EDGAR J. HELMS
Edgar J. Helms, a Christian pastor, founded Goodwill Industries (Goodwill) in the early 1900s. His vision for Goodwill was 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.” Through Goodwill, Helms provided jobs and cheaper goods to the poor to improve their living conditions.
After Boston University Theological School, Helms was offered a pastor job in inner city Boston at Morgan Hill Chapel. Morgan Hill was a very poor and broken area of Boston. Helms was shocked by the horrible conditions of new immigrants who were homeless, without jobs, and in need of basic necessities. Therefore, Helms went to the wealthier communities in Boston looking for donation items. With these donations, Helms hired and paid workers in desperate need of a job. These employees sold the donations they were given and received $4 a day for the work.
The Methodist Church helped Helms with funding, and in the first five years, Goodwill opened 15 different locations. Helms was not satisfied with this, though, and felt the need to expand Goodwill’s mission internationally. Helms coined the phrase “not charity, but a chance.”
Goodwill provided opportunities for immigrants and the poor. The organization even provided jobs during the Great Depression when other non-profits folded. When the Great Depression was over and workers resumed their jobs, Helms was asked to expand Goodwill’s scope to employees with disabilities. Helms began advocating for equal employment opportunities for the disabled. Helms’s legacy has greatly expanded through over 200 Goodwill locations today that serve the underprivileged and disabled.
CENTERED ON CHRIST
Though Helms attempted other career paths, he felt a strong calling to ministry. Helms said it was all because of Jesus. He once stated, "I, Edgar James Helms, have often been referred to as the founder of Goodwill Industries. This is not strictly true. The originator of Goodwill Industries was the Master of men, who spoke from a Galilean hillside 1900 years ago and commanded his disciples to 'gather up the fragments that nothing be lost.'”
He continued, “We, his disciples, are commanded to 'Go thou and do likewise.' We receive our marching orders from him, who commanded us to 'seek and save the lost.' He expects us to literally, 'Feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit those who are sick and in prison.'"
As a self-proclaimed disciple of Jesus Christ, Helms founded his life on the instructions of Jesus to care for those around him. He sought to feed, clothe, and serve others.