Goodwill Industries of Arkansas

Goodwill Industries of Arkansas is a not-for-profit enterprise agency that brings work to low-income individuals who otherwise face significant barriers to employment, including generational poverty and dependence on public aid, physical or mental disabilities, homelessness, periods of incarceration, substance abuse, or long-term unemployment. Goodwill Industries serves Arkansans with a host of rehabilitation services, career services centers, retail stores, and attended donation stations throughout the state.

Goodwill Industries was founded in 1902 in the South End of Boston, Massachusetts, by Edgar J. Helms, a Methodist minister, who believed that all people should have the opportunity to work without regard to race, disability, or criminal history. Helms’s philosophy, summarized in the phrase “Not charity, but a chance,” expanded into a worldwide network of Goodwill agencies that provide transitional work opportunities and on-the-job training. Helms collected used household goods and clothing and then trained and hired those who were impoverished and disabled to mend and repair the used goods for resale. The proceeds from the sale of those items paid worker wages and created an innovative concept that would change the lives of millions of people over the course of a century and beyond.

Goodwill Industries of Arkansas was established in 1927 in Little Rock (Pulaski County). When Goodwill was first introduced into the state, operations were overseen by a board of directors, with Madge Cahn serving as the first board president. The first store was established in early 1928, and Carrie Weatherton served as the first executive director. By 2011, there were twenty-one Goodwill stores in nineteen cities in the state, but Arkansans across the entire state are served by Goodwill programs.

While Goodwill is no longer in the business of repairing donated items, it employs hundreds of people in the cycle of processing and reselling donated goods, which is still the single-largest revenue source for the agency, providing more than ninety-six percent of the funding for training programs and employment services offered by the agency in Arkansas. These programs include job training for people with disabilities and people with mental illness; basic skills courses such as GED test preparation, Adult Basic Education, Workforce Alliance for Growth in the Economy, keyboarding, and computer classes; and career services for job seekers, including resume preparation, mock interviewing, work readiness training, job placement assistance, and job retention follow up.

In June 2012, Goodwill Industries of Arkansas purchased a 572,800-square-foot industrial facility in Little Rock. Goodwill announced plans to use the facility to expand its donation operations and job training program using a clearance center, classrooms, and an expanded e-waste recycling center.

In 2022, Goodwill Industries of Arkansas was awarded a federal Second Chance Act Community-based Reentry Program Grant to expand its reentry services program for former inmates, which was established in 2009.

For additional information:
Goodwill Industries of Arkansas. (accessed January 18, 2022).

Staff of Goodwill Industries of Arkansas


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