Edgar J. Helms, founder of Goodwill Industries International, once declared, “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.” This charge deeply resonates today with Goodwill of Western Missouri & Eastern Kansas. Every day, we put our mission in motion so others may work. We strive to set an example of this charge through our own workforce by employing more than 50 percent of our positions with those having some type of employment barrier.
The Helping Hand Institute was founded in 1894, providing food, shelter and a work relief program for those homeless and without resources. Men carried out work projects in exchange for room and board, or earned wages breaking rock at quarries, salvaging waste material and baling paper. Others worked at the Helping Hand farm raising crops to feed the Institute’s residents. Through The Helping Hand Institute, literally thousands of citizens in Kansas City were able to obtain employment and become self-sufficient. In 1925, Goodwill Industries of Greater Kansas City, Inc. was founded, with the first Goodwill store and repair shop opened and housed at St. Peter’s Evangelical Church at 13th and Oak. By the 1940s, Goodwill’s focus was as a training center rather than a repair workshop. Services were added to include employment skills training and vocational rehabilitation for persons with disabilities. In 1956, workforce development programs were started through contracts with the state Department of Vocational Rehabilitation. Operating under the model of Goodwill programs in other communities, Kansas City Goodwill provided paid employment for persons with disabilities who repaired donated furniture and clothing to sell in Goodwill stores.
Goodwill of Western Missouri & Eastern Kansas, formally The Helping Hand of Goodwill Industries, evolved in 1978 from a merger of two agencies: The Helping Hand Institute and Goodwill Industries of Greater Kansas City, Inc. Just as it was more than more than 117 years ago, Goodwill continues to be a non-profit leader in the Kansas City region providing resources and services to individuals who have barriers to obtaining work.
At Goodwill, we believe every person deserves the opportunity to work. “Barriers to employment” is widely defined; it may be a disability or a criminal record. Individuals with barriers may be homeless, in a treatment program, diagnosed with a mental illness, or overcoming a health issue. No matter how barrier is defined, Goodwill helps break down barriers and provides people the opportunity to become self-sufficient. We believe in the power of work!