In 1902 Edgar James Helms, a Boston minister, conceived the idea of collecting unwanted household goods and employing jobless men and women to repair and sell these donations. He hired people in need, many who were considered unemployable. Income from the resold goods paid the workers wages. The system was a success and the Goodwill stores, along with the method of “self-help” were born.
“A hand up, not a hand out”, was Reverend Helms’ motto. He pioneered an organization that gave people hope, dignity and independence by providing them with the means to earn a pay-cheque and support their families. Reverend Helms’ philosophy continues to flourish among more than 200 independent community-based Goodwill organizations in Canada, the U.S. and 22 other countries. Reverend Helms’ concept was visionary, for it is just as relevant today as it was over 100 years ago.
While for many years Goodwill focused on helping people with disabilities find employment, that mission has expanded over the recent years. Today Goodwill’s primary mission is to help individuals with barriers to employment become self-sufficient through training and employment services.
Goodwill Niagara began in 1994 as a branch operation of Amity Goodwill Industries Hamilton, with a small store employing five people. With support from donors, shoppers, volunteers and the community, the Niagara operation grew steadily and became an autonomous organization in 1994.
Today Goodwill Niagara employs over 100 individuals and operates six retail stores across the Niagara Region, which also function as donation centres and training sites. The Head Office is located at the Normandy Resource Centre, which was developed by Goodwill Niagara. The build also accommodates community agencies from across Niagara.
In August of 1999, Goodwill Niagara purchased the building belonging to the Royal Canadian Legion, Branch 24, located at 111 Church Street in downtown St. Catharines. This building operated as a community based, accessible facility, which accommodated community agencies. This partnership and the sharing of resources enabled Normandy Resource Centre partners to generate increased savings, which can then be re-directed into the delivery of community services and programs. This valuable partnership also helped the Royal Canadian Legion, Branch 24 maintains its presence in our community.
The Normandy Resource Centre was sold in July of 2016. Goodwill Niagara and the Rotary Club of St. Catharines relocated to 271 Ridley Road in St. Catharines. The Royal Canadian Legion, Branch 24 relocated to 15 George Street in St. Catharines, The District School Board of Niagara is now located at the Goodwill Community Building at 36 Page Street in St. Catharines.