History of Goodwill South Florida

Our History

We are so humbly grateful for all of the support Goodwill South Florida has received since its inception in 1959. At that time, Goodwill Industries had already been in existence for 57 years, with a total of 117 Goodwill sites in the nation. This is the story of how Goodwill South Florida was formed, a story we take great pride in telling.

In 1959, the Vice President of City National Bank, Roy A. Perry, learned about Goodwill. Perry was fascinated with the concept to provide employment opportunities to people with disabilities and other special needs. He admired the progress that Goodwill had made through the years.

Perry asked his boss, Leonard A. Abess, to help him start Goodwill South Florida. Abess, in turn, recruited James A. Ryder, founder of Ryder truck rental, to accept the task and lead the undertaking. With the help of donations from esteemed local citizens, $50,000 was raised to start Goodwill South Florida.

A brief timeline of our growth in the past 60 years


The first Goodwill in Miami was located in a 40,000 square foot building. This building served as the first Goodwill South Florida store. The building was large enough for offices, a dock and processing facilities and provided employment opportunities to people with disabilities.


A new partnership was formed with the State of Florida Division of Vocational Rehabilitation Services. This partnership enabled Goodwill South Florida to provide evaluation, training, and rehabilitation and placement services.


Goodwill South Florida started a Work Activities Center to provide services to individuals with developmental disabilities through a partnership with the State of Florida Developmental Disability Services.


By joining the United Fund (currently United Way) as a new member, Goodwill South Florida received an annual allocation for services. That same year, Goodwill South Florida applied for its first CARF certification (Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities). Since then, Goodwill has been able to maintain a three-year accreditation status from CARF.


Outgrowing the downtown Miami facility, Goodwill South Florida purchased a former post office from the U.S.P.S. located at 2121 NW 21 Street in Miami.


Goodwill South Florida formed a Service Contract Division to employ people with disabilities in well-paid jobs. Since that time, the Service Contract Division has helped hundreds of individuals with disabilities secure employment.


Reaching a new milestone, 65% of Goodwill South Florida revenues were funded from public funds (government and donor contributions).

The leadership of Goodwill South Florida brainstormed a bold and innovative strategy and created a plan to pursue diversified entrepreneurial activities. The goal was to achieve competitive employment for people with disabilities and other barriers to work within the community. Labor intensive work would be used as a tool in helping people learn skills, acquire an appropriate work ethic, gain confidence and develop their self-esteem. This program was designed to emulate a real-world work environment. Program participants would be able to earn a paycheck and receive workforce development services from Goodwill. Additionally, the program was designed so that revenues from these activities automatically supported our mission.

This vision succeeded beyond our wildest expectations.


Goodwill South Florida created the Apparel Manufacturing Division, manufacturing great quantities of military uniforms and flags. Goodwill South Florida became the first nonprofit in America to manufacture technically complex garments while employing people with disabilities.

Since its inception Goodwill South Florida has increased its size by 18 percent, resulting in a social business enterprise consisting of 4 entrepreneurial divisions that support our rehabilitation services.

More importantly, Goodwill South Florida has helped people with disabilities and special needs achieve their goals of independence, freedom, and dignity in record numbers each year.

Today, Goodwill South Florida is the sixth largest of 159 Goodwills in the United States and Canada.

98% of the revenues for Goodwill are generated from entrepreneurial activities.


Currently, Goodwill South Florida provides structured, supportive rehabilitation-driven work programs in four areas: Donated Goods, Apparel Manufacturing, Commercial Laundering, 3rd Party Logistics Solutions, and Service Contracts. Goodwill South Florida is celebrating 65 years.

Due to the extraordinary leadership of the Goodwill Board of Directors, Senior Team, and support from YOU, our loyal community...

You are the heart of Goodwill South Florida!

In the beginning…

2019 marks the 60th anniversary of Goodwill South Florida. We cannot thank you enough for the critical role you have played in our success.

Since opening our doors in 1959, Goodwill has helped tens of thousands of people with disabilities find greater independence through training, employment and job placement. We look forward to sharing our achievements with you in the 2018 annual report. We hope that you are excited to see all that we have accomplished together!

Original pictures of goodwills history Original pictures of goodwills history

In 1959, Goodwill opened in an old 40,000 square foot building located at 1130 N.W. 22nd Street in Miami. The building included Goodwill’s first store, offices, ample dock and processing facilities to provide employment opportunities to people with disabilities.

original picture of the goodwill building

By 1964, Goodwill had outgrown its facility and moved to the 133,000 square foot former Miami Herald building located at 200 South Miami Avenue in Miami.

original picture of the goodwill building

In 1979, Goodwill sold the original facility and purchased the U.S. Biscayne Annex Postal building, a former post office located at 2121 N.W. 21st Street in Miami. Below: Goodwill as it is today.

goodwill building today

Goodwill Industries was founded in 1902 by Reverend Edgar J. Helms, a Methodist minister in Boston’s south end.

Helms was determined to improve the quality of life of the poor, the sick, people with disabilities, and immigrants. He went door-to-door to wealthy families in the city asking for unwanted clothing, shoes and household goods to distribute among those in need.

Helms hired those in need to repair and sell the donated goods at a storefront while using the activity to provide them with training, work skills and job placement. He used the proceeds from the sales of these goods to pay wages to the needy and support the program mission.

This marked the creation of the system that is in action today at 159 Goodwill Industries in America serving over 36.5 million people and placing over 288,000 people in jobs.

Goodwill South Florida is a part of Goodwill Industries International. We are a network of 159 community-based, autonomous member organizations that serve people who have workplace disadvantages and disabilities. We do this by providing job training and employment services, as well as job placement opportunities and post-employment support. Goodwill® currently has a presence in 13 countries outside of the United States and Canada.

Goodwill® celebrated its 50-year anniversary by adopting an easily recognizable logo. Known as the “Smiling G,” the award-winning logo represents all of the smiling faces and positive impacts achieved through Goodwill programs and services every day.

In 1968, Morgan Memorial Goodwill Industries in Boston began to search for an updated logo to represent the brand. The team selected legendary graphic designer Joseph Selame to create a logo that would symbolize the many faces of self-sustaining people within Goodwill. Selame also created logos for such brands as CVS and Kodak.

Selame used a lowercase “g” twice in his logo, which served as the letter itself and a smile. When the letter “g” is enlarged, it forms a face that depicts the smile of self-respect and independence.

The Smiling G logo stands as an emblem of Goodwill’s mission to help people reach their full potential through the power of work.
These qualities are outcomes of Goodwill’s mission to inspire hope and self-confidence in people from all backgrounds and walks of life as they learn how to earn a living and improve their lives.

Today, the Smiling G is one of the most recognized symbols in the world. In addition to representing Goodwill retail stores, the logo can be seen on billboards and television shows, and even appeared on the hit game show Jeopardy!

The power of work For the past three years, one out of every 200 hires in the U.S. economy are made with the help of Goodwill.

Last year Goodwill Industries International placed more than 313,000 people into employment and provided over 34,000 people with digital skills training. Additionally, two million + people engaged in face-to-face Goodwill services to build their career and financial assets, and advance their careers.

Because of your support last year with Goodwill’s help, more than 34 million people used computers and mobile devices to access education, training, mentoring, online learning services, virtual career fairs, and employment opportunities.

Goodwill logo drawn on pavement with chalk