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50 Years of Goodwill

Chet Perry

The History of Goodwill Industries of Southwest Florida stretches farther back than the 50 years we've been around.

Goodwill's Early Years in Southwest Florida

Our History

It all started in 1955, when Fort Myers News-Press publisher Chet Perry visited a fledgling Goodwill organization in St. Petersburg as part of a Rotary Club project, and he was awed by the programs that Goodwill presented.  He and other Rotarians pledged their support to Goodwill Industries-Suncoast, and Suncoast promised to return the favor by helping start a Goodwill program in Fort Myers.

By 1959, our area had its first Goodwill store, located in downtown Fort Myers.  Like most Goodwill stores of its era, it was primarily employed people with disabilities. At the time, Goodwill's primary mission was to provide employment services to people with disabilities.

A group of local businessmen formed a committee to work towards establishing a Goodwill workshop in Fort Myers. Perry was joined by Fort Myers Mayor Paul J. Myers, City Councilman William C. Persons, Lee County Sheriff "Snag" Thompson, Dick Pritchett, Jr, and Connie Mack, Jr., among others. In 1965, the committee purchased a former citrus packing plant in North Fort Myers.  The land, on Bayshore Road in North Fort Myers, would be our home for the next 48 years. 

North Fort Myers Headquarters, 1975

1966 is considered the birth of Goodwill Industries of Southwest Florida, as we were incorporated that year. However, we operated as a branch of Goodwill-Suncoast for another 15 years. Since January 1, 1982, we have been an autonomous organization serving Lee, Collier, Charlotte, Hendry and Glades Counties.

Goodwill SWFL Today

Kim yapeThrough the years, we've seen many changes and experienced exponential growth. Our single store in 1966 has expanded to 30 stores in 2016. We employ 850 individuals.  We no longer operate a "sheltered workshop" to employ people with disabilities, but now offer social services to more than 40,000 people every year.

The people who come to Goodwill for services still include those with disabilities, but also include folks with other barriers, like education, housing, language, and economic factors. Employment training and job skills remain our main focus, but Goodwill Industries of Southwest Florida also helps by offering education, mentoring, community outreach, recreation, disability services, and accessible housing.

For 50 years, we have been committed to helping the people of Southwest Florida become more independent and self-sufficient-and we plan to continue that mission for many decades to come.


Advertise in Goodwill Then & Now-- a special section of the Fort Myers News-Press

Help us celebrate by being a 50th Anniversary Sponsor

Sponsorships start as small as $100 and range to $20,000-- no matter the sponsorship level, your support of Goodwill's mission is appreciated!

50th Anniversary Sponsors:

Goodwill Industries of Southwest Florida, Inc. wishes to say thank you to these generous sponsors:

Queen Palm: 

  Queen Palm Sponsor Publix Supermarket Charities


Majesty Palm:




Coconut Palm:
  GCG Construction, Inc.

  MBAF CPAs and Advisors

Cabbage Palm:

  Enterprise Holdings Foundation
Henderson, Franklin, Starnes & Holt, P.A.
Maddox & Associates, APC


Areca Palm:

  PNC Bank


Sago Palm:
  The Columbia Group

Date Palm:         
  Dan and Kathy Adams
  Mary Lou England