Rising Star: Goodwill Industries of San Francisco, San Mateo and Marin Counties

Deborah Alvarez-Rodriguez, president and CEO
San Francisco, CA

Goodwill Industries of San Francisco, San Mateo and Marin Counties (Goodwill) is an autonomous not-for-profit social enterprise dedicated to creating solutions to poverty through workforce creation, social action, and environmental stewardship. Goodwill brings the power and dignity of work to low-income individuals who otherwise face significant barriers to employment, such as long-term welfare dependence, a physical or mental disability, homelessness, incarceration, substance abuse, or limited English skills.

Goodwill’s approach to alleviating poverty is grounded in two beliefs. First, the market economy is ultimately the solution to poverty; besides the government, the market is the only force in our society powerful enough to solve a problem of this scale. Second, skilled work is the surest pathway out of poverty. “Poor people want just as much as you or I to live in a safe neighborhood, to send their kids to decent schools, to own a home,” says CEO and President Deborah Alvarez-Rodriguez. “At Goodwill, we are building a pipeline to the market economy for individuals who currently have no access so that they, too, can pursue the American dream.”

Goodwill’s enterprises include sixteen stores in three counties, a growing online business, and an extensive re-use/recycling operation. Collectively these businesses divert 17 million pounds from landfills every year. As “the original recycler,” Goodwill sees environmental sustainability as core to its mission of erasing poverty. “We must look at sustainability holistically,” says Alvarez-Rodriguez, “transforming lives on a dying planet makes no sense.”

In its most recent fiscal year, the agency generated revenues that covered more than 85% of its $27 million operating budget while providing work-based job and vocational training for 1,214 individuals. Among these program participants, 13% were homeless, 27% were on public assistance, and 42% were ex-offenders.