Goodwill - The Helms Legacy




“Friends of Goodwill, be dissatisfied with your work until every handicapped and unfortunate person in your community has an opportunity to develop to his fullest usefulness and enjoy a maximum of abundant living.”
— Dr. Edgar J. Helms, 1941

Although it wasn’t until 1915 that the term Goodwill Industries® was coined, 1902 was the year Goodwill was born. Goodwill differed from many charities of the day, believing that donated goods could be sold for profit and that money would be used to pay workers who helped refurbish those goods. Helms hired people in need—many of whom were considered unemployable—to do this repair work. Employees were paid $4 a day. When money was scarce, workers were given $5 clothing vouchers.

With the help of Methodist Church funding, Helms went on to help establish Goodwill Industries organizations across the U.S. By 1920, there were 15 Goodwills, including Morgan Memorial in Boston. During the post welfare-to-work era, Goodwill saw the need to augment existing job training programs with the creation of an autonomous career college designed to offer low-wealth individuals a way to obtain certificates, diplomas, and associate degrees that foster middle-skills career attainment and advancement in pursuit of the “American Dream.”

Dr. Helms’ vision set an early course for what today has become a $4 billion nonprofit organization. He once 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.” He was tireless in his efforts to spread the message of Goodwill internationally, and traveled to Australia, China, Japan, the Philippines, Malaysia, Ceylon (Sri Lanka), India, Egypt, and several European countries.

Goodwill Industries of Middle Georgia, Inc. was founded in 1975 to serve individuals with disabilities and other special needs. In 1994, this organization conducted a community needs assessment to determine what new services Goodwill needed to develop in the mid-state area. In 1995, the agency opened its first Job Connection office in Macon, where anyone with a barrier to employment could receive career counseling and job placement assistance. Goodwill’s unique vocational services have helped tens of thousands of unemployed individuals discover and develop their God-given gifts and begin new careers.

In 1996, Goodwill Industries of Middle Georgia, Inc. expanded its territory into Augusta, Georgia and Aiken, South Carolina, increasing the number of service counties to 35 to become Goodwill Industries of Middle Georgia and the Central Savannah River Area (CSRA). There are three other Goodwill organizations headquartered in Georgia and two other agencies in South Carolina. Goodwill Industries of Middle Georgia and the CSRA has been recognized with numerous international awards and is one of the fastest-growing Goodwill organizations in the world.

In 2002, during Goodwill’s Centennial Celebration, a bronze medallion in Helm’s honor was added to The Extra Mile—Points of Light Volunteer Pathway in Washington, D.C., the only national monument that honors individuals who selflessly championed causes to help others realize a better America. Today, Rev. Helms’ legacy lives on – Goodwill Industries International sponsors two national awards that honor staff members in local Goodwill agencies who exemplify Helms’ values of unselfish service, self-reliance, and a strong work ethic.

Social issues addressed by Rev Edgar J. Helms that are addressed today through the work of Goodwill and Helms College:

  • Unemployment
  • Education and skills development
  • Poverty
  • Equal opportunity

For more information on Goodwill Industries of Middle Georgia and the CSRA, please visit:

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Helms Legacy was last modified: December 27th, 2023 by Olivia DeMoss