Our Mission

Goodwill Industries of Kansas, Inc.’s mission is to provide opportunities to people with disabilities and barriers to employment seeking independent and productive lives.

Goodwill works to fulfill its mission through a number of services to the community serving two populations: those with developmental disabilities and those with other employment barriers. Part of an international brand, Goodwill locations across the globe are operated and led autonomously based on community need – but all use the power of work to provide purpose, pride and dignity to those they serve.

Our History

A Hand Up, Not a Hand Out

goodwill-kansas-our-mission-history-our-history-imageGoodwill was founded in 1902 in Boston’s South End by Rev. Edgar J. Helms, a Methodist minister and early social innovator. Appalled by the harsh working conditions economically deprived families faced, Helms collected used household goods and clothing in wealthier areas of the city, then trained and hired those who were poor, often immigrants from the Old World, to mend and repair the used goods. The goods were then resold or were given to the people who repaired them. This laid the philosophical foundation of the Goodwill movement: everyone has the potential to work, and work provides dignity and empowerment for all individuals.

Dr. Helms’ vision set an early course for what today has become more than a $5 billion, international nonprofit organization which serves millions of individuals each year. Helms described Goodwill Industries as an “industrial program as well as a social service enterprise…a provider of employment, training and rehabilitation for people of limited employability, and a source of temporary assistance for individuals whose resources were depleted.” The system worked, and the Goodwill philosophy of “a hand up, not a hand out” was born.

While Goodwill is an international brand, each Goodwill is unique because its operations and services reflect the opportunities and needs of its local communities. Each member Goodwill is an independent, incorporated organization, governed by a local board of directors. Each local Goodwill must be accredited, apply for membership and meet the criteria and standards for membership established by the GII Delegate Assembly, and executed through Goodwill Industries International.



“Not charity but a chance. It believes more in prevention than cure. That is what a job does.” – Edgar James Helms

Local Impact

For more than 60 years, Goodwill Industries of Kansas has been a trusted resource and advocate for people with disabilities. Various programs for people with developmental disabilities have grown to include job training and life skills development, community employment and internship programs, and targeted case management.

Throughout the years, Goodwill has evolved to meet the growing and changing needs of the people we serve. Local leadership acknowledged another pervasive barrier to employment – lack of education. Over the years, thousands of people have started a career after earning their GED, college credits, technical certificates or learning English through NexStep Alliance, a partnership between Goodwill and WSU Tech.

Today Goodwill Industries of Kansas serves more than 1,500 individuals annually and employs nearly 600 people through its headquarters, education center and 18 retail store locations throughout central and western Kansas. Through a combination of efforts; retails stores, work contracts, community donations and special events, Goodwill is able to provide employment training and opportunities to individuals with disabilities and employment barriers in our community.

While Goodwill Industries has an amazing history and record of accomplishment, we cannot be satisfied while so many still need our services. Internationally the organization has embarked on the 21st Century Initiative and seeks to improve the economic self-sufficiency of 20 million people and their families by 2020. Locally, new programs are being evaluated and added as the leadership and board recognize changing needs in the community. Times have changed, but Helms’ vision remains constant: “We have courage and are unafraid. With the prayerful cooperation of millions of our bag contributors and of our workers, we will press on till the curse of poverty and exploitation is banished from mankind.”

What People Are Saying

What People Are Saying

I believe wholeheartedly in our mission. It makes me feel good to know my daily activities (big or small) are making a positive difference in the life of someone else.

- Tina Luper, Development Coordinator - With Goodwill Since 2002

What People Are Saying

What People Are Saying

I like the fact that I get to serve the community in a tremendous way.

- Elizabeth Enlow-Brown, NexStep Alliance Instructor

What People Are Saying

What People Are Saying

I like to see the clients gain independence and accomplish their goals.

- Chadra Hill, Program Manager

Through the Years


  • 1902

    Founded by Rev. Edgar J. Helms in Boston, MA

  • 1918

    The Methodist Episcopal Church became involved with Goodwill® and gave Goodwill $1 million to expand. From this point forward, Goodwill began to experience significant growth.

