Baltimore Goodwill Industries is celebrating 75 years of helping others to help themselves, a model of success in assisting thousands of disabled and disadvantaged people to maximize their abilities and to become contributing members of the community.
From its beginnings in 1919 at the old Broadway Methodist Episcopal Church downtown, where burlap bags containing collected clothing and household goods were sorted and the items repaired for resale, Baltimore Goodwill has never strayed from its admirable purposes.
Programs have changed, certainly. Today's job training at the Arbutus headquarters uses computers to teach secretarial and financial services skills, employment has expanded over the past decade through contracts to clean large government buildings. Local industries, such as McCormick spices and Black & Decker tools, provide contract work for sub-assembly and packaging tasks; other companies hire Goodwill crews for temporary work in their factories and offices.
In all, more than 500 people work at Baltimore Goodwill, most of them with disabilities and special needs or economic disadvantages.
The 14 retail stores in the metro area are the most obvious symbol of the organization's work, as are the 25 donation sites that collect more than 4,000 tons of serviceable clothing, books and furniture each year. The Shoes for School program delivers footwear for needy youngsters, the annual Thanksgiving dinner at the Convention Center serves thousands with a comforting holiday meal.
The public diamond anniversary celebration Oct. 1 in Arbutus also marks the retirement of president Harvey E. Kettering II, after four decades of Goodwill service. He's helped to map out some future plans for his successor, including the development of new sorting-sales satellite centers in Harford and Anne Arundel counties and the start-up of activities on the Eastern Shore.
Although the donation-resale operations account for half the Goodwill operations, it is becoming more difficult to sustain, with heightened competition and changing economic patterns. A possible expansion on the headquarters site may provide greater efficiencies.
Through it all, Baltimore Goodwill has continued, with loyal support from the community, to fulfill its commitment to serve those in need, as the original slogan on its collection bags promised: "Not charity, but a chance."