1919 our mission was to provide a chance not charity to people's society had labeled as unemployable including thousands of injured soldiers returning from World War one from the beginning the sale of donated items and retail stores provided the revenue needed to support these mission services the first Goodwill store opened in 1920 on Astor Street eight people most of them part-time were employed at the store the Great Depression of the 1930s caused unemployment rates of 25% in Milwaukee County we once again responded to the community and served as a temporary employer of hundreds while also providing a supportive environment for individuals with disabilities to help them develop work-related skills and behaviors more recently we transitioned persons with disabilities into jobs within their communities which exemplifies our belief in the power of work project search help me really by transitioning over to another job in the community I like working at Home Depot because I like to be here and I like to make everyone happy I'm historic theater where I greet customers and say good morning good afternoon welcome to the Home Depot ask them do they need help finding anything I really like working with people my dream job is doing customer service thank you good well for helping me get a job but world war ii raging military needs were at the forefront for our nation in response goodwill began collecting salvaged for the war effort our resale operations reduced consumer demand for new goods and were critical for the war effort as well then as soldiers returned home we once again worked with the Veterans Administration to provide rehabilitation and employment services for those veterans with disabilities today goodwill continues to recognize how veterans skill sets are valuable in the workforce so I served in the United States Army for almost nine years when I exited the military I felt disconnected from the community I felt like I didn't have a purpose anymore and I was really depressed but I found throughout my journey in seeking new employment that there was not clear recognition of the value that we branch to professional workforce I was searching through online job boards and I had found the open position for I read the purpose behind it and the mission behind it and I said that's for me within my first day here at Goodwill I already kind of knew that this is where I belonged you know simply walking through the hallways and seeing some of the people we serve renewed the sense of purpose in my life Goodwill did a great job of closing the gap between the veteran community and the professional workforce they saw the value and the skill sets that I possess and gave me an opportunity I am so appreciative that goodwill has seen the value and our servicemembers and I'm so thankful that they are willing to go to bat for our community and really spearhead the effort and hiring our service members the 1950s saw the baby boom and the migration of families to the suburbs responding to these societal changes goodwill set up donation containers at shopping centers and enlisted Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts to help with additional collection drives in the early 1960s the growing need for services allowed milwaukee goodwill to expand into Racine the Fox Valley and Madison and become Goodwill Industries of Wisconsin in the mid 70s goodwill looked to other revenue sources such as with Naval Station Great Lakes and a local international manufacturer by the end of 1978 Goodwill Industries of Wisconsin was serving 10% of all persons with disabilities in North America the severe recessions of the late 70s and early 80s caused a decline in US manufacturing and southeastern Wisconsin and metropolitan Chicago also felt those effects this prompted us to launch workforce development services for jobseekers in Kenosha and milwaukee County's this one-stop shop in Kenosha became a model for organizations around the country and continues to serve individuals today being a single mom and trying to find employment is extremely difficult to deal with when I was attending all everything that was available under the w2 umbrella that goodwill had to offer and I think that that drive was something that goodwill picked up on there was a position that opened up here at the Job Center and I was encouraged to apply for it I did and received the interview for the position I started working for Goodwill in 2008 when I first started I began working at the answering message center as a clerk goodwill cares about their employees they want to see you grow they understand life happens so they will offer whatever they can I'm most proud of the time that I was that I worked for Goodwill if it hadn't been for those years working for Goodwill I don't think I would have the confidence and the strength to be where I'm at today I'm just thankful for the people that believed in me the opportunities that were given to me even though I'm no longer employed with Goodwill they're still so supportive and so it's nice to to have that good we'll also embrace technology adding computer skills to our job training programs and we continued our partnership with the US Navy today over 550 individuals with disabilities are employed at Naval Station Great Lakes so my life before this was a rough one I did my own thing like so many young people do and wound up going to prison for 12 years and I got I got home from prison in 2006 I worked hard and jobs stuff like that and I I was hitting the wall for 15 months no job couldn't get a job a permanent job and I learned about goodwill when I was at the unemployment office I saw a company hire