Do not be confused by the word, “new.” The truth is, Goodwill has been operating as a nonprofit in the Youngstown area for 125 years, serving the needs of the community since 1893. What’s “new” in 2018 is our look and feel, and a renewed commitment and excitement to continue to meet the needs of the community for another 125 years! We’re launching a campaign to tell people who may or may not know about Goodwill’s history, our nonprofit story, and why we exist. Let me start by telling you a little about me.
My name is Jim Freeze, and I have the great honor of serving as the Executive Director of Goodwill Industries of Mahoning and Shenango Valley. Last year, I accepted this job without knowing a whole lot about Goodwill, other than they operate thrift stores. In fact, it’s possible I even believed a fake story that once circulated on social media about Goodwill being a for-profit company and the CEO making millions of dollars. I now know with absolute certainty that is 100% false. And when I learned what Goodwill actually does and why we do it, I fell in love. I think you will, too, so I’m eager to share a little more about who we are and what we do.
A little more about me: I grew up in the Youngstown area. My dad worked in the steel mills his whole career and my mom was (and still is) a middle school teacher. I attended the Military Academy at West Point for college and then served on Active Duty in the Army for six years, including two tours in Iraq. I led troops in fighting for peace and security during my first tour and then worked for a one-star General my second tour, assisting in the drawdown of U.S. forces. I moved to Raleigh, North Carolina when I got out of the service and worked for a firm that helped veterans find civilian jobs after their military service. I then co-founded a nonprofit restaurant in downtown Raleigh that employs women from local shelters. I still serve on the Board of Directors of that organization today.
My wife and three children and I moved back to Youngstown in December of 2016 because we saw exciting revitalization happening here, and we wanted to be part of it. We bought a house on the city’s west side and our two older sons attend Youngstown City Schools. We as a family love to spend time together at Mill Creek Park. Oh, and I drive a Chevy Cruze, because, well…Youngstown.
As I mentioned, Goodwill’s history in the Youngstown area began in 1893. We were originally called Christ Mission Settlement, serving immigrant families who were moving to the area to work in the steel mills. Like we do now, we ran thrift stores as a way to provide employment opportunities for those in need, and we also provided housing. Later, as the nation-wide Goodwill movement started to gain momentum in the early 1900s, we split our mission and took on the name Goodwill. Goodwill committed to meet employment needs and the Mahoning Valley Rescue Mission served the housing needs.
Goodwill is a nonprofit, and we operate thrift stores for one purpose: because we believe in the value of people and the power of work! What that means is that we sell your donated items so that we can employ people who face challenges at work: people with disabilities, people who are economically disadvantaged, or veterans who are looking for new opportunities. The stores provide work opportunities and the revenue allows us to employ a team of social workers and vocational specialists to assist people in finding and retaining employment in the community. Last year, we served over 400 people with employment services in the Mahoning Valley.
So, why are we launching a campaign to tell people about Goodwill right now?
Last year, after taking over as the leader of our local Goodwill, operating in five counties, running eight stores, and employing 250 people, I fell in love with the mission. And I came to realize that everyone I told and showed what Goodwill truly stands for, they fell in love with the mission, too. I kept hearing from people, “if only people really knew what Goodwill does, they would be amazed!”
We decided to spend some time and energy to spruce up our appearance, replace some older signage at our stores, and invite people to come discover Goodwill again. Maybe it’s your first time shopping, or perhaps you’re a regular. Our message to you is the same: thank you!
Thank you for shopping and donating to us. Thank you for creating opportunities. Thank you for providing employment and job training for people in need in our area. Thank you for trusting that we are committed to being good stewards of our resources. Thank you for doing good in your community. Thank you!