Goodwill Industries International was founded in 1902 in Boston by Rev. Edgar J. Helms. Helms collected used household goods and clothing in wealthier areas of the city, then trained and hired poor people and immigrants to mend and repair the used goods. The goods were then resold or were given to the people who repaired them. The system worked, and the Goodwill philosophy of “a hand up, not a hand out” was born.
During the decades that followed, Helms’ vision spread as Goodwill organizations sprung up throughout North America. The depression era brought an increased focus on people with disabilities. In later years, people with economic and social barriers to employment began to benefit from Goodwill’s outreach.
Goodwill of Greater Washington History
In 1930, Elizabeth Murray, a social worker and advocate for people with disabilities, who strongly believed in the Goodwill mission, initiated a campaign to establish Goodwill of Greater Washington (Goodwill) in the nation’s capital.
For five years, Mrs. Murray recruited community leaders and solicited funds. On May 31st, 1935, Mrs. Murray and six other community leaders signed the incorporation papers for what was then known as Goodwill Industries of Washington, DC.
In 1939, a generous $100,000 donation from Anne Hubbard Davis allowed Goodwill to purchase its own building at 1214 New Hampshire Avenue. Thus Goodwill of Greater Washington’s legal name is Davis Memorial Goodwill Industries. By then, Goodwill had 126 employees, 5 stores, a dry cleaning plant, shoe and furniture repair shops, and 5 trucks.
In 1956, Goodwill opened a comprehensive rehabilitation center to serve the large number of veterans with disabilities. Employees refinished and restored donated items which were then sold in Goodwill stores.
Since then numerous volunteers have worked diligently to help generate both money and awareness for Goodwill’s critical mission to provide job training for people with disabilities and disadvantages. The Goodwill Guild, a group of women volunteers, played an intricate key role in facilitating fundraisers to benefit Goodwill’s mission.
These fundraisers included a benefit performance of “Portrait of Jennie” sponsored by First Lady Bess Truman, a luncheon fashion show at the Terrace Room of the Shorham Hotel, another fashion show, “Holiday Internationale,” held in the Grand Ballroom of the Willard Hotel, daily open houses where Washington diplomatic and society hostesses volunteered their services to pour tea, and an annual benefit “Bookworms” in the guise of a literary masquerade at the Sheraton Park Hotel held by honorary patroness Mrs. Lyndon B. Johnson.
We are mostly well known for our Annual Embassy Tours, Annual Used Book Sale, and The Fashion of Goodwill.
The Annual Embassy Tours went on for 52 years and ended when the 9/11 attacks occurred for security reasons. This popular event brought people from all over the U.S. and was mentioned in the New York Times and Los Angeles Times promoting the annual event. First Ladies such as Nancy Regan and Hillary Rodham Clinton participated as chair members. All money raised went to Goodwill’s mission.
Goodwill was known to have had the biggest Goodwill Industries’ Annual Used Book Sale event on the East Coast, which went on for 41 years. People would come from all over to start waiting in lines early in the morning to purchase their books for 50 cents. One year the First Lady, Barbara Bush, participated as a volunteer at one of the book sales held at the Convention Center.
Several years ago, Goodwill of Greater Washington became known for its unique fashion shows. The Fashion of Goodwill began in September 2005 changing the face of our thrift stores. Shopping at Goodwill became very trendy and our stores became a shopping destination for both the young and hip, and the mature and stylish.
On September 12, 2007, we launched the very first Virtual Runway Show & Online Auction. This was a huge success for Goodwill! We gained public media attention in The Washington Post and CNN. From then on we were mentioned in fashion blogs and other fashion news while promoting that all purchases made at Goodwill stores went to provide free job training for people with disabilities and disadvantages.
Again, on September 28, 2008 we launched a virtual fashion and live fashion show with a French theme at The French Embassy creating yet another successful event. This landed Goodwill on the front page of The Washington Post.
In 2014 Goodwill launched the largest and most impactful workforce development program in the organization’s history – the Marriott Marquis Jobs Training Program. In partnership with the global hospitality brand and the DC Government, we provided training to hundreds of employees of the Marriott Marquis, Washington, DC, a new hotel that opened across the street from the DC convention center.
In 2016 Goodwill of Greater Washington opened its first Goodwill Excel Center Adult Charter High School with the goal of providing a diploma awarding high school education to DC residents who had previously left high school. By mid-2023, the school had graduated more than 700 students and opened its second campus.
