How Goodwill Has Been Helping People Go To Work for More Than 100 Years!

Goodwill, Work and People with Disabilities By GII Director of Mission Strategy Brad Turner-Little Ask people about Goodwill, and they will recall some association with the disability community but won’t know much more than that. That association comes from a long and active history of Goodwill creating opportunities for people with disabilities where they previously didn’t exist or were significantly limited. Nearly 30 percent of Goodwill’s total workforce (113,000 people in 2012) report having a disability. Overall, Goodwill provided workforce development and/or financial wellness services to more than 270,000 individuals with disabilities last year alone. This commitment to employing and serving goes back to some of Goodwill’s earliest days. Although established to serve a primarily immigrant population, Goodwill soon saw the business model as one that could create opportunity for people with disabilities. In 1919, Rev. Edgar J. Helms, Goodwill’s founder, noted that the organization’s operations could and should create opportunities for veterans with disabilities coming back from the Great War. Through the 1920s, more and more Goodwill agencies used their donated goods retail enterprise to create employment and training options for members of their communities who had disabilities when no one else would hire them. In the 1930s, Goodwill solidified its commitment to people with disabilities by focusing its service strategies and hiring practices to create opportunities primarily for this segment of the population. “The handicapped (sic) do not want jobs given to them because of an emotional interest in their situation,” said Helms’ successor Oliver Friedman. “They want jobs given to them because of their ability to do the jobs.” This commitment grew over the remaining decades of the 1900s, with Goodwill agencies exploring and implementing innovative strategies to employ people with disabilities. They were early adopters of supported employment in the 1980s, and Goodwill’s Career Development Service Model of the mid-1990s was grounded in person-centered planning principles, a yet-to-be-implemented concept in disability employment. Local Goodwill agencies received U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) Work Incentive Grants to assist local workforce investment boards and One-Stop Career Centers in better serving job seekers with disabilities in the late ‘90s and early 2000s. They partnered with the boards to participate in customized employment projects, funded by the DOL Office of Disability in the mid 2000s. Today Goodwill agencies serve millions of people each year, connecting them to work and supports to achieve financial wellness. Individuals with disabilities continue to be an important segment of those seeking our help. Our holistic, person-centered approach is grounded in years of experience of seeing the person, not the limitation. The innovations in our service strategies trace back to creating pathways for more people with disabilities, increasing options for employment and developing new tactics for access. Just like in the 1930s, people with disabilities “do not want jobs given to them because of an emotional interest in their situation. They want jobs given to them because of their ability to do the jobs.” Locally, Ohio Valley Goodwill has been serving the Greater Cincinnati community for 97 years and last year, helped more than 3000 individuals with skills training, personal development and job placement. 824 of these were assisted to obtain community employment. Ohio Valley Goodwill Industries takes great pride in the personal success of the men and women with disabilities and our nation’s veterans that the organization serves. Thank you Greater Cincinnati for your support over the past 97 years.

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