Both Goodwills in Milwaukee and Chicago began in churches with a group of dedicated community leaders in 1919.
Our mission then was “to provide a chance, not charity,” to people society had labeled as unemployable. We responded by creating employment opportunities for veterans with disabilities as well as older workers who were displaced by the increase in a younger workforce.
The Great Depression of the 1930s caused high unemployment rates, and the city’s jobless formed long lines looking to Goodwill for employment. We responded again to the community and served as a temporary employer of hundreds, enabling men and women to provide for their families.
Goodwill focused on the growing number of persons with physical disabilities and developed the internationally acclaimed “case management” model that extends personalized service to program participants.
The 1950s saw a boom in babies and the migration of families to the suburbs. Goodwill set up donation containers at shopping centers and enlisted Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts to help with collection drives.
Responding to the growing services needed for individuals with disabilities and disadvantages in the early 1960s, Goodwill began collaborating with other organizations to expand mission services throughout both states.
In the mid-70s, Goodwill looked to expand services and diversify operations. We began a long-term partnership with Naval Station Great Lakes doing laundry for the Sailors and Recruits, and also started working with local companies on industrial assembly projects.
The changing urban communities of the 1980s led us to create workforce development services for an emerging population of new job seekers. Embracing new technologies, we added computer skills to our job training programs.
In the 1990s, Goodwill championed the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, a major civil rights law prohibiting discrimination based on disability.
The Goodwill organizations in southeastern Wisconsin and metropolitan Chicago merged in 1999, increasing the service area to include 23 counties and over 90 locations.
Responding to high unemployment during the recession, Goodwill opened Workforce Connection Centers in Wisconsin and Illinois.
Today, Goodwill’s social enterprises—retail services, document destruction, commercial laundry, staffing services