Goodwill, The Amity Group was started in Hamilton in 1935 to help able bodied men thrown out of work by the great depression. The first part of this effort started as a Men’s Social Club to provide them with activities that would keep them out of the bars. Quickly attention turned to helping them earn a living and this was accomplished by using their skills to refurbish and sell used goods, in particular furniture.
When WW II arrived, the need to employ these men disappeared as they reported for duty however Amity as it was then known turned its attention to recycling metal for the war effort.
After the war, Amity continued but changed its focus once again to support individuals with disabilities by providing services that would lead to employment. The sale and repair of donated used goods once again was at the centre of this effort for many disabled individuals who could not find gainful employment in a world that was not as accommodating of disabilities through the 50’s, 60’s and to a lesser extent the 70’s, as society is today. Thankfully, the world has changed and to be disabled today no longer need present a barrier to higher education, mobility or workplace accommodations needed to enable individuals to work
In 1973, Amity saw that by becoming a member of Goodwill Industries International, it would benefit from the expertise and brand recognition that Goodwill has throughout the world and so the Amity Association of Hamilton became Amity Goodwill Industries, eventually changing its name yet again to Goodwill, The Amity Group. As a Goodwill member, Goodwill, The Amity Group is assigned a territory to service, which now expands beyond Hamilton to include locations in Ancaster, Burlington, Oakville and Milton.
Goodwill Industries International was first established in Boston in 1902 by Dr. Edgar Helms. His purpose was to help immigrants with barriers to employment find work, some of which was achieved, just like in Amity’s case, by recycling used goods through thrift stores. Today Goodwill is the world’s largest retailer of used goods and one of the worlds largest workforce development organizations, providing services to over 800,000 clients a year. Goodwill, throughout the world provides a wide variety of services and reflect the needs of the individual communities that they serve. Each Goodwill, is an autonomous member organization of Goodwill Industries International, with its own local Board of Directors and staff. Each Goodwill, like Goodwill, The Amity Group identifies and responds to the ever changing needs of its own community, but at the heart of each Goodwill is the primary mandate to help individuals get a job.
Today, Goodwill The Amity Group continues to responded to the needs of its ever changing communities by addressing the broader issue of “barriers” to employment including disabilities. It’s retail business also continue to change to stay competitive as for-profit used good stores like Value Village and salvage dealers continue to infringe on the traditional turf of charities like Goodwill, Salvation Army and the St. Vincent de Paul Society. Thrift shopping is definitely in and competition for good quality used goods, the lifeline for retail success and profitability, is strong.
While retail operations provide support for Goodwill’s employment programs, the focus of Goodwill’s efforts remains, as in the very beginning, to help individuals find the dignity and independence through work. These jobs are found in the main stream of each community’s business activity and as such require Goodwill to maintain good linkages with employers. To that end Goodwill, The Amity Group provides services to meet both the individual client’s needs but also employer needs. By helping employers meet their staffing and business goals, everyone wins and our communities become stronger healthier places.