  • 1921

    "Not Charity but a Chance” became the slogan used to publicize the effort Goodwill® puts into giving people hope and independence through work.

  • 1926

    Helms went on a mission around the world to spread the Goodwill® story. The Methodist Church felt “Goodwill is simply too powerful an idea to stay within the borders of one country.” Over the next several decades, Goodwill helped establish or support organizations with similar missions in other parts of the world.

  • 1929

    The Great Depression hit the country hard and the number of people Goodwill® served jumped from 13,000 in 1929 to a peak of 53,000 in 1933.

  • 1930

    During the 1930s, Goodwill® began working with individuals with disabilities in addition to those with economic challenges.

  • 1951

    Goodwill celebrated its first “Goodwill Week.” Goodwill Week began as “Goodwill Week and Open House,” a way to showcase Goodwill to the general public.

  • 1951 & 1958

    Illustrator Milton Caniff created “Good Willy” in 1951, a well-known symbol of Goodwill® efforts during that decade. In 1958, Norman Rockwell, one of America’s great 20th century American illustrators, created “First Paycheck” and later gave it to Goodwill.

  • 1957

    Goodwill Industries of Kansas incorporated as a nonprofit organization to serve the needs of Kansans with disabilities.

  • 1962

    Ronald Reagan made a public address message informing everyone about the mission of Goodwill®.

  • 1965

    Goodwill Industries of Kansas established a dedicated building and opened its first retail store in Kansas.

  • 1968

    The “Smiling G” logo was designed “to represent the Goodwill® name, and the smiles that come from helping people help themselves.” Today, it is one of the most recognized logos in the U.S.

  • 1979

    Marie Mareda becomes the second President/CEO of Goodwill Industries of Kansas, Inc.

  • 1990

    Congress passed the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), guaranteeing equal opportunity for people with disabilities in public accommodations, commercial facilities, employment, transportation, state and local government services and telecommunications.

  • 1996

    Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) legislation passed and the number of persons served by Goodwill® dramatically increased. Goodwill began to serve more people with disadvantages than with disabilities.

  • 1999

    Goodwill Industries of Orange County (Santa Ana, CA) launches shopgoodwill.com, an online auction site that features specialty items donated to and posted by Goodwill® member agencies across the U.S. (shopgoodwill.com received national attention in August 2009, when TIME.com named it one of the 50 Best Web Sites of 2009.)

  • 2003

    Goodwill Industries of Kansas expands programs to individuals with economic disadvantages to provide education and job skills training.

  • 2005

    Emily Compton becomes the third President/CEO for Goodwill Industries of Kansas, having served Goodwill’s across the US since 1986.

  • 2014

    Goodwill Industries partners with WSU Tech (formerly known as Wichita Area Technical College) to form NexStep Alliance.

  • 2015

    Goodwill’s sewing department brands its products as Edgar James Apparel, named for Goodwill’s founder.

  • 2017

    Goodwill partners with WSU Tech to launch the Future Maker Mobile Learning Lab, helping students get a hands-on look at science, technology, engineering and math careers in fields like nursing, advanced manufacturing, aviation and more.

  • 2018

    Goodwill partners with Google to launch the mobile Learn IT Digital Skills Classroom to help Kansans gain access to a wide range of hands-on workshops, building a more marketable workforce.

  • 2020

    Goodwill program NexStep Alliance launches NexStep Unlocked initiative to help Kansans exiting the justice system successfully maintain their freedom by gaining their GED and college-level certifications.

  • 2021

    Laura Ritterbush becomes the fourth President/CEO for Goodwill Industries of Kansas, with an extensive background in mission services.

  • Today

    Goodwill Industries® is one of the nation’s most valuable and recognized nonprofit brands* as well as a leading social services enterprise with 18 Kansas stores and various job training and education programs in Kansas. (*2009 Cone Nonprofit Power Brand 100)

The Goodwill board and staff are constantly working to move the organization forward to meet the growing and changing needs of the communities we serve.