Our 150+ Year History of Serving Rhode Islanders

Goodwill Industries of Rhode Island is the first rehabilitation agency in America with roots stretching back in the Rhode Island community to 1863. At that time, the agency was established as the Irrepressible Society and its mission was to meet the needs of Civil War Veterans who had been disabled.

By 1872, the mission broadened, and in that year the agency was officially approved by the Rhode Island legislature to perform general charitable work for the City of Providence. By the 1890’s, in response to the request of the people served, the agency was finding jobs for people instead of performing charitable acts of kindness.

In 1929, the agency name changed to The Bureau of the Handicapped and occupational and therapeutic services were added to the offerings. In 1945 the agency’s name was changed once again to Community Workshops and in 1977 to Vocational Resources reflecting the broad range of educational and vocational services now available. 

In 1996, Vocational Resources became the local affiliate of Goodwill Industries International. Goodwill Industries of Rhode Island is now an autonomous agency that is part of an international movement, which is recognized as the largest service provider in the world to people with disabilities and other barriers.

Today, Goodwill Industries of Rhode Island is a comprehensive education and employment center committed to serving the needs of persons with disabilities and other barriers to employment. Those served include people who are dealing with major mental illness; have physical or learning disabilities; have suffered a traumatic brain injury; are chronically unemployed or under-employed; are deaf or hard of hearing; are moving from welfare to work; possess linguistic barriers; or are “at-risk” for dropping out of high school.

Over the years Goodwill Industries of Rhode Island has been known by different names and has had a variety of program emphasis as determined by the needs of our community. What has remained consistent has been the agency’s belief that meaningful work is a central need for everyone. It is a source of self-esteem, provides personal independence and is a crucial link between individuals and their community.

Currently Goodwill Industries of Rhode Island serves over 1500 individuals each year and partners with over 280 employers. Services for youth and adults provide the academic, life management and vocational skills needed to help people obtain and maintain the best job at the highest wage possible. At Goodwill Industries of Rhode Island, we believe in the “Power of Work”!