LIMA — For nearly 50 years Goodwill Industries had offered a hand up to Lima. In August 2002 when fire destroyed $150,000 in clothing and other donated items in Goodwill’s main warehouse at 949 S. Main St leaving “the agency scrambling for replacements,” Lima repaid the favor.
Lima’s residents and businesses, The Lima News reported August 15, 2002, “turned out in droves” to replace the donations which were needed to keep the agency in business over the winter.
Goodwill Industries was founded in 1902 in Boston by Methodist minister Rev. Edgar J. Helms. Helms, according to the Goodwill web site, “collected household goods and clothing in wealthier areas of the city, then trained and hired those who were poor to mend and repair the used goods. The goods were then resold or were given to the people who repaired them. The system worked, and the Goodwill philosophy of ‘a hand up, not a hand out’ was born.”
Goodwill began giving that “hand up” to Lima residents in the spring of 1956. “Goodwill Industries, Inc., of Toledo has taken a five-year lease with option to purchase the 28 Public Square property which has been occupied by the Good Housekeeping Shop,” the News announced March 23, 1956. “The Lima Goodwill outlet is being established as a branch of the Toledo operation with the idea that it ultimately will become a separate corporation.”
On April 5, 1956, Lima’s new Goodwill store at 28 Public Square advertised for a saleswoman who would join Ethelbert T. Koehler, the new head of Lima Goodwill, in operating the store, which would open April 17, 1956, initially selling the remaining stock of the Good Housekeeping Shop.
Koehler also set about selling the mission of Goodwill — to provide job training, employment services and other community based programs to people with disabilities — to the Lima area, by speaking to church and civic organizations. In September 1956, Koehler presented the movie “Salute to Courage” which, according to the News, described “the work of the Goodwill Industries in finding employment for the handicapped” to a women’s group at Trinity Methodist Church. In July 1959, Koehler and employee Jessie Blackburn, a deaf-mute, gave a demonstration of sign language to Lima’s Kiwanis club.
The News took notice, writing on Oct. 7, 1959, “Lima has a first-rate organization that often goes unnoticed. Since its inception in a Boston slum area at the turn of the century, Goodwill has expanded until today there are 121 Goodwills in cities throughout the U.S.”
By the early 1960s, Lima Goodwill was expanding as well. Its original workforce of two had grown to 15 and the need for donations also grew. Although 4-H clubs, Boy Scout troops and Lima school children conducted drives to collect donations, Koehler still found himself calling for more.
“Goodwill Industries, 28 Public Square, is making a plea for donations of used clothing, shoes, furniture, housewares, appliances, books, pictures and other items so the present staff of 15 employees can be continued,” the News wrote Feb. 18, 1962. “The firm installed its own laundry, shoe repair department and carpentry shop last year and is now capable of serving a larger area, according to manager E.T. Koehler.”
Using money received from the United Fund, forerunner of the United Way, Lima Goodwill purchased a truck for pickups in 1960 and, in March 1961, according to the News, “placed a large box in the Robert Hall parking lot, Bellefontaine Avenue and East Kibby Street, for the convenience of persons donating clothing, shoes housewares and small household items to the organization.”
On Dec. 27, 1964, after more than eight years as a branch of Toledo Goodwill, the News announced that Lima Goodwill, “will ask the unit’s regional office in Toledo for independence in the coming year.” On Jan. 21, 1961, Max C. Burns, of the engineering department at Ex-Cell-O Corp., was appointed first executive director of Lima Goodwill Industries.
The goal for the Lima unit, which now employed 23 at its workshop and store in the Public Square, was to achieve autonomy by Jan. 1, 1966, the News noted. In the meantime, Goodwill, using United Fund money, had added a new truck, wood-working equipment, paint spray room, laundry equipment, steam press, shoe repair equipment and several other items.
The goal of autonomy was reached early. On Sept. 1, 1965, the News announced that “Goodwill Industries of Lima launched its independent business venture today when the board of directors of the newly autonomous organization met for the first time.”
Eleven months later, the newly autonomous Lima Goodwill opened a new store at 539 W. North St. Lima Mayor Christian Morris cut the ribbon for the new store Aug. 5, 1966.
By March 1967, Burns told the News the new site was “too small” and the group was considering purchasing the former Cussins & Fearn hardware store on South Main Street. Meanwhile, he said, the North Street outlet would move to 543 W. North St.
On Dec. 2, 1968, Goodwill moved into its new quarters at 949 S. Main St., which would house a workshop and executive offices. The building was expanded by 8,800 square feet in the early 1970s. Nearly 50 people now were employed in Goodwill’s sheltered workshop. “To many people we’re just a used goods store. But, like our slogan says, ‘we’re really here to turn discards into timecards, and to give handicapped people a chance — not charity,” Burns told the News July 6, 1969.
Burns retired on Nov. 1, 1975. “When Burns first came to the agency,” the News wrote Oct. 9, 1975, “it was primarily a sheltered workshop facility for 17 or 18 individuals. In 1967, the local operation began placing emphasis on rehabilitation of clients …” In addition, Goodwill operated sales outlets on South Main Street, Harding Highway and in the Public Square.
In February 2003, Goodwill opened a “super store” in the American Mall. This store, however, proved too “super.” Gene Motycka, who came to Goodwill as chief executive officer in 2003, announced the American Mall store would be combined with the Harding Highway store at a new Eastgate store. “The current Harding Highway store isn’t large enough and the American Mall store is too large for Goodwill’s needs,” Motycka told the News Aug. 31, 2004.
Lima’s Goodwill gave up its autonomy in 2007. “Goodwill Lima will merge with Goodwill Easter Seals Miami Valley, effective July 1,” the News wrote June 15, 2007. “By becoming one, we can use our resources more efficiently,” said Amy Luttrell, chief executive officer of Goodwill Easter Seals Miami Valley.
On July 9 of this year, the News reported that Goodwill Easter Seals of Miami Valley was constructing its west central Ohio headquarters at 2350 Allentown Road, the parking lot of a shuttered K-Mart store. The 24,680 square foot building will feature a retail store and vision center as well as space for various programs and services for the elderly, adults with disabilities and the impoverished. The facility, expected to open this fall, will replace Goodwill’s facility on North Cable Road.
Reach Greg Hoersten at TLNinfo@civitasmedia.com.