Our History

Since 1919, Goodwill-Easter Seals Minnesota has provided services for people with disabilities and barriers to work and independence:

BEGINNING

  • The first Goodwill chapter west of the Mississippi River was Goodwill Industries of St. Paul, founded by St. Paul civic leaders and Rev. Herbert Burgstahler. The original site was the Church of the Good Shepard at 12th St. E and Cedar St. in St. Paul.
  • The organization followed the model of Goodwill Industries of America and accepted donations. Goodwill workers repaired donated merchandise and were paid by Goodwill store sale receipts.
  • During the Depression, Goodwill provided jobs and low-cost merchandise. Goodwill also ran a Community House for workers, a home for the elderly and a vocational training program for young people with physical disabilities.

WWII & POST-WAR YEARS

  • During World War II, the federal government requested that Goodwill Industries support the rehabilitation of servicemen with disabilities, which resulted in new training programs and a vocational training center.
  • The prosperity of the postwar era brought financial stability. Building loans were paid off and stores were opened.

1960S & 70S

  • 1960s: Goodwill shifted its emphasis from assisting the aged and downtrodden to programs for people with disabilities. Funds were raised to build sheltered workshops and purchase furniture repair equipment.
  • 1970s: Goodwill's territory expanded to include Minneapolis. In 1977, Goodwill sought and received accreditation from CARF (Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities), the national standard-setting and accrediting body.

1980S & 90S

  • 1984: Goodwill Industries and the Easter Seals Society merged in Minnesota, combining the best resources of both national organizations to offer job training, placement and other employment services. The organization was renamed Goodwill-Easter Seals Minnesota.
  • 1990s: Development of retail stores and service centers in the Twin Cities and greater Minnesota soon followed. Appeals for donated items started to incorporate the benefits of recycling and GESMN'S contribution to reducing the community's carbon footprint..
  • 1990s: GESMN began serving individuals with economic and educational barriers to employment. Participants entered our industry-specific training programs in the automotive, banking, construction and retail industries.

2000S

  • Today, Goodwill-Easter Seals is a leader and policy influencer in workforce development and employment services for people with disabilities and other barriers to employment.
  • 45+ retail locations provide support for our mission and we divert 50M pounds from landfills annually.
  • GESMN places four people into the workplace every day.
  • Goodwill-Easter Seals celebrates 100 years of service in 2019...stay tuned for details!