Goodwill Southeast Georgia Honors 155th Birthday of Founder

Remembering Rev. Helms and the Story Behind the Store 

January 19, 2018 SAVANNAH, GA- Goodwill Southeast Georgia remembers the “story-behind-the-store” by marking the 155th birthday of Rev. Edgar J. Helms (1863-1942) on January 19th.  Rev. Helms’ entrepreneurial vision of Goodwill was inspired by his work with the poor and disabled of Boston Massachusetts in the early 1900s.  As part of his work, Rev. Helms would collect donations of clothing and household goods from the wealthy areas of the city and train individuals on how to repair and sell the items.  This process provided valuable skills training and work for the poorest communities of Boston. 

In the early days of Goodwill, this system gave immigrants and those injured during the industrial revolution a new chance to support their families.  During the Great Depression, the population in need of Goodwill’s services and opportunities grew rapidly. From this need, Goodwill started to spread across America, operating on the principle of “not charity, but a chance”.

Rev. Edgar Helms’ vision is reflected in many of the operations you still see in Goodwill today.  The commitment to entrepreneurial spirit and the concept of a “hand up, not a handout” is integral to the success of Goodwill. Today, Goodwill Industries International represents a $5 billion nonprofit organization dedicated to the concepts of poverty eradication, education and family strengthening.

Goodwill Industries operate on a social enterprise model based on a commitment to the ‘triple bottom line’: funding direct services, positive social outcomes and reducing environmental impact via recycling and diversion from landfill.    This culture is replicated at 165 independent, community-based Goodwill agencies across the United States and Canada. Each of these agencies collects donated goods and sells them in its stores.  The revenues go to fund job training and placement programs for people in local communities.

Goodwill Southeast Georgia was founded in 1965 with a $60,000 budget and 8 employees under the leadership of CEO Edward Bartlett.  Over the past the past 53 years, they have grown into a diverse organization including operations such as manufacturing and commercial facility services – cleaning more than 1 million sq. ft. a day of installations such as Ft. Stewart, Hunter AAF, The Juliette Gordon Lowe Federal Building Complex and the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Glynn County.  The profits of these endeavors, like those of the well-known retail stores, fund Goodwill’s job training and vocational services.

Upon reflecting on their rich history, Michael Winkler, CEO of Goodwill Southeast Georgia commented that “We continue to be inspired by Rev. Helms and are driven by the deep belief that jobs really do change lives. We see it every day in the people we assist and are proud to play our part in helping our community.”

 For more information on the history of Goodwill, please visit or call (912) 354-6611.


Goodwill of the Coastal Empire Inc., DBA Goodwill Southeast Georgia, is a highly diversified 501© (3) social enterprise that funds job training programs, employment placement services and other community-based programs by selling donated clothing and household items.  Goodwill Southeast Georgia operates 17 stores and 4 Career Centers in 33 Georgia and South Carolina counties.  Goodwill also builds revenue and creates jobs by contracting with businesses and government to provide a wide range of commercial services including custodial, grounds keeping, staffing services, packaging and assembly and fabrication.  For more information on Goodwill of the Coastal Empire, please visit  Find us on Facebook at Goodwill Southeast Georgia follow us on Twitter at @GoodwillSEGA.




Anna Raby
Public Relations and Communications Specialist
Goodwill Southeast Georgia


Cynthia Barnes
Vice President, Community Engagement
Goodwill Southeast Georgia