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Top 100: Nonprofit CEO of the Year: David Cox directs Goodwill in fulfilling mission

Goodwill Fort Worth

4005 Campus Drive

Fort Worth 76119


You may think of Goodwill Industries as a place to dump your unwanted stuff or as a cool place to shop for other people’s unwanted stuff. It is that, of course, but it is much, much more.

In Fort Worth, it is a more than $32 million operation serving Tarrant and 18 other counties. Overseeing Goodwill’s donated goods/retail program, recycling, industrial contracts, education, staffing and career services is David Cox, the Fort Worth Business Press Nonprofit CEO for 2017.

He joined Goodwill in 1999 and served as director of marketing and publications and vice president of retail sales and marketing prior to being named CEO in 2013. It was, he said, and advantage to have already worked with senior leaders for a number of years.

“It’s a great team of people who have dedicated their lives to helping others,” Cox said, and having that team in place in a financially strong organization allowed him to focus on big and positive changes.

“Initial changes included streamlining processes and expanding our programs and services to the community,” Cox said. “I got to be really creative with my team to create new programs such as Goodwill Works — employment services for those experiencing homelessness ¬— and Goodwill S.T.A.R.S. — an innovative life skills day program for adults with significant disabilities.”

Frank Shiels, immediate past chairman of the board, says that watching Cox lead the marketing and communications department over the years left no doubt that he was the person most qualified when it was time to pick a new CEO.

“David passionately believes in the mission of Goodwill and that is to empower people with disabilities, disadvantages and other barriers to employment. He embraces our belief that it is better to ‘give a hand up than a handout.’ David is patient, caring and compassionate and is always planning ahead,” Shiels said.

There is a definite ministry aspect to Goodwill, Cox said. Goodwill was founded in 1902 by Rev. Edgar Helms, a Methodist minister in Boston who felt called to minister to those in need.

“I like to think that I’m carrying on that tradition today,” Cox said. “I definitely feel that my work at Goodwill is a calling. Before coming to Goodwill, I felt called to the ministry, but that calling never materialized. Looking back, I can definitely see God’s hand in preparing me for the position I hold today.”

The business side of running Goodwill is balanced but the good feeling of the mission side. “It’s the best of both worlds,” he said.

Cox graduated from Texas Wesleyan University with a bachelor’s degree in public relations/advertising and studio art. Before joining Goodwill, he was a district executive for the Boy Scouts of America and communications director for Hurst Baptist Church.

Cox earned Eagle Scout rank as a teenager and is a member of the 2002 class of Leadership Fort Worth.

“Leadership Fort Worth not only helped me plug into Fort Worth, but taught me the value of community trusteeship. Relationships I initially made in LFW still benefit me today,” Cox said.

So did Scouting. Earning his Eagle Scout rank was a lesson in leadership, and Scouting in general taught the basics of servant leadership and the importance of teamwork, Cox said. And the opportunity to work in Switzerland with Scouts from all around the world taught him about cultural diversity and the importance of clear communication.

And there is local inspiration as well.

“My local Goodwill hero is Will Courtney, who has served as a volunteer on our board of directors for 53 years,” Cox said. “You rarely see that level of dedication to an organization. Will truly believes in the power of work and in the mission of Goodwill. After all of these years, he remains a vital part of everything we do and is truly an inspiration to us all.”

The most important and influential person in his life, however, is his wife, Tammi. “She inspires me to be a better person. She has such a heart for service and is genuine in her love of the people around her. She always stands for what is right no matter the cost, and her integrity is beyond reproach,” Cox said. They have two children, Mason, 10, and Madeline, 13.

During his tenure, Cox has overseen the opening of six new retail locations and four new or revitalized job resource centers; the launch of GoodwillWorks, an employment initiative targeting clients who are homeless or facing homelessness; and the opening of Goodwill S.T.A.R.S. programs in Fort Worth and Grapevine, a day-habilitation program for adults with significant disabilities.

Goodwill is the largest employer of people with disabilities in the world, believing that work has the power to transform lives by building self-confidence, independence, creativity, trust and friendships.

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Paul Harral
Paul is a lifelong journalist with experience in wire service, newspaper, magazine, local and network television and digital media. He was vice president and editor of the editorial page of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and editor of Fort Worth, Texas magazine before joining the Business Press. What he likes best is writing about people in detail and introducing them to others in the community. Specific areas of passion are homelessness, human trafficking, health care and aerospace.

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