In 1895, when Rev. Edgar Helms founded Morgan Memorial Goodwill Industries in Boston, Massachusetts' South End, he didn’t call what he was creating a social enterprise. He called it work – work as a way for people to lift themselves from poverty.
"The way out of poverty is productive work. People deserve to be able to work. People need a chance, not charity," Rev. Helms said.
Rev. Helms conceived the idea of collecting unwanted household goods and employing impoverished immigrants to refurbish the goods for resale. The work provided local residents with jobs while the sale of goods provided low-cost items for the community and paid the workers’ wages.
The system proved a success, and Morgan Memorial Goodwill Industries became the first in what is today a worldwide network of 165 organizations in the United States and Canada and 14 affiliated organizations in 13 countries that has helped more than seven million people facing barriers to employment. We also became, unbeknownst to Rev. Helms, one of the region’s first models of a successful social enterprise.
Over the years, the range of Goodwill’s work has broadened significantly. Today, we serve individuals who face a variety of barriers to self-sufficiency, such as physical, intellectual and developmental disabilities; homelessness; low educational attainment; limited job skills; and welfare dependency. Through training and work programs, career services, youth outreach, and retail and other social enterprises, Goodwill helps to equip individuals with the tools necessary to meet new challenges and create more rewarding and independent lives. Goodwill is one of the largest employers of people with disabilities in New England.
Goodwill is non-profit, tax-exempt organization with a staff of more than 300 and an operating budget of $34 million.