History of Goodwill Industries of the Valleys

The Early Years

The history of Goodwill Industries of the Valleys begins when the organization was organized out of the old Union Mission. Founded on October 10, 1931 in Roanoke, Virginia, Mr. S.L. Thomas, was the first superintendent. He oversaw the work of 20-30 people operating a paper plant that generated about $10,000 a year. Goodwill had a cabinet and shoe shop, store, mission hall, and 32 rooms for the homeless in the three story brick building on Norfolk Avenue.

Records, dating back to 1935, list the Roanoke program as one of 89 Goodwills and the 64th program organized.


Today, Goodwill Industries of the Valleys is one of 156 independent, community-based Goodwill agencies in the United States and Canada. The organization as we know it today was created in January 2000 through the merger of four organizations with similar missions – all committed to serving people in need. The organizations were the New River Valley Workshop, Developmental Center of Franklin County, ARC, and Goodwill Industries Tinker Mountain. Because of the merger, Goodwill is better able to meet the needs of the individual communities throughout the service area.

In 2020:

  • 63,078 youth, adults, and seniors participated in Goodwill training and employment programs to help them get back to work and gain greater independence
  • 2,598 people found jobs due to the services they received at Goodwill
  • Individuals earned 6,321 industry recognized credentials that will allow them to be more competitive in their job search and to find higher paying employment

The Support Center in Roanoke provides support in finance, human resources, safety, informational technology, marketing, advancement, and compliance.

History of Goodwill Industries International

Rev. Edgar J. Helms, a Methodist minister, founded Goodwill in 1902 in Boston’s South End. Helms collected used household goods and clothing in more prosperous areas of the city. He then trained and hired workers who were poor 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.

The organization, formally incorporated in 1910 and housed in Boston’s Morgan Memorial Chapel, became known as Morgan Memorial Cooperative Industries and Stores, Inc. It provided job skills training programs and even a rudimentary placement service. The name “Goodwill Industries” was later adopted after a Brooklyn, NY, workshop coined the phrase.

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. Today, Goodwill is international in scope and the populations we serve are more diverse than ever. Yet our ultimate goal remains unchanged: to place individuals in productive and competitive employment.

There are 156 independent, community-based Goodwill organizations in the United States and Canada with a presence in 12 other countries. Learn more about Goodwill Industries International.

For more information on Goodwill Industries of the Valleys, contact info@goodwillvalleys.com.