Today, Goodwill operates a successful chain of 21 retail stores, cleans millions of square feet of office space; and employs more than 1000 people. 70% of the manhours performed at our AbilityOne contract sites are by team members with a significant disability, who earn an average wage of more than $20 an hour with benefits.
Goodwill’s future now includes a bustling sustainability center that presently recycles plastics, with glass being added soon. We’re also applying for an affordable housing permit in Arlington County, VA. If approved, we would become the first Goodwill agency in North America to combine a retail store and donation center with affordable housing units in the same building. This daunting initiative will remove a huge barrier to employment for many people in the region.
Goodwill of Greater Washington is an Internal Revenue Code 501(c)(3) nonprofit workforce development organization that has helped tens of thousands of Washington metropolitan area residents get jobs since 1935. With your continued support we can serve thousands more!
And we continue to evolve.
Other Historical Goodwill Facts
First Lady Bess Truman Heads Sponsors of Goodwill Industries Show
- Benefit performance of “Portrait of Jennie” at the Trans-Lux Theater with proceeds to go to the Davis Memorial Goodwill Industries
- Seeking $25,000 to continue it’s rehabilitation services
1st Goodwill Fashion Show, November 8, 1950
- The Goodwill Guild of the Davis Memorial Goodwill Industries held a luncheon fashion show at the Terrace Room of the Shorham Hotel. Daytime and evening fashions by well-known American designers were featured.
2nd Goodwill Fashion Show, “Holiday Internationale”
- Sponsored by the Advertising Club of Washington & the Davis Memorial Guild of Goodwill Industries in cooperation with Holiday Magazine in the Grand Ballroom of the Willard Hotel
- Fashions came from Julius Garfinckel; featured travel and resort wear
- Commentary by Ruey Messenger
“Employ the Nationally Handicapped Week”, October 13, 1951
- President Truman & District Commissioners officially announced “handicapped week”
- Window displays, spot radio, and television announcements
- Held an open house
Open Houses, 1953
- Tours were held daily
- Washington diplomatic and society hostesses volunteered their services to pour tea
- It was encouraged for people to come to “a practical demonstration of everyday Good Samaritanism.”
- Junior Guild of the Davis Memorial Goodwill Industries stages its 12th annual benefit in the guise of a literary masquerade at the Sheraton Park Hotel
- Wear costumes of story-book characters
- Honorary patroness was Mrs. Lyndon B. Johnson
- A benefit to help provide job training for people with disabilities and disadvantages
Boy Scout Good Turn Day, Nov. 13th
- Cub, Boy, and Explorer scouts conducted a door-to-door campaign to collect clothing, household items, and toys for refurbishing.
- More than 25,000 bags were collected
New Rehabilitation Center
- The new center opened officially when Mrs. Dwight D. Eisenhower cut a blue and gold ribbon across the entrance.
- This project was possible because of a Federal Grant of $92,500 extended through the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation, Department of Health, & Education and Welfare.
- This was part of National Goodwill Week for which president Eisenhower issued a personal message calling attention to the role of Goodwill Industries throughout America in providing employment, training, and rehabilitation services for handicapped and disabled men and women.
2005 Birth of the Fashion of Goodwill
- In September of 2005, Goodwill introduced a new fashion show at the Ronald Reagan Building & International Trade Center called the Fashion of Goodwill Runway Show & Auction.
- Over the next several years the event moved around town to unique locations including the French Embassy, the Italian Embassy, and the Marriott Marquis
2014 Marriott Marquis Job Training Program
- In partnership with Marriott Corp. and the DC Government, Goodwill provided training to hundreds of employees of the Marriott Marquis, Washington, DC, a new hotel that opened across the street from the DC convention center.
2016 Opening of The Goodwill Excel Center
- The Excel Center became the first adult charter high school in the District of Columbia to offer a high school diploma rather than a GED to residents who had previously chosen to leave school.
2021 Trex Recycling Program
- Goodwill partnered with Trex to collect and recycle plastic materials that would be converted into composite decking, keeping millions of pounds of plastic materials out of area landfills.
Goodwill of Greater Washington is an Internal Revenue Code 501(c)(3) nonprofit workforce development organization that has helped tens of thousands of Washington metropolitan area residents get jobs since 1935.