Dr. Edgar J. Helms-, a native Iowan, founded the national Goodwill movement in Boston in 1902 to assist people in developing abilities, increasing self respect and attaining economic independence.
Locally Goodwill was founded in 1965 as Goodwill Industries of Southeast Iowa following work by the Iowa City Kiwanis Club, the Association for Retarded Citizens (now known as the ARC) and Col. Brooks Booker. Fifty years later Goodwill of the Heartland works under that same spirit of partnership, with a focus toward enhancing opportunities for those facing barriers to independence.
Within a year of establishing its not-for-profit status, Goodwill opened its first retail store in downtown Iowa City to help fund its services and create jobs for those with disabilities. Today our retail operation has grown to provide 70 percent of the funding for those vital services.
The drive for the mission and the belief it is a purpose worth sharing powers Goodwill. When Goodwill introduced its services to Cedar Rapids in 1973, it was the first expansion of many. The core belief that “Goodwill way” changes lives for the better fuels expansion throughout our territory. Goodwill now offers services in Muscatine, the Quad Cities and Clinton and is evaluating services for the far southeast regions of Iowa.
Known for its spirit of innovation, Goodwill became the first Iowa agency to receive a federal work contract under the Javits-Wagner-O’Day
act in 1977, now part of SourceAmerica. Goodwill continues today hold other federal contracts providing jobs and training. Goodwill completed its first CARF survey in 1977, netting the organization a three-year accreditation and setting a standard it has reached every three years since.
In 1984 Goodwill was one of the first organizations in the Midwest to use a flexible program to successfully meet the employment needs of individuals with mental illness. Then in 1989 Goodwill began working with individuals who experienced traumatic brain injuries and offered help in re-entering the community after injury. By 2004 the organization began working with homeless and disadvantaged veterans through a Department of Labor grant known as the Homeless Veterans’ Reintegration Program. As these benchmarks illustrate, Goodwill is in the community to help individuals overcome the diverse challenges they face.
Today, the power of your donation to Goodwill is reflected in the range of services we provide. In 2015, we served 6,178 people who faced barriers to independence. We also provided assistance to qualifying individuals in the form of credit vouchers. They allow individuals to purchase shoes or clothing in any of our stores. In 2015, the value of the vouchers distributed was $127,745.
As we look at the accomplishments of our Goodwill, we are reminded of the words of our founder. Edgar J. Helms challenged Friends of Goodwill to be dissatisfied their work until every disabled and unfortunate person in their community has an opportunity to develop to “fullest usefulness and to enjoy a maximum of abundant living.” We believe we still have work ahead.
Learn more about our history at Goodwill of the Heartland. Watch this documentary created to celebrate our 50th anniversary.