and they said we can we hire for ex-felons and it happened to be that they were doing interviews for Goodwill so I've been with Goodwill for 11 years I turned my life around with goodwill I was a full service worker after that I became a cook and then I became a manager full service manager even this situation here is why goodwill is my family because I I am somebody at Goodwill I thank God every day for all these opportunities that I've been afforded just here at Goodwill I learned that one mistake one the end of the world I learned that I wasn't defined by one bad act nor one great act that it all defines I got a great life and goodwill is definitely to thankful goodwills ability to respond to the needs of the times is the strength of the organization whether it's in workforce development or forging a relationship with the US Navy I think goodwill response to the community has really been trying to figure out how we best deliver a solution of the customer goodwill in in the Milwaukee and Chicago community have have have seen the reality of some fairly intractable problems in our inner cities the response to that was to help better understand what the challenges for those folks to get a job were and then to deliver on breaking down the barriers of helping these people go from wanting a job to learning how to get a job to learning about all the other issues they had to deal with to keep a job goodwill is special to me because it helps people that have some real challenges to employment get a job and keep a job and improve their lives and to be part of that to me is very special since 1919 goodwill has helped individuals with disabilities improve their lives and the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act in the 1990s was yet another milestone this civil rights law prohibits discrimination based on disability and requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations for employees with disabilities this opened doors to more employment opportunities Wisconsin became the first state to institute work requirements for welfare recipients in the late 90s and because of our continued success in workforce development services goodwill became the largest provider of welfare to work services in Wisconsin helping disadvantaged individuals the goodwill organizations in southeastern Wisconsin and metropolitan Chicago merged in 1999 allowing us to expand our geographical footprint rebrand our goodwill storing donation centers and serve more individuals retail revenue grew by 60 million dollars the Great Recession in the 2000s brought more changes to our communities responding to high unemployment goodwill opened several job centers in Wisconsin and Illinois that provided free resources and job search assistance for anyone we also opened a recruiting and staffing company to assist dislocated and disadvantaged workers to me the goodwill mission is about helping individuals out who have obstacles who have barriers whether it's a disability or whether they're disadvantaged and trying to put them in a spot where they can feel better about their place in life and the impact you can make on that network of people by touching that one life it's what we're here for today goodwills revenue is reinvested into our businesses in socially responsible ways from our brick-and-mortar stores and e-commerce document destruction and commercial laundry to our staffing services and electronics recycling our social enterprises and partnerships with companies and communities help us to improve human and environmental well-being the reason why goodwill has continued to grow and prosper is because we're not focused on just doing what we've done in the past you think about a cycle e-commerce the things that weren't even on the radar as nine years ago we were thinking about what we should be doing in the future goodwill has been able to adapt to what will make it successful and to look for those opportunities to make it successful and to look for the ways to serve those individuals that are part of the mission I'm excited about what it's going to do for goodwill as an organization the fast pace of Technology and the problems associated with discarding computers and other electronics influenced Goodwill's decision to create an electronics recycling business in the past year goodwill has recycled more than 4 million pounds of materials keeping it out of landfills while providing job opportunities for individuals with disabilities or disadvantages one of the most rewarding aspects of working at Goodwill is witnessing the real transformation in the lives of the people that we serve and in the lives of our own goodwill employees we have the privilege of seeing firsthand confidence develop problem-solving occur in the dignity that comes from work in the last 100 years our services have changed to respond to the needs of the times we began by helping people with disabilities and disadvantages repair donated items we helped connect our neighbors with basic services during the Great Depression and we're proud to provide training and jobs to wounded soldiers coming back from World Wars we train people on computers when technology transformed the workplace and during both the Depression and numerous recessions we have been instrumental in connecting people to jobs remaining grounded to our mission what started in the basement of a Methodist Church remains as vibrant now as it did in 1919 as we celebrate our 100th anniversary it is for all of us to pause and reflect on the accomplishments others have done before us as we lay the foundation for the next 100 years you

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