DENVER -- It started back in 1918 at the Epworth Church on Lawrence Street. Methodist Deaconess Melissa Briggs would ride her bike around Denver collecting donations, and put people to work fixing them up.
“She would ask you, what are some household items you don't need, clothes that don’t fit,” said Jessica Smith, the spokesperson for Goodwill Industries of Denver.
A century later the mission is still largely the same. Goodwill stores collect and sell items to support its jobs program.
“We’ve always been really job focused,” Smith said. “I think in the very beginning we were collecting these donations and hiring people to mend them and repair them.”
Over the decades Goodwill Industries of Denver expanded to help more people with barriers to employment, including veterans, those with disabilities or criminal records.
Edward Smith had a tough time finding a job because of his criminal past.
“As a kid I was involved with gang activity, using drugs and selling drugs, and I made a lot of bad decisions that led me to be incarcerated for 11 and a half years,” Smith said.
Smith now oversees compliance on the warehouse floor at Goodwill, having worked his way up from a donation attendant. He has a passion for giving his fellow co-workers a purpose.
“Everyone has value, has a voice and everyone has something to bring to the table,” Smith said.
It's a sentiment at the heart of Goodwill, going back to Melissa Briggs and her colleagues who officially brought goodwill to Denver on April 4, 1918.
“It just shows the longevity of the mission,” Smith said. “You know a lot of people talk about things. But it's one thing to talk about it, it's another to do it.”