Dr. Edgar J. Helms founded the first Goodwill in the south end of Boston in 1902. Trained as a Methodist minister, Helms was determined to help his poor immigrant parishioners provide for themselves and their families. His innovative idea was to collect used household goods and clothing in the wealthier areas of the city, train those without jobs to mend and repair them, and resell or give the improved goods to the people who worked on them. From this vision, the Goodwill philosophy of “a hand up, not a handout” came to life and the Goodwill Movement began to spread to other towns and cities.
In the Bay Area, Helms worked with the Rev. Samuel Quickmire to establish Goodwill of San Francisco at an earthquake shelter at 16th & Mission streets in 1916. The third Goodwill in the United States, it spawned an additional seven Goodwill operations in Northern California over the next 20 years. Fire destroyed at least two different sites of the San Francisco Goodwill before it moved to 980 Howard St. in the late 1930s. The 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake rendered that building uninhabitable, forcing Goodwill of San Francisco (as it was then called) into temporary quarters on what was then Army Street.
Thanks to a grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Goodwill secured a new permanent headquarters site, and by conducting its first capital campaign, raised additional monies for construction of a headquarters, operations center and flagship store. Our home is now in the thriving mid-Market neighborhood at 1500 Mission St.
Goodwill Industries of San Francisco, San Mateo and Marin has focused on developing itself as a vibrant social enterprise with 21 retail stores, 33 donation sites, and an expanding eCommerce business. Goodwill’s innovative “Human Capital Transformation Model” — a strategic plan that helps Goodwill participants track their progress from a commitment to learn job skills all the way to true economic self-sufficiency — is used to provide job training and opportunities to nearly 7,000 annually.
SF Goodwill is one of more than 160 semi-autonomous Goodwill organizations that make up Goodwill Industries International.