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10 Decades in 10 Months of Evergreen Goodwill: 1920s

POSTED December 21, 2023 IN: Community

10 Decades In 10 Months Of Evergreen Goodwill 1920s

Beginning in May 1923 at the corner of Boren Avenue and Virginia Street in Seattle, a group of businesspeople had $475 and a dream of having a positive impact on the community.

What happened next created Evergreen Goodwill of Northwest Washington as we know it. Then known as Seattle Goodwill Industries, the organization’s founders were inspired by the work of Reverend Edgar J. Helms, a social reformer who founded the first Goodwill Industries in Boston in 1902.

  • Evergreen Goodwill 1920s Early Store Scaled

From the beginning, Evergreen Goodwill has been committed to helping eliminate barriers to employment, education and economic opportunities. Fulfilling the mission has always relied on the collection of generous material donations from the community. Evergreen Goodwill would give those items new life and purpose for someone else. In the 1920s, donation bags were distributed to the community and then retrieved by Goodwill trucks after they were filled. Bags were then sorted at one of the organization’s donation production facilities. Workers initially collected used clothing, carpets and other goods that would be repaired, which created jobs and helped combat poverty in the Seattle area.

During the 1920s, racial segregation and discrimination existed within the organization, in the city of Seattle and throughout the country. Immigrant groups in particular faced challenges due to language barriers and discrimination. A Seattle Daily Times article from November 7th, 1924, describes a rally for “all persons interested in the further expansion of social and educational work among Filipinos in Seattle” held at the Jackson St. Goodwill. Despite the environment of racial and immigrant prejudice, the use of the organization’s former Jackson Street branch served as an important cultural and religious institution, not only for Goodwill but for the greater community.

  • 1920s Image 3

Beyond providing jobs, Seattle Goodwill Industries provided shelter to its employees in need of housing and served tens of thousands of meals just in the 1920s era alone. By the end of the decade, Seattle Goodwill had served more than 18,000 people and had grown to include multiple locations in Seattle and Everett.

  • 1920s Image 2

“Not a charity, but a chance” was the slogan of Seattle Goodwill Industries at the time – and while those words aren’t explicitly advertised today, the meaning behind it continues to ring true. Seattle Goodwill Industries represented a place where community members could find employment, regardless of their gender, race, and religious affiliation.

View more information about Evergreen Goodwill’s 100-year history on our interactive timeline!

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