Celebrating our founder on January 19

Reverend Edgar James Helms

The Reverend Edgar James Helms

On January 19,  Goodwill Industries International and its 164 affiliated agencies celebrate the 154th birthday of our founder, the Rev. Edgar James Helms, who established our guiding principles of “a hand up, not a hand out.”

Helms once wrote, “Work greatly enhances the morale of those who help themselves and others by their labor in our industry. Not charity, but a chance.”

Helms believed in the power of work and opportunity. As a young Methodist minister of an inner city mission in Boston’s south end, he was touched by the plight of immigrants in the community who didn’t have jobs, food, clothing or shelter. In 1902, Helms took burlap bags and went door-to-door in the wealthiest areas of Boston, asking for donations of unwanted clothing and household goods. This was the infancy of Goodwill.

Even before its name was established in 1915, Goodwill sold the donated goods, and the monies were used to pay employees who helped to repair and to refurbish the donations. Helms hired people in need and many of whom could not find employment anywhere else. In 1934, he decided Goodwill needed to have a bigger hand in employing people with disabilities. Under Helms’s guidance, the Goodwill mission spread across the county within a few years.

Helms has continued to impact every community that Goodwill serves because his beliefs are the foundation for its mission. Just like Helms, Southern Oregon Goodwill  believes in the power of opportunity, education and work.

Happy birthday to the man whose legacy is witnessed in nearly 37 million people who seek Goodwill services and nearly 300,000 people nationwide who earn jobs with Goodwill’s help each year.

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