Thursday, February 5, 2009

Edgar J. Helms

Today we honor Edgar J. Helms (1863-1942) for his leadership and founding of Goodwill Industries. With a Non-profit mission, Helms did not pursue profit in the monetary sense, but rather he pursued profit in a personal sense. His innovation into a company that grew into something huge:
"In 2007, Goodwills collectively earned more than $3.16 billion, and used 84 percent of that revenue to provide employment and training services to more than 1,113,000 individuals" (Source: Wikipedia).

Helms grew up in Iowa and was educated at Cornell and Boston Universities. His entrepreneurial spirit showed early, as he owned a newspaper with several other men. Eventually he sold his newspaper rights to go to school at Cornell, where he graduated with a BA in Philosophy.

Helms became a Methodist minister and settled in the Boston area. The idea for Goodwill was certainly simple and effective. Overwhelmed by requests for help from the poorest people, it is said that he started by taking a burlap sack to richer neighborhoods for items he could repair or give away. Goodwill officially started in 1902.

Perhaps what I enjoy most about Helms vision is that he understood the great power of mutually beneficial trade. This is simply put in part of their mission statement, "Goodwill provides opportunities, not charity, and fosters development, not dependency. Individuals are primarily responsible for their development and actions. " Helms utilized people's skills by employing them to help repair the items he collected. Today Goodwill provides job training as one of its main functions.

Today we honor Edgar J. Helms for taking private property and creating great wealth through the founding of Goodwill Industries. The wealth Helms created takes several forms. First, Goodwill Industries fosters growth of human capital, which generates other wealth opportunities for individuals. Second, Goodwill provides cheap, used goods that generate billions in revenue (and joy) throughout the world. Also, Goodwill supplies a simple way for people to unburden themselves of things they no longer use.

Sources:
Goodwill Industries on Wikipedia
The History of Goodwill
"Our Mission" from Goodwill Industries Website
Biography at Learning to Give
Famous Iowans

Here's a promotional video from youtube.

4 comments:

Amy said...

I just discovered this blog and I'm enjoying it. Thank you for the great idea and the daily inspiration!

ann said...

Thanks for reading Amy (and all of our readers). Please let us know if you have any tips or ideas.

Mrs. Reed said...

I love Goodwill! It is good to know the background behind it!

David said...

Nice choice, Ann. The mutually beneficial relationship between the non-profit world and market capitalism is woefully under-appreciated.