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Our History

Yesterday and Today

Reverend Edgar J. Helms founded the first Goodwill in 1902 in Boston. The Methodist minister collected used clothes and household goods, and then trained and hired the poor and immigrants to fix them. By doing so, he developed a method to help men and women in need by giving them hope, dignity and independence.  The items were then resold or given to those who repaired them. The system worked, and the Goodwill philosophy of "a hand up, not a hand out" was born.


Today, there are 185 Goodwill Industries members or affiliate organizations worldwide. Each Goodwill is an independent, non-profit organization, and a part of Goodwill Industries International (GII).

Goodwill Industries of Atlanta was started in 1925 as a 501(c)(3) by a group of local citizens. The group worked in a small house, collecting used goods with a horse and wagon and mending clothes on pedal operated sewing machines. In an attempt to find the right location, Atlanta's Goodwill moved its operation several times. Between 1925 and 1959, the agency called Edgewood Avenue, Butler Street, and Peters Street home.

In 1972, the agency relocated to Glenwood Avenue. It was the first site that Goodwill Industries of Atlanta constructed from the ground up. The facility allowed Goodwill to operate a store, donation center, career center, and more in one location. Goodwill merged with Ellijay-based Vocational Transitions, Inc. in July 1998. This merger reflected a commitment to expand quality services in rural areas of North Georgia. The merger allowed the agency to change it's name to Goodwill Industries of North Georgia to reflect its new service territory.

By July 2005, Goodwill Industries of North Georgia had further expanded its service delivery area by merging with Kelley Diversified in Athens, Georgia and with Toccoa Rehabilitation, Inc. in Toccoa, Georgia.

In February 2007, Goodwill of North Georgia split its agency to become Goodwill of North Georgia and Goodwill Industries of North Georgia- two separate agencies. Goodwill of North Georgia operates stores, donation centers, career centers and a variety of job training and employment services across the region. Goodwill Industries of North Georgia, our sister organization, specializes in facilities management and custodial services.

Goodwill of North Georgia provides job training and employment services to people who are having trouble finding work, want to change careers, or start their own business. With the agency’s support, Goodwill participants overcome employment hurdles caused by physical, emotional and developmental disabilities, limited job skills, poverty and other challenges. We sell donated clothing, books, furniture and household goods in stores across North Georgia and the proceeds help fund our mission of putting people to work.