The Goodwill family was founded in 1902 by the Reverend Edgar Helms, a Methodist minister seeking ways to help the residents of Boston’s poverty-stricken South End. Today, together with our sister organizations throughout the world, Goodwill continues to pursue with passion his vision.
Our customer base has expanded considerably since the time of Reverend Helms. It now includes people with physical, mental and emotional disabilities, as well as socio-economic barriers such as illiteracy, homelessness, advanced age, past substance abuse, lack of work experience, or criminal history.
Although we are members of an international network with a common focus, each Goodwill is an independent, autonomous organization governed by its own voluntary Board of Directors. Each local Goodwill tailors its individual mission to the particular characteristics and needs of its own people and geographical locale.
Rappahannock Goodwill Industries (RGI) had its origin in the local community in 1966, when the Junior Women’s Club of Stafford organized a planning committee meeting to “study the feasibility of a workshop serving handicapped persons in the city and surrounding counties.” (The Free Lance-Star, August 13, 1966) Ultimately, a Board of Directors was elected, the name “Opportunities Unlimited” was selected, and—in 1968— as an outgrowth of the combined effort of the Junior Women’s Club and the Fredericksburg Area Mental Health Association, Opportunities Unlimited opened its doors at 709 Caroline Street in Fredericksburg, providing Planning District 16 (RADCO) residents with the first day program in the area for adults with disabilities.
In January 1970, Opportunities Unlimited adopted its vocational mission. The name was changed to Rappahannock Rehabilitation Facility, a move made to 2015 Princess Anne Street, and the first production effort began under a contract with General Products (now Tru-Tek, USA).
The focus in the early ‘70s remained on the most severely disabled of the adult population, and – in response to providing an alternative to institutionalization – the “sheltered workshop” model was employed and employment opportunities increased. In 1972, the company moved to an industrial setting near the Fredericksburg Fairgrounds.
Between 1979 and 1982 – working in close partnership with the City of Fredericksburg – we identified a site in a blighted area of the City and, through leveraging of a Community Development Block Grant (CDBG), acquired several abandoned buildings, completed an 11,000 square foot building expansion project, and moved our growing operation to 1414 Caroline Street. Rappahannock Service Corporation was adopted as a trade name, and – along with our building – our vision was expanded … beyond the walls of the production floor to work settings in the community. The mission now included bringing work opportunities to anyone who wanted to work, but who faced barriers to competitive employment. Our focus widened to serve not only individuals with disabilities, but also people with other barriers to employment, such as educational or economic disadvantages.
In 2011, RGI purchased a vacant building that formerly housed Gallahan’s Furniture. The 80,000 facility was remodeled in 2012 to include a Goodwill Store, Goodwill Outlet, a transportation hub, and Goodwill administrative offices. Space was also set aside to be used by other non-profit organizations who could collaborate with RGI to better serve the region. A Community Learning Center is also expected to open in late 2013 or 2014.
A Custodial Services Unit was created to provide services to sites at Quantico Marine Corps Base and other locations. Vocational training services were expanded, taking advantage of new federal funding sources, to place workers in permanent positions with other employers in the community.
A Learning Center was developed in 1988, to allow individuals to improve their basic education levels for better job opportunities. Keyboarding, computer literacy and office skills classes were offered to serve yet another growing job market. As other providers began to fill the need in the Fredericksburg area, these services were replaced by other innovative services.
Innovations in employer-employee relationships were explored and implemented, including Supported Employment, where an Employment Specialist accompanies the employee to the job site and is available as much as needed to ensure that the employee performs the job to the employer’s satisfaction. Alternatively, employers may be compensated with tax credits or wage subsidies for the extra time needed to train qualified workers.
In 1991, affiliation with Goodwill Industries of America, now Goodwill Industries International (GII), was forged … and a new era began. While maintaining local autonomy, Rappahannock Rehabilitation Facility, now known as Rappahannock Goodwill Industries (RGI), is able to tap into the vast experience of the world’s largest trainer and employer of people with disabilities.
The new Rappahannock Goodwill Industries, Inc., serves the City of Fredericksburg and a twelve (12) county territory in East Central Virginia, including the Counties of Caroline, King George, Spotsylvania, Stafford, Louisa, Orange, Culpeper, Rappahannock, Essex, Richmond, Northumberland, and Westmoreland.
In addition to vocational training and employment knowledge, GII provided guidance in developing a major alternative income source – retail thrift stores. Goodwill Retail Stores offer quality used clothing, household goods and small appliances at bargain prices. The stores provide not only another training opportunity for RGI’s participants and employees, but also provide significant revenue to fund the core operation of employment and training services. Additionally, the stores enable the community to participate by turning their usable discards into job opportunities for their neighbors. Donations to Goodwill are fully tax-deductible.
New Opportunities to Explore, New Alliances to be Forged, New Markets to Tap …
… include serving people affected by welfare reform legislation and providing employment and opportunities to people with barriers to employment in rural areas. With over 45 years of service to the Fredericksburg area community, Rappahannock Goodwill Industries looks ahead for ways to continue serving people and agencies in our service area … as we carry out our mission:
To provide to people with barriers to employment
– particularly those with disabilities –
an array of quality vocational and educational services
so that they can work most